Group of students standing behind robot (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)
Members of the Hope of Syria robotics team (in red shirts) spent an afternoon with a U.S. robotics team, Tiger Pride (in green shirts) in Washington. (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)

Qualifying for the world’s largest robotics championship for secondary schools would be a big accomplishment for any teenager.

For the Hope of Syria robotics team, it’s an extraordinary feat.

That’s because it began from a refugee camp in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, where students Maher Al Issawi, Ammar Nasser Kpoor, Rawan al-Gohary, Amna Labbad and Tahani Arnaout designed an award-winning robot. The five students say they are determined to pursue their dreams of becoming doctors, lawyers and engineers in spite of their current circumstances. Their hard work won them the Inspire Award, the prize for inspiring the judges the most with their accomplishments, for their robot at the 2018 Vex Robotics Competition in the United States.

Students working on robot (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)
(left to right) Tahani Arnaout, Rawan al-Gohary, Ammar Nasser Kpoor, Maher Al Issawi and Amna Labbad examine a robot at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington. (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)

Funding from the Syrian American Medical Society and assistance from Multi Aid Programs — a humanitarian agency that provides education for 3,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon — allowed the five students to spend two weeks in the U.S. visiting American secondary schools’ robotic teams.

While in Washington, the Hope of Syria team visited Woodrow Wilson High School’s team, Tiger Pride. Together the students took a look at the inner workings of Tiger Pride’s robot, which lifts and moves boxes.