Visit to China by 2012 Young Australian of the Year, Marita Cheng: Inspiring a new generation of women in engineering

The Council was delighted to support a visit to China by Marita Cheng, 2012 Young Australian of the Year and founder of Robogals. The visit was co-ordinated by the Australian Embassy in Beijing and Australian Consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou.

The visit's overarching goals was to encourage girls and young women in Chinese schools and colleges to study and pursue careers in engineering– traditionally a male-dominated discipline. Marita created Robogals with this purpose in mind. Robogals conducts robotics workshops using LEGO NXT robots and other outreach activities, and its programs now span four countries. Marita was named Young Australian of the Year for establishing and expanding Robogals.

Marita Cheng standing at a podeum with a table of little robots next to her

Marita Cheng speaking to Australian universities alumni, students and business representatives at the Australian Embassy in Beijing


In Guangzhou, Marita gave a seminar to 250 engineering students from the Guangdong University of Technology.  In a well-received speech, she shared her experiences as an emerging Chinese-Australian leader and the founder of Robogals.  Marita also visited GSK Equipment Company, a Guangzhou-based automation & robot manufacturer and China’s leading manufacturer of numerical control systems.

Shanghai and Nanjing

In Shanghai, Marita addressed students and toured the laboratories at the Engineering and Technology Training Centre, Shanghai Jiaotong University, one of China's leading universities and a premier robotics research centre.  She also addressed engineering students at the East China University of Science and Technology (ECUST).  The Australian Consulate-General in Shanghai hosted a reception for Marita with Australian alumni and returned Chinese students and scholars.

In Nanjing, Marita gave a presentation to students at Nanjing University, and visited Nanjing University of Science and Technology and the Southeast University. 


In Beijing, Marita ran four Robogals workshops at China’s elite universities - Peking University, Tsinghua University, Beihang University (Beijing University of Aerospace and Aeronautics) and the Tianjin Sino-German Vocational Technical College (organised by Australian Education International).

Marita spoke about her story, the establishment and expansion of Robogals, the 2012 Young Australian of the Year award and its importance for the advancement of women in engineering profession.

Australian Embassy in Beijing, Australian Chamber of Commerce in China (Beijing) and Bluescope Steel established an agreement to establish the new “Marita Cheng AustCham Scholarship" as a part of the successful AustCham China Scholarship Program supported by the Council. 

The Marita Cheng AustCham Scholarship will be provided to female engineering students to undertake work placements at engineering, mining or technology companies. 

A successful scholarship launch function was held at the Australian Embassy on 11 December 2012, hosted by the Embassy in partnership with the Australia-China Alumni Association and AustCham. Guests included Australian students from Beijing universities, younger Chinese representatives of the alumni community drawn from the tech and engineering sectors, local Australian entrepreneurs and female engineering students from Beihang and Peking Universities.

In Beijing Marita also attended as a guest at the banquet dinner in the Great Hall of the People on 14 December 2012, attended by the Australian Minister for the Arts, the Hon Simon Crean MP and the Ambassador.


Last Updated: 6 February 2013
Marita Cheng standing in front of a blackboard talking to a room full of students
Marita Cheng: Marita Cheng speaking to students at the Tsinghua University-affiliated high school
Marita Cheng standing in the middle of a group of students showing them a robot she is holding in her hands
Marita Cheng: Marita Cheng at the School of Engineering, Peking University
Marita Cheng crouching in front of a low stage area, controlling a robot with a laptop, two students observing
Marita Cheng: At Peking University School of Engineering

Visit to China by Marita Cheng photo gallery