Marita Cheng was the 2012 Young Australian of the Year and is a technology entrepreneur and women in technology advocate. Marita Cheng is the founder and CEO of aubot (formerly 2Mar Robotics), which makes a telepresence robot, Teleport, for kids with cancer in hospital to attend school, people with a disability to attend work and to monitor and socialise with elderly people. As well as telepresence robots, 2Mar does research and development in robotic arms, virtual reality and autonomous mapping and navigation.
2Mar has been recognised on a global scale through the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia in 2016, and through being called 'the coolest girl at CES 2014' by VentureBeat magazine. Marita has presented about Teleport at the M.A.P. International CEO Conference in the Philippines in 2016, MIT Technology Review EmTech Singapore in 2015, and the 2014 World Entrepreneurship Forum in Lyon France.
While studying at Singularity University’s flagship 10-week program, the Graduate Studies Program, located at NASA Ames and on a full scholarship funded by Google, Marita cofounded Aipoly with Alberto Rizzoli. Profiled in TechCrunch within a week of the first prototype being made, Aipoly allows blind people to recognise objects using computer vision and has been downloaded 120,000 times in 7 languages since its launch at CES 2016.
Marita was named the 2012 Young Australian of the Year for demonstrating vision and leadership well beyond her years as the Founder and Executive Director of Robogals Global. Noticing the low number of girls in her engineering classes at the University of Melbourne, Marita rounded up her fellow engineering peers and they went to schools to teach girls robotics, as a way to encourage girls into engineering. While on academic exchange at Imperial College London, Marita expanded the group to London and through innovation and sheer will, Marita then expanded Robogals throughout Australia, the UK, the USA and Japan. The group runs robotics workshops, career talks and various other community activities to introduce young women to engineering.
Robogals has now taught 55,000 girls from 11 countries our robotics workshops across 32 chapters. Robogals has been internationally recognised though the Global Engineering Deans Council Diversity in Engineering Award (2014), Grace Hopper Celebration’s Anita Borg Change Agent Award (2011), and the International Youth Foundation’s YouthActionNet Fellowship (2011).
Marita regularly travels around Australia presenting her work including appearing on Q&A on ABC beside two Nobel Laureates and the Chief Scientist of Australia (TV audience 600,000), and alongside Ashton Kutcher at Lenovo’s #TechMyWay (online audience 35,000). As well, she has presented overseas at Foxconn's H.Spectrum by Yonglin Healthcare Startup Conference in Taiwan (2016), the 37th Kumon Japan Instructors Conference in Japan (2016), the World Engineering Education Forum in Dubai (2014), and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts' World Conference in Hong Kong (2014).
Marita was born in Cairns, Queensland, Australia. She grew up in housing commission with her brother and single-parent mother, who worked as a hotel room cleaner. She graduated from high school in 2006 in the top 0.2% of the nation, and that year was awarded Cairns Young Citizen of the Year for her volunteering and extra-curricula efforts, which included winning awards for mathematics, Japanese and piano. Marita speaks English, Cantonese and Japanese.
Marita has a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics) / Bachelor of Computer Science from the University of Melbourne. She serves on the boards of Robogals Global, the Foundation for Young Australians, and RMIT's New Enterprise Investment Fund, where she helps decide on startup investments, the Victorian State Innovation Expert Panel, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative's Tech Advisory Board. In her spare time, Marita enjoys reading, travelling and daydreaming.
Client Comments for Marita Cheng
- Marita is an enormously impressive and indeed inspirational speaker. She relates very well to young people and really encourages them to work hard to achieve their ambitions.
- Marita's presentation was fantastic. She is an inspirational, intelligent, highly informed yet humble young woman. So highly deserving of Young Australian of the Year along with her other accolades.
- You had the audience totally absorbed as you spoke so eloquently about the challenges you have faced and the leadership you have shown in getting so many volunteers to work for Robogals, not only in Australia but also overseas. We had many favourable comments from the various architects, project managers, quantity surveyors, builders and building surveyors who attended on the night, all saying how inspirational they found your story! A number of our engineers have been re-motivated to offer to talk at schools and mentor younger engineers. Thank you very much for your wonderful talk about Robogals and your own journey to becoming the Young Australian of the Year.
- Marita was articulate, positive and specific, and provided input based on personal experience to this discussion. She was able to bring a quite different but complementary set of perspectives, ranging from the ways she and her peers thought about their teachers and education while at school, through to observations about the young women with whom she works, and her current peers and their views, to well focused comparisons with questions and expectations held by her own team.
- Marita took on the role of moderator for the artists to audience discussion after each performance of the Android-Theatre show Sayonara at Arts Centre Melbourne. She was very comfortable on stage and in the spotlight and her delightful personality put both the speakers and the audience members immediately at ease. Her passion and knowledge for the topic of robotics shone through and her skill at steering the conversation and engaging the audience was excellent. She understood the breadth of the work and subtly balanced the discussion to encompass a range of areas incorporating humour and philosophy alongside science and performing arts.
Arts Centre Melbourne
- Marita was an outstanding speaker and inspirational person. It is such important work she does and so many young girls are benefiting. It is just fantastic.
Association of Tertiary Education Management (ATEM)
- Marita is the complete package. As a speaker, she is warm, interesting and engaging. She was able to capture her audience's attention with her message of overcoming obstacles, living her dream and working hard to achieve her goals. She is an inspiration and demonstrates the potential to grow into an important leadership role in future.
- Marita is an accomplished, smart and energised young person. At such a young age she has combined academic valour and entrepreneurial spirit with a large dollop of philanthropic value. Her work with Robogals is such a proactive way to get young kids excited about the sciences. I am confident that such interventions will help increase the representation of women in fields such as engineering. Marita spoke at our company's all-of-staff briefing about her journey and every soul present left inspired and impressed! Marita is an exceptional public speaker, drawing on both her background and personal experience to tell a very interesting story, made much more digestible by her humble disposition. I would recommend her to any organisation or entity who want to promote concepts such as individual leadership and innovation.
- Thank you so much for coming to speak to our students yesterday. There has been a real buzz around the school since your talk, amongst both teachers and students. Your story is fantastic, your flair with 'getting things done' is admirable. And, don't forget to be PM sometime as well. You could do it.
- Marita Cheng was the keynote speaker at NAWIC Victoria/Tasmania's International Women's Day half day forum. She spoke about her love for engineering as well as for Robogals, for which helped secure her as the award winner of the 2012 Young Australian of the Year. Marita is young and ambitious and yet humble in her approach to life which makes her for a great mentor and role model for other young women not just considering engineering as a career but for young adults in general. Marita's strong initiative, drive and determination comes through in everything she does. NAWIC Victoria/Tasmania Council commend her and support her in her efforts! If you are looking for a motivational speaker... look no further.
National Association of Women in Construction
- The feedback from our guests has been extremely positive. The mix of views from the panel was a recipe for such interesting discussion. You showed yourself to be a mature, intelligent woman and I have no doubt you are and will continue to be a role model for women of all ages.
- Marita was fantastic! Her story was touching and inspirational. The girls loved the speech and although they didn't have many questions for Marita, they were full of questions back in the classroom. Her visit has generated a real buzz and as a result, our Year 7 girls will be heading to Melbourne University in a few weeks' time for a Robogals session.
Haileybury Girls Middle School
- We thank you so much for bringing your passion, talent and real-girl appeal to girls and our movement, through your participation on our panel. I know that people will be thinking and talking about the stories you shared, for a long time. You are a role model to so many! Despite the frenetic pace that Convention brings, it was an absolute pleasure getting to know and work with you. Your panel was certainly my convention highlight!
Girl Scouts of the USA
- Marita was engaging with the audience, especially with her knowledge in the robotics field. Her speech also helped highlight the theme of our event.
Kumon Glen Waverley Education Centre
- Marita Cheng's presentation was also fabulous. I wish my 11-year-old daughter was here to have heard it as well.
Marita Cheng was phenomenal - I was blown away by her attitude, determination and passion, and her humanity and humility.
Marita Cheng keynote was very inspiring and it was fantastic to be able to meet her.
Office for Digital Government, Department of the Premier and Cabinet South Australia
- Many parents came up to Marita at the conclusion to say how inspiring her message was. Many of our prize winners asked her to sign their books…on each occasion she took time to chat with the student, find out what they liked and then referenced it in her message in the book. Most impressive.
St Catherine's School
- Marita was very down to earth as I remembered from meeting her at another event in Adelaide. Marita made herself available to chat with the delegates after her speaking engagement before departing to return to Sydney.
2014 SHE Leads Conference
- Community Development
- How to Really Achieve Your Dreams: Setting goals and getting there
- My Inspirational Story
- Robotics in the Future of Work
- The Amazing World of Engineering
- The Gender Divide: Strategies to get girls into engineering and technology
"Tamie's wonderful - thank you!"
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