Robots helping to inspire girls in to tech careers

ROBOTICS: Hayley-rose Ruddick learns about sphero robotics from Ballarat Tech School ambassador and tech entrepreneur Marita Cheng. Picture: Lachlan Bence

ROBOTICS: Hayley-rose Ruddick learns about sphero robotics from Ballarat Tech School ambassador and tech entrepreneur Marita Cheng. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Marita Cheng is a glowing example of what girls can do in technology – and she wants more girls to follow her path and consider a career in engineering and technology.

Ms Cheng was the 2012 Young Australian of the Year and is a technology entrepreneur and women in technology advocate who runs her own robotics company aubot, 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. 

Her company also designs robotic arms, virtual reality and works on autonomous mapping and navigation.

Ms Cheng, who is Victoria’s tech schools ambassador, was in town to talk to about teenage girls from 11 local secondary schools who took part in science, technology, engineering and maths workshops through Ballarat Tech School, which will open next year.

She told them to show persistence and resilience in following their dreams, and to be passionate about what they do.

“I think sometimes in childhood, boys are encouraged to play around with those things more than girls and that’s why it’s important to give them the opportunity to explore STEM,” she said.

“It’s ok to start from knowing nothing and just being curious.”

Using sphero, an illuminated spherical robot, and NAO, a humanoid robot, she introduced students to robotics and programming and gave them a glimpse in to career pathways they might not have considered.

Ballarat Tech School associate director Sofia Fiusco said the day was about showing the girls how they can be involved in the technology that can improve our lives.

“We want to show pathways and opportunities and what technology does to improve our lives. The aim is that they will start to rethink about what they would like to do or the skills they will need to actually be able to meet their dreams.”