University of Melbourne alumna and former Young Australian of the Year, Marita Cheng, is the recipient of the 2014 GEDC Airbus Diversity Award at the World Engineering Education Forum (WEEF) in Dubai.

Airbus, a leading aircraft manufacturer, and the Global Engineering Deans Council (GEDC), the leading international organisation for engineering education, awarded Marita $10,000 US to support and develop her work.

The three 2014 finalists were selected from over 20 candidates from 12 countries.

Ms Cheng is the founder of Robogals Global, an initiative designed to inspire girls aged 10-14 to choose engineering and technical careers, and to create a global community of engineering students committed to the cause of greater diversity.

Robogals has so far reached over 20,000 girls worldwide, using a largely volunteer workforce of university students. In six years, it has grown from a single university chapter to an international organisation.

This has been achieved through a Robogal Ambassador program of workshops, training, student challenges and  a dedicated outreach program for rural and regional areas.

Ms Cheng is dedicated to innovative thinking, to introducing girls to engineering and the opportunities such a career path can offer.

“The world needs more engineers and is constantly looking for new ways to innovate,” she said.

“However, there is still much work to be done to ensure that the engineering industry reflects the diversity of the communities it supports. By building more diverse teams, with an inclusive culture, engineers can capitalise on everyone’s strengths,” she said.

Dean of the Melbourne School of Engineering, Professor Iven Mareels said Ms Cheng was an individual who had been proactive in bringing more diversity and a new vitality into engineering.

“This prestigious award is given to individuals, schools and universities. It rewards initiatives around the world that encourage young people of all profiles and backgrounds to study and succeed in engineering. I am very proud of Marita’s achievements and how she continues to contribute to providing ideas and opportunities for girls,” Professor Mareels said.