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Marita
Cheng

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.
Profile

Marita Cheng is the recipient of the 2018 Tasmania Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership. She was also the 2012 Young Australian of the Year and is a technology entrepreneur and women in technology advocate.

Marita is an engaging and inspiring speaker, particularly for women in technology/STEM events.

In 2019 Marita was made a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to science and technology, particularly to robotics.

Current work

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, Aubot does research and development in robotic arms, virtual reality and autonomous mapping and navigation.

Aubot 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.

Previous experience

Aipoly: 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 500,000 times in 23 languages since its launch at CES 2016.

Recognition: 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.

Teaching: Robogals has now taught 70,000 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).

Presentations: 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).

Education: 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.

Expertise
Talking Points

Robogals: How Artificial Intelligence won’t Take your job, but Teen Girls Might

When Marita first entered her engineering classes, she thought, “where are all the girls?” And so in her second year at university, she decided to do something about it. She founded Robogals to get girls interested in engineering and technology careers and tertiary studies by going to schools with robots and teaching girls how to build and program them. Now, the organization has taught over 100,000 girls in 11 countries. Awarded a prestigious Churchill Fellowship to study “strategies to get girls interested in engineering”, Marita shares insights from the USA, Canada, the UK, Germany, Jamaica, Japan and Australia on getting girls excited about engineering and giving them the tools to take on any challenge. For her work with Robogals, Marita received the Anita Borg Change Agent Award, Global Engineering Deans Council Diversity Award, and was named the Young Australian of the Year.

Key Takeaways:
- The exciting world of science, technology, engineering, mathematics
- From little things, big things grow
- Scale your impact with technology

What’s real with Artificial Intelligence?

What’s actually happening in the world of artificial intelligence? What are people working on? What results are they seeing? Is it increasing productivity? Across the main industries, let’s look at a snapshot of artificial intelligence to see what’s happening. Marita Cheng, cofounder of artificial intelligence company Aipoly, which won Best of Innovation Awards at CES 2017 and 2018, will take you on this journey through the most exciting artificial intelligence companies and projects happening today.

Key Takeaways:
- Overview of what’s hot in artificial intelligence
- Ideas for artificial intelligence projects you could work on in your business
- Examples of companies using AI around the world to transform industries

Entrepreneurship: How to Start Something from Nothing

From teaching thousands of girls how to build robots, to helping the blind navigate their daily lives, to building robots to assist people with disabilities, time and time again, Marita Cheng has managed to create projects with a global impact. Learn the methodology which Marita uses to create projects from just an idea to multi-million dollar enterprises impacting millions of people. From using known concepts such as “3 Month Goals” and “Accountability Buddies” to new ideas such as “The Wall of Change”, and the “Uncomfortable Zone” figure out how you too can choose a project and go from zero to “woah, what did I just create?” in a few short months.

Key Takeaways:
- A framework to get any project (at any stage) off the ground
- “Accountability Buddies” and “The Wall of Change” to ensure you achieve your goals
- Inspiring examples of the concepts being used to create global movements

My bot, your bot, Aubot

What do you think of when you think of a robot? R2D2 or C3PO from Star Wars? Sonny from Isaac Asimov and Will Smith’s I, Robot? Or a robot in a factory stamping out panels for your Toyota? In the future, we were promised robots, so where are they all now? Join Forbes 30 Under 30 robotics founder Marita Cheng on a deep dive of robotics. From robots that coexist alongside us in our everyday environments, to the robots we don’t see behind the scenes, making it easier than ever for us to raise our standard of living, and the robots Aubot has made to help people in their daily lives. What’s happening now, where is it taking us going forward, and when will we finally get our own personal butlers, like Rosie from the Jetsons?

Key Takeaways:
- All the robots helping us today
- The big robotics projects: Where the investment and talent are heading
- Robot trends of the future

Robot Queen to Change the World

These are actual headlines from national Australian newspapers. Learn how Marita Cheng went from small town girl living in government housing to conquering the globe as one of Forbes Top 50 Women in Tech in the World, and the second youngest person to become a Member of the Order of Australia. Noticing the limited number of girls in her engineering class, at the age of 19, Marita founded Robogals to inspire girls into robotics, growing the organization into an international movement. She followed that up with artificial intelligence company Aipoly to help the blind identify objects in real time, which resonated with millions of people. And robotics company Aubot, making robots to help people in their everyday lives. Hold on tight as pocket rocket Marita shares how she changed the world.

Key Takeaways:
- The only failure is failure to try
- Do your best at what’s in front of you, and more opportunities will present themselves
- Choose yourself
Media
Feedback
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.

Kumon
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