Seeing eye dogs make great companions for the visually impaired, but what if there was one that didn’t need to be fed or cleaned up after? Sixteen-year-old Maia Dua created one: a seeing eye robot that can do everything a dog can, without the expensive and lengthy training. Her invention beat out a thousand other entries to win Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War — Girls Performing the Future Challenge.

The California high school student was inspired to create a robotic aid for the visually impaired after she heard about the high cost of raising and training seeing eye dogs. Compared to the $50,000 expense of breeding and training seeing eye dogs, and then connecting them with visually impaired owners, Dua’s invention costs just $600. She built her robot in four days, a tiny fraction of the time it takes to train a companion animal.

Related: Teen wins $100,000 for new water purification system to remove Everglades pollutants

stem, marvel, marvel captain america civil war challenge, robot, seeing eye robot, maia dua, california, teen inventor, teen inventors

The wheeled robot has a long handle and looks a bit like those non-electric carpet sweepers used at movie theaters. The device is equipped with a series of sensors that detect nearing objects and beeps to alert the user. The seeing eye robot can’t replace a trained animal companion, as it lacks the ability to scope out a situation and make decisions (such as at a crosswalk). However, in simple surroundings, the robot can give a hardworking dog a much needed break.

The design competition, open only to girls aged 15 to 18 enrolled in 10th to 12th grades, awarded each participant with a $500 savings account from sponsor Synchrony Bank. Dua, the grand prize winner, won an internship at Marvel Studios. Although the contest backers advertised the challenge as a means to empower girls in STEM fields, critics say Marvel (a Disney-owned company) would have had a greater impact by simply putting more female characters in their movies.

Via Yahoo

Images via Marvel Studios and KCRA