NASA Space App Challenge winners denied US visa | The Daily Star
04:01 PM, July 19, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:06 PM, July 19, 2019

NASA Space App Challenge winners denied US visa

Olik, a four-member winning team of NASA Space App Challenge 2018 from Bangladesh’s Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, was denied US visa to attend several programmes on July 21-23 in Florida.

But a group of six government officials of ICT Division, who were supposed to accompany the winning team, are going to attend the programmes at Kennedy Space Centre along with an officials of BASIS as the group has secured US visa, reports our Sylhet correspondent.

Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS), under the initiative of BASIS students' forum, organises teams from Bangladesh for the NASA Space Apps Challenge every year.

The team Olik participated on the NASA Space App Challenge last year. On February 16 this year, they got confirmation from NASA that their “Lunar VR” project won in the Best Use of Data category.

Later on May 29, they were invited to attend several programmes at the Kennedy Space Centre, but the costs of the trip were supposed to be covered by the participants. After several communications with the organisers, the ICT Division decided to cover all the costs of the participation.

On June 27, the ICT division published a circular mentioning the names of 16 persons including six ministry officials, five BASIS officials, four members of the team Olik and their mentor. The circular mentioned that the ministry will bear the cost of 13 persons and three others will accompany the group on their own expenses.

Abu Sadiq Mahdi, team leader of Olik, said, “On July 11, we attended the interview at the US Embassy in Dhaka and they rejected the visa application of eight persons that includes us and the BASIS officials. We have provided all necessary documents but the visa was denied according to INA Section 214 (b)”.

“We later contacted with the embassy through the recommendation of the foreign minister but they confirmed they cannot arrange further interview before July 22. So, we had to close the process”, he said.

He added: “It’s our bad luck that we could not attend the programme at Kennedy Space Centre, but the organiser requested us to provide a video that they will be playing in the programme”.

An ICT division official, who is participating the event on Florida, said that the ministry officials got the visa from the embassy without attending interview as per the rules for government officials.

He said, that they are not feeling comfortable to attend the programme without the members of the winning team but the ministry tried their best to get them visa after they were denied.

Raja Md Abdul Hye, deputy secretary of the ICT Division, who signed the circular of the participants, said that he should not comment about this as the list of participants were granted by the ministry and he is just the signing authority.

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