After two visa rejections that almost killed his dream trip, a Vietnamese high school student finally made it to the U.S.-based Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and claimed a third award for his robotic arm.
Pham Huy, an 11th grader from Quang Tri Province in central Vietnam, was named among four third-award winners $1,000 in the robotics and intelligent machines category.
Huy has created a prosthetic arm controlled by legs’ transmitter for disabled people. He spent four years of research to make the arm, which can perform 31 motions such as holding a spoon or lifting an object of up to 11 kilograms (24 pounds).
The invention has been picked for the international contest after it won first prize at a national qualifying round in March.
But his journey to the United States was not smooth and he barely reached the fair in time.
The student left Vietnam on the opening date of the event after his visa application had been rejected twice, reportedly due to personal reasons.
Quang Tri’s foreign affairs department and the education ministry had to file special requests to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi after the first rejection, but Huy still failed the second time.
The embassy then called him on the phone and gave him a special interview on May 13, after local media reported Huy's story and prompted a lot of questions regarding the embassy's decision. Huy's visa application was finally accepted, but details were not available.
The Intel fair was hosted in California between May 14 and 19 with 1,800 students from 78 countries and territories.
The Vietnamese team won nine prizes in total, including awards for a smartphone app to assist deaf and mute people and for two projects on cancer treatment.