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Marita Cheng    

Engineering Visionary & 2012 Young Australian of the Year

Marita Cheng was the 2012 Young Australian of the Year and is a technology entrepreneur and women in technology advocate. On a day-to-day basis, Marita works as the founder and CEO of 2Mar Robotics doing mechanical engineering. 2Mar Robotics aims to bring robots that help us in our day-to-day lives into the world. The company began by creating robotic arms for people with limited upper limb mobility. These robot arms are controlled by iPhone, Android phone and two different head-gyroscopic interfaces.

Five weeks after 2Mar was founded in 2013, it received $20,000 from the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Accelerator Program. Later that year, it received five prizes, including the top award, the Innovation Excellence Award from Tech23 2013, Australia’s most prestigious pitching competition. Following that, 2Mar exhibited at CES 2014, the largest consumer electronics show in the world, with 140,000 participants in Las Vegas, where VentureBeat named Marita "the coolest girl at CES 2014.".

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 30,000 girls from 9 countries our robotics workshops across 27 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 MIT Technology Review's EmTech Singapore (2015), the World Entrepreneurship Forum in France (2014), 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. In her spare time, Marita enjoys reading, travelling and daydreaming.

Speech Topics

Managing teams through your computer

As the founding CEO of Robogals, Marita led thousands of volunteers throughout the USA, Australia, UK, Japan and New Zealand, to teach tens of thousands of girls robotics globally, every year. To achieve this huge feat, Marita needed to manage and inspire teams across the globe to take actions - all through her computer. How do you motivate people when they're far away? How do you create community when your team is isolated from one another? How do you remain productive when the world is so confusing?

Key Takeaways - Create community around a common vision - Lead with feedback - Praise lavishly


The first TEDx Talk is happening on a plane, but you weren't invited
Who doesn't want to get inspired while flying over the Pacific Ocean sipping a Bellini? Qantas flight QF73 is travelling from Sydney, Australia to San Francisco, California Wednesday afternoon packed full of Australian entrepreneurs. The flight is a platform for four exceptional human beings, better known as TEDx speakers, to be involved in the world's first tech talk in the sky.

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