Marita Cheng was the 2012 Young Australian of the Year and is a technology entrepreneur and women in technology advocate. Marita Cheng is the founder and CEO of 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, 2Mar does research and development in robotic arms, virtual reality and autonomous mapping and navigation.
2Mar has been recognised on a global scale through the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia in 2016, while Cheng has been dubbed "the coolest girl at CES 2014" by VentureBeat magazine. Marita has presented 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.
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 120,000 times in seven languages since its launch at CES 2016.
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 55,000 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).
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). She has also 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 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. In her spare time, Marita enjoys reading, travelling and daydreaming.
Marita will be speaking at the VIVID Ideas event, "The Artificial Intelligence Debate: Does Creativity Require Humanity?"