Meet the Robogals reprogramming the STEM industry


To celebrate National Science Week, 12 August – 20 August, EducationDaily is publishing a series of STEM-focused articles featuring inspiring Australians and innovative ideas.

Robogals sends volunteer university students and young professionals from Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Brisbane, and Adelaide into the community to run STEM workshops for primary and secondary schoolgirls across Australia.

The start-up was founded by entrepreneur Marita Cheng in 2008 and, following the launch of a second chapter at Imperial College London, now has chapters in Africa and North America too. Marita’s growing army of volunteers has worked with more than 120,000 girls on their mission to “inspire tomorrow’s engineers today”.

Robogals workshops

Robogals’ Melbourne chapter runs workshops aimed at inspiring young women to consider a career in engineering, and empowering them to believe they can achieve it. Mixing education and creativity in a fun STEM environment, the volunteer university students teach girls at the schools they visit everything from the basics of engineering to robotics, programming, and how to use LEGO Mindstorms EV3 kits.

- Advertisement -

Robogals is an advocate for LEGO Robotics programming, believing it encourages logical thinking, problem-solving, and preparation for learning other programming languages.

Students need zero prior programming experience and teachers have described these workshops as a perfect fit for incorporating STEM into the curriculum.

a book cover for Smart girls: marita cheng

The stats on women in STEM

Gender disparity in the STEM workforce and the uptake of STEM subjects in higher education is what drives the Robogals team. The stats show that women make up only 28 per cent of the STEM workforce in Australia, with only 14 per cent in engineering (14.4 per cent and 8.2 per cent respectively in the UK, and 24 per cent and 14 per cent in the US).

The Robogals mission is a vital one because decreasing the size of these gaps increases opportunities for women to generate fair and equal income. This shift towards a more diverse workforce also encourages more inclusive work environments for women, more effective team dynamics thanks to diversity within teams, and a better reflection of customer bases – which just makes good business sense.

- Advertisement -

The future for Robgals

Representation matters for women in STEM and research has shown that a lack of relatable role-models can be the key cause of low uptake for minorities in certain fields of study.

With this reality front of mind, the Robogals’ network is looking to throw itself behind initiatives like Science Week, Book Week, International Women’s Day and more. Going forward, the network will promote self-learning and continue to raise awareness through their own regional initiatives, including The Robogals Challenge (EMEA) and Pathways Into Engineering (APAC), to extend their reach beyond their signature workshops.

For Science Week this year, Ms Cheng encourages students to get involved and get creative.

“National Science Week is such a fun week, filled with events all over the country celebrating science. I encourage you to get out there and participate and I’m sure you’ll learn something new this week.”

Share This Article
By Charlie
Charlie Writes is a Sydney based, London born, Caribbean writer, interviewer and poet. A colourful 27 year career has taken Charlie from typing poems on the spot on her 1970’s typerwiter named June, to donning a hard hat as a roving reporter in the construction industry. All while living out her favourite quote that the greatest adventures begin with a simple conversation.