Marita Cheng
Miss Marita Cheng
Student, The University of Melbourne/ Imperial College London
London, (No State Selected), United Kingdom

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Close Up
  • Describe what you do in your current work situation.
    University Student - attend lectures, study, do assignments, sit exams. Nudge founder and Chairman - build and maintain relationships with people, develop and continually refine the business model and business. Robogals founder - take on and champion development projects that will strengthen Robogals' name and help Robogals fulfill on its objectives of increasing the number of girls who study science, engineering and technology courses at a tertiary level. mew founder and mechanical engineer - go to manufacturing labs and manufacture robotics components, have weekly meetings with the team to make sure everything is going okay, come up with projects that will increase robotics learning and teaching practices.
  • Why did you choose engineering?
    I study a bachelor of mechatronics engineering and computer science. I chose to study mechatronics engineering because I was fascinated by the potential of robots in society and because I want to be a part of the movement having robots shape our world. I was motivated by Larry Page and Sergey Brin to study Computer Science back in high school, because I read articles about the Google guys and was so inspired by what they had achieved that I thought computer science would be the perfect complement to my engineering degree. I also studied a lot of maths and science during high school and really enjoyed the challenges they presented.
  • Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
    I went to school in the city of Cairns, Queensland, Australia. When I was in high school, about 120 000 people lived in Cairns. It is the closest city to the Great Barrier Reef, and a stone's throw away from the Daintree - a naturally beautiful city, so a lot of the economy is driven by tourism. I graduated salutorian in 2006 and went to the University of Melbourne for my Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics)/ Bachelor of Computer Science. During my first year, a friend encouraged me to apply to go on exchange, so I applied to go to Imperial College London. The exchange with Imperial College was only allowed for the mechanical engineering part of my degree, so I took first-year, second-year and third-year mechanical engineering subjects (but smuggled in 2 second-year electrical engineering subjects and 2 business school subjects for fun.) The variety was great! I don't have any degrees yet - I'm still studying at university!
  • What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
    Engineering students typically spend their days in lectures, tutorials and participating in clubs and societies during working hours.
  • What do you like best about being an engineer?
    The best thing about being an engineering student is studying and learning about all these fascinating topics in science and then applying them to real-world situations. It's about asking yourself, "what's another way I can do this?" "how can I make this better? Cheaper? Faster?" The thinking skills you acquire are invaluable.
  • Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
    My proudest accomplishment to date is Robogals Inc. Robogals is a not-for profit student organization at the University of Melbourne and at Imperial College, which aims to promote science and technology amongst young female school students (ages 10-14) in order to ultimately increase female enrollment in engineering and science courses at universities. The students volunteer at schools to give LEGO Robotics lessons using LEGO Mindstorms NXT kits. We design the lessons to make them a fun and exciting learning experience. I began it last year, in July 2008. We did quite a bit, teaching 126 girls from 4 different schools over August to October, with participation from about 80 university students. I'm proud that we have impacted so many young girls and so many university leaders in such a short time. Then when I went to London, I set it up again so that English school girls could also learn the delights of LEGO robotics. I have many plans for the future of Robogals!
  • What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
    The biggest challenge for me began even before my engineering degree - it was that I didn't have enough money to do a degree. So I studied very, very diligently during high school and worked all summer to save up. By the time I left my hometown, I had enough saved up, support from my parents and support from the government that I could survive the year. Fortunately, a month after I went down to Melbourne, I received an annual scholarship for the duration of my degree, which made my life considerably easier! I am so thankful to Bob and Helen Paterson for their scholarship and support.
  • Please tell us a little about your family.
    My parents separated when I was 1 month old and subsequently divorced. I have an older brother who is three-and-a-half years older than me, and we have both always lived with my mum. My mum worked very hard (sometimes 7 days a week!) as a room attendant (cleaner) to support my brother and my education. Now she still lives in Cairns, while my brother is in Hong Kong studying his Masters in anthropology. My father has remarried and I now have 3 step-brothers and 2 step-sisters!
  • What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
    My short-term goals are to graduate from university, to manage a successful business and to have Robogals thrive internationally. My long-term goals are to get married, to be the CEO of a robotics company, and to have Robogals be an enormous force to be reckoned with.
  • What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
    My mother has definitely had the greatest influence on my life choices. She has always encouraged me to participate, be enthusiastic, and be passionate. She is the one who told me anything is possible, and that though she will miss me, to follow opportunities wherever they led me. Whenever I think of someone who has dignity, pride and passion, and believes in service to others and hard work, I think of my mother.
  • What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
    If you like maths and science and get inspired by the possibility of technology - go for it! It is a wonderful and rewarding journey that will stretch and challenge your mind, and give you tools to help change the world.
  • Any other stories or comments you would like to share with EngineerGirl visitors?
    Marita is the founder of Robogals Inc.
  • Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
    One of my hobbies is blogging. I blog at http://blog.maritacheng.com/ about entrepreneurship and how people can act effectively and powerfully in any situation. I find it very empowering as it reinforces to myself the qualities which I value, and it's a way of sharing myself with the world.
Biography

Marita is the 2012 Young Australian of the Year. While still a university student, Marita Cheng has demonstrated vision and leadership well beyond her years and is dedicated to encouraging young women to become interested in a career 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 7,000 girls across 80 schools in Australia and now has 17 chapters across Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. 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 program, Marita plans to start a robotics company, creating robots that will take care of many everyday and mundane tasks. Already she has changed the way that girls view their capacity to contribute to engineering and technology.

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Volunteer Opportunities
  • I am willing to be contacted by educators for possible speaking engagements in schools or in after school programs or summer camps.
Latest Questions
  • kiara, Dubai asked Marita Cheng, The University of Melbourne/ Imperial College London

    Added Sunday, October 9, 2016 at 4:51 AM

    What inspired you to become a robotical engineer?
    Related to Choosing a Degree, Electrical, Special fields and Interdisciplinary
    Answers 0
  • Mirra, Monash University asked Marita Cheng, The University of Melbourne/ Imperial College London

    Added Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 8:41 PM

    Hi I am studying mechanical engineering in Monash. I have been suffering from kidney stones all the year round and hence my cgpa has suffered but its only 2.8-3 outta a four where my fellow peers have significantly higher ones. Can I explain that to my future prospective employer giving as reason I was sick? I have been told that the number of internship can change my career outlook and increase prospects. Is this true? Is it a must that I should intern only in my field or dabble in various ...
    Related to Internships & Jobs, Mechanical, Unique Challenges
    Answers 1
    Marita Cheng, The University of Melbourne/ Imperial College London
    Answered Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 8:41 PM

    Yes, you can tell your employers you were sick as a reason for your lower GPA.  Yes, doing more internships will increase your career prospects.  You should definitely try and intern in engineering, or in the field you want to work later, in ...

    Read More
  • Sura, Jordan

    Added Monday, January 25, 2016 at 7:01 AM

    Hi, my name is Sura. I'm from Jordan. I am studying mechatronic engineering and it's my second year. I want to improve my skills but I don't know how and what to start with. Does that depend on what courses I take at university or not? Are there any websites could help mechatronics engineering student ? I'm waiting for your advise :)
    Answers 1
    Marita Cheng, The University of Melbourne/ Imperial College London
    Answered Monday, January 25, 2016 at 7:01 AM

    Hi Sura,

    If you want to be a great mechatronics engineer, start doing projects outside of your normal class now.  Mechanical engineering - Pull things apart and learn how they work, create your own simple robots from scratch by experimenting with ...

    Read More
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