Afghan girls build ventilator out of used car parts

Justin Chan
In The Know

Members of an award-winning, all-female robotics team in Afghanistan are trying to do their part in combatting the country’s COVID-19 outbreak by creating a low-cost ventilator, according to the Associated Press.

Seventeen-year-old Somaya Farooqi and four of her fellow teammates have reportedly used back roads to get to the city of Herat, one of the hardest-hit areas in western Afghanistan. There, they work in a mechanic’s shop, where they have been building a ventilator from used car parts.

“If we even save one life with our device, we will be proud,” she told the AP.

The trip can be particularly challenging. Since the teenager’s father doesn’t have the required permit to enter the city, which has been on lockdown, he has had to drive them to the outskirts of Herat, where another person picks the team up and drives the girls to the shop.

“We are concerned about security driving out of the city but there is no other option, we have to try to save people’s lives.” Farooqi said.

The teenager and her teammates have purportedly been using two sets of designs to build the ventilator, one of which is an open-source blueprint from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Materials used include the motor of a Toyota windshield wiper, batteries and bag valve masks, according to the AP. The hope is that a prototype of the ventilator will completed by the end of May or June and sent to the Health Ministry for testing on animals.

“It will be excellent to see it tested and locally produced,” Daniela Rus, a professor at MIT, told the newswire.

Founded by tech entrepreneur Roya Mahboob, the entire robotics team consists of 15 members whose ages range from 14 to 17 years old. Their work over the years represents a huge shift in progress that Afghan women have made in just a generation — under Taliban rule, girls had previously been prevented from attending school. Many, however, continue to fight for equal rights to this day.

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