Home' Engineering Expo Guide : March 2012 Contents NATAGE H003
Saturday, March 24, 2012 THE AGE
13 22 43 mycareer.com.au
Australia | Asia | New Zealand | Pacific Islands | Middle East
Young Australian of
the Year, on
campus at The
By SUE GOSS
Becoming the Young Australian of
the Year requires an outstanding
contribution, which enriches a
particular aspect of the nation.
This year, the award went to Marita
Cheng, a student of mechatronics
engineering at The University of
Melbourne, whose passion for her
chosen profession has lead her to
encourage other young women into
this totally male-dominated field.
"Mechatronics, or robotics, seemed
to me to be the most challenging and
stimulating area of engineering," says
"It's a combination of mechanical and
electronic engineering, which leads to
specialising in control systems such as
aerodynamics and self-driving cars.
''It's part of many international
projects now. Many emerging
companies, especially in the United
States are using robotics to assist
disabled people. The future of this
exciting field is huge."
Marita was amazed that so few girls
were choosing engineering so she
asked Professor Jamie Evans, head of
electronic and electrical engineering at
The University of Melbourne, what
could be done about it.
"He said that the best age to
encourage girls was from 10 to 14, so I
came up with the idea of 'Robogals' ---
getting girls interested in engineering
for the future.
''The professor was very supportive
and has been one of my mentors over
the last four years.
''I got three friends to volunteer and
together we wrote up robotics lessons,
which were specifically designed to
engage girls. We phoned schools to
offer our set of lessons and within the
first three months we taught 124 girls."
But that was only the beginning.
Using her entrepreneurial spirit, Ms
Cheng recruited more volunteers from
the university and Robogals took off,
becoming an international organisation
with 19 chapters in seven countries.
It has more than 100 executive
committee members across all chapters
with many more dedicated and
passionate volunteers. What began
with a small group of engineering
students and one young women with a
vision has turned into a global
movement that highlights engineering
as a really exciting possibility for girls.
So far they have taught about 4000
girls world-wide and last year Robogals
targeted rural and regional areas of
Victoria where girls often need special
Ms Cheng is now completing her
degree part time so she can fit
everything in, including research with a
Churchill Fellowship about her work
with Robogals Global.
She is passionate about the
relationship between engineering,
innovation and entrepreneurship,
hoping to become an entrepreneur
herself, building up her own
technology company, which is already
in the pipeline. She wants to see the
ABC's New Inventors return to air as it
showcased some of Australia's most
dynamic and original engineers.
Marita is a student member of
Engineers Australia (Victoria).
"It's a great organisation and it's free
for students," she says.
"We get invited to events where top
engineers describe their role and what
they do. It's really inspiring to listen to
these engineers talk about their career
pathways and the lessons they learned
along the way."
(Read Marita's blog at
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