In March, Marvel Studios launched a nation-wide competition, calling for young girls grades 10 through 12 to submit science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) projects they believe could change the world.
Maia Dua, 16, of West Sacramento was selected as the grand prize winner out of more than 1,000 girls. This River City High School student is used to competing with the boys. She's the only woman on the men's varsity wrestling team and one of the only women in her advanced robotics class.
"[The boys on the wrestling team] were really happy to have me on. It's cool to see them so encouraging," Maia said. "I never really saw the gender gap [in STEM] before. Then I started noticing as I got older there were more boys around me instead of girls."
That's also sometimes the case when watching Marvel movies. Maia has loved the superhero series since she was a kid.
"Oh man," exclaimed Maia. "They're my favorite. So much action. I like how the Marvel cinematic universe includes all the movies put into one universe."
So it just made sense in Maia's universe, when Marvel challenged young women across the country to "reform the future" in conjunction with the release of Captain America: Civil War (in theaters May 6).
"I think it's really great what Marvel did," said Maia. "Having a challenge just for girls to show the world that STEM's not just for boys."
Here's where challenge really came in: Maia didn't find out about the contest until four days before the deadline,
"It was during spring break, so I knew I had to make something really quick. But I wanted to make something good, so I asked [my teacher] Mr. Fagu if he could open up the classroom for me," explained Maia. "He was kind enough to let me in, stay with me, and help me finish my project on time."
The short time frame didn't stop Maia. She was selected as one of five finalists flown out to Los Angeles to present her project.
"I found out that a guide dog typically costs around $50,000, " said Maia. "I made one that costs around $600...it [has] the basic functionalities as a guide dog. For example, it can go forward. If it senses something, it'll beep."
Maia also got a chance to attend the Captain America: Civil War premiere, where she met Stan Lee and just about every star of the movie.
"When Emily VanCamp [saw] us, she was like 'You're the winners!' And we're like 'Yes!'" said Maia. "She was sitting two rows behind us in the theater!"
But even that wasn't the best part. Turns out Maia would go on to win the whole competition.
"When it finally came to the real thing, I thought I messed up really bad," said Maia. "I didn't expect to win. I thought these girls were amazing."
Maia's seeing eye robot isn't finished. She hopes to continue the project and further develop it to be wearable.
"You could wear sensors and don't have to lug around a robot," explained Maia.
Oh, and if you're wondering about the blue hair...
"It was greenish, then I heard about the challenge," said Maia. "I thought I need to re-dye it, [so] I made blue cause Team [Captain America]!"
Part of Maia's grand prize package is a week-long internship with Marvel Studios this summer.