2012 Young Australian of the Year Marita Cheng has demonstrated vision and leadership well beyond her years and is dedicated to encouraging young women to pursue careers in engineering. The daughter of Chinese parents, Marita was born and raised in far north Queensland and now studies at the University of Melbourne. She founded Robogals Global in 2008 as a response to the traditionally low levels of participation by women in engineering and technology. Robogals uses fun and educational activities to teach schoolgirls about engineering and the difference that engineers make to our lives. Already Robogals has run robotics workshops for 25,000 girls across 300 schools in Australia and now has 27 chapters across Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan. For her work with Robogals, in October 2012 Marita was named one of 100 Women of Influence by The Australian Financial Review and Westpac.
Marita's career path includes studying for a Bachelor of Engineering and a Bachelor of Computer Science on a Paterson Scholarship. She has a Nancy Fairfax Churchill Fellowship, an International Youth Foundation YouthActionNet Fellowship and an Anita Borg Change Agent Award. A former panellist on ABC TV's New Inventors, Marita serves as a Board Member for the Foundation for Young Australians.
Marita stepped down as the Executive Director of Robogals at the end of 2012 in order to start 2Mar Robotics, creating robots that will take care of many everyday and mundane tasks, including robotic arms for wheelchair users. In 2013, 2Mar Robotoics swept the fifth annual Tech23 awards, winning top honours - the Innovation Excellence Award - in addition to four other awards. Marita continues to serve as a Board Member for Robogals and mentors the new CEO, and remains dedicated to changing the way that girls view their capacity to contribute to engineering and technology.
Client Comments for Marita Cheng
- It was incredible to have Marita Cheng share with the audience her passion in technology and purpose, which is to get girls interested in robotics. Her ability to grab the audience's attention while making them giggle as well was the best way to begin the evening. It was also great to see her mingling with the guests before and after her presentation. She received positive feedback from attendees. My team and I look forward to working again with her anytime.
SMPLCT Lab at Social Media Week NYC 2013
- 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 in 2012. 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
- 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
- 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 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
- 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
- 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