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Cheng AM

Engineering visionary and 2012 Young Australian of the Year.

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Engineers build the world around us. It doesn't make sense to exclude half the population from that important task.

Marita Cheng AM, inducted as the youngest Member of the Order of Australia in 2019, named by Forbes as one of the World’s Top 50 Women In Tech 2018, Forbes 30 Under 30 2016, and 2012 Young Australian of the Year, is a technology entrepreneur and women in technology advocate.

Marita is the founder and CEO of Aubot (formerly called 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 socialize with elderly people. Teleports have been sold to offices, museums, co-working spaces, for kids with cancer in hospitals and for security. As well as telepresence robots, Aubot does research and development in robotic arms, virtual reality and autonomous mapping and navigation.

Aubot has been recognized 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.

In 2015, Marita attended Singularity University’s 10-week flagship Graduate Studies Program, held at NASA Ames in Mountain View, funded by a $40,000 scholarship from Google. While there, she cofounded Aipoly. Aipoly’s first application recognizes objects in real time on a smartphone using convolutional neural networks and relays them to people who are visually impaired. Since launching at CES in January 2016, Aipoly is now available in 23 languages and has been downloaded over 500,000 times.

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 over 120,000 girls from 11 countries our robotics workshops across 32 chapters. Robogals has been internationally recognized 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 presents her work to diverse audiences, 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 government housing 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. Marita speaks English, Cantonese and Japanese.

Marita has a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics) / Bachelor of Computer Science from the University of Melbourne. In her spare time, Marita enjoys reading, traveling and daydreaming.

Talking Points

How AI & Robotics are Shaping Society - In Our Jobs, Homes and Communities

AI is changing rapidly and disrupting how we work and interact with each other. Already many industries have adopted these tools to supercharge their operations. By integrating human creativity and insight with the processing power of machines, AI will lead to greater technological advances than we could have ever imagined.

In this fast-moving presentation, Marita Cheng will show that these technologies are not things to be feared, but tools to augment humans and our creative expression to find more answers.

Be Different - Finding Your Own Leadership

How do you become an innovator and have a world-changing impact? Marita Cheng, named by Forbes as 2018 World’s Top 50 Women in Tech, succeeded by doing things differently. She believes her unique worldview came from starting global non-profit organisation Robogals when she was a 19-year-old university student, managing a team of 4000 volunteers. Robogals teaches girls robotics to get girls interested in engineering, and has taught over 120,000 girls robotics.

Marita tells her inspiring story about her struggles and ultimate success to start Robogals, AI company Aipoly, and robotics company Aubot-becoming a globally recognised technology entrepreneur in the process. Marita will show audiences how to put yourself into new situations to challenge yourself, work through discomfort, and ultimately achieve outcomes that you didn’t know existed.
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. Commonwealth Bank

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.

Standards Australia

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

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.

Umow Lai

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

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

The Brisbane ASF went really well and Marita was very inspirational and motivating. The audience loved her! After the forum, Marita stayed in the foyer taking photos and chatting with Kumon Instructors, parents and students. She encouraged our students and advised them as well. The kids looked up to her and it was a lovely scene to watch. We have received plenty of positive feedback from Instructors, parents and students as well! She was very friendly and sociable with everyone.

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