Photo: Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Ottawa - Canada

All-Girl Afghan Robotics Team Builds Ventilator Out of Car Parts

by Eben Diskin Apr 9, 2020

With COVID-19 affecting almost every country and territory around the world, and ventilators often being the difference between life and death during this health crisis, making sure hospitals have the equipment they need is a priority.

That’s why when the governor of Herat in Afghanistan asked the public for more ventilators, members of the Dreamers set out to help.

The Dreamers are a group of about 50 teenage girls founded thanks to a program created by female tech entrepreneur Roya Mahboob, in Herat. Every second year, Mahboob chooses bright young girls from high schools all across the country to provide them with educational opportunities in the field of technology. The best of the Dreamers are selected to form the national Afghan Girls Robotics Team and participate in competitions around the world.

The all-girl robotics team who answered the governor’s call is composed of five members between the ages 14 to 17: Somaya Faruqi, Dyana Wahbzadeh, Folernace Poya, Ellaham Mansori, and Nahid Rahimi. Together they have created two ventilator prototypes. One is a gear-based system based on a design from MIT, while the other uses parts from a Toyota Corolla. The latter prototype has proven successful as Corolla batteries are easily sourced in Afghanistan, and costs just $300 to make. The MIT design prototype costs $200 to make.

“The idea of these machines,” said Mahboob to The National, “is that we use them for emergency cases, when there are no professional ventilators. The thing in Afghanistan is, we don’t have enough ventilators, but that’s the case for many other countries, even Italy or New York. If we don’t have access to anything professional we can use these ones.”

While obtaining parts is difficult given the current climate, and gathering to work on the ventilators is somewhat complicated, the girls are continuing to fine-tune both designs with the aim of hopefully making a contribution to the community.

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