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Maia Dua, Winner of Marvel’s STEM Challenge for Girls, Shows Off Her “Seeing Eye” Robot

Maia Dua of River City High School in West Sacramento, CA has won the top prize in Marvel Studio’s Girls Reforming the Future Challenge, a contest encouraging girls aged 15-18 to submit science, tech, engineering, and/or math projects that have “the potential to benefit humankind.” Dua got selected along with four other finalists to attend a special advanced screening of Captain America: Civil War, and after the screening, Marvel announced that Dua had been selected as the winner.

In an interview with Fox 40, Maia Dua demonstrates her winning project: a seeing-eye robot that can help the visually impaired. As she demonstrates, the tool uses ultrasonic sensors to produce a beeping noise any time an obstacle appears nearby. Also, it’s fairly inexpensive to make, making it more accessible to people in need.

What’s truly impressive about the project is that Dua pulled it together with only a few days before the deadline. She saw the contest on social media with only four days to go, and managed to come up with the idea and built the entire prototype in time to submit her proposal.

Here’s how Disney’s press release described Dua’s invention:

Maia developed a “seeing eye” robot as a cost-effective and durable alternative to a seeing eye dog. The self-propelled, echo-locating “Seeing Eye-Bot” is made of readily accessible materials, making it more available to individuals of limited financial resources. Maia designed the seeing eye-bot to require minimal maintenance and to have a functional life span in excess of 7 years. Maia hopes her invention can address the needs of the visually impaired, who may be unable or unwilling to own a seeing eye dog.

As the top prize winner, Dua will receive a week-long internship at Marvel Studios, where Disney reports that she’ll be “learning firsthand how STEM skills are being used in innovative and creative ways to produce some of the world’s all-time favorite characters and films.” After she completes the internship, she and the other four finalists will participate in a webinar that will be broadcasted live globally by Broadcom MASTERS. To learn more about Maia Dua and the other five finalists, check out the Winners page on the challenge website!

(via Walt Disney Studios Publicity)

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Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (relay.fm/isometric), and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (robotknights.com).