The Afghan Dreamers is a group known for its impressive list of feats. The group consists of young women between the ages of 15-17. It was the first-ever all-girls robotics team from Afghanistan. The team overcame many challenges in order to compete in the FIRST Global Robotics Competition in the U.S. in 2017. Now, the girls on the Afghan Dreamers team are adding a new achievement to their list; the group has engineered a low-cost ventilator out of car parts.
Covid-19, Ventilators, and Afghanistan
One of the major challenges facing countries around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic is a lack of essential supplies, specifically ventilators. The virus oftentimes infects people’s lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. Ventilators work as life-saving equipment and help people breathe when they can no longer do it on their own. However, they are extremely expensive pieces of machinery. It usually costs around $30,000 per ventilator. As a result, this makes them highly inaccessible, especially when there is an influx in demand.
Afghanistan has 15,750 confirmed cases of Covid-19, though experts believe this number to be an underestimate due to a lack of available tests. Herat, home of the Afghan Dreamers, has 2,689 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and is the second most affected city in the country. As of April 2020, the entire country of Afghanistan had only approximately 300 ventilators.
Armed with this information and a passion to help the world, the Afghan Dreamers set out to make a low-cost ventilator. They engineered their machine using a design from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T) and parts from old Toyota Corollas. Producing their ventilator cost around $500, a steep decline compared to the machinery’s aforementioned $30,000 price tag.
Though the girls may make innovation look easy, creating their ventilator was no simple task. First, they had to find a design to follow. After much searching, they came across the design from M.I.T., which was open source and purposefully low cost. Once they were able to get to work, they had to ensure they were staying safe. They all worked on a different part of the ventilator. When they had to meet up, they made sure to take precautions, such as wearing gloves and masks, to protect themselves from potential health risks. They did all of this while fasting for Ramadan.
The next step for the Afghan Dreamers is getting the Health Ministries in Herat and Kabul to approve their prototype ventilator. If the Health Ministries approve the design, then factories can begin replicating the girls’ machine. This would speed up production and allow the country to create many more of the life-saving devices. Though getting their ventilator approved may seem like a challenge, the young women are no strangers to hard work.
The Afghan Dreamers is a remarkable group that strives to change the world. The young women on the team are innovative, strong-willed and dedicated to creating solutions to difficult problems. By engineering a low-cost ventilator, they have provided an opportunity not only for improving healthcare but also hope and inspiration to people—especially women and girls.
– Paige Musgrave