Aaryn Zoccole

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Girl in graduation clothing doing a piece sign

My name is Aaryn Zoccole. I am an Ojibwa Woman from Eagle Lake, ON. I grew up on First Nations Reserves all over Northern Ontario and Minnesota. Currently, I am in my first-year of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Toronto.

In 2017, I moved to Wikwemikong, ON, with my mom for her new job. I was very introverted and talked to no one. I planned on only finishing highschool. My Mom had other plans and said that I was going to join the Highschool Robotics Team. I said, “No.” This robotics team happened to be a little team called FRC Team 5672: FN- STEM (the 1st All First-Nations FRC Robotics Team).

I didn’t know what robotics was about, but I thought the robot would be a small dinky robot like the VEX claw bots. Little did I know the robot would be the size of a mini-fridge! I was amazed. What made it more amazing was that First Nations Students built this robot with the help of a singular mentor named Chris Mara. When I first saw the robot, I thought, “I didn’t know First Nations were capable of doing that!?” I will be honest and say that before never thought that First Nations could change the world because I had never seen someone do it before, but this team has changed that mindset.

I joined but started with little things like designing the team’s T-shirts for the 2017-2018 season. Each year I grew bit by bit. I had no clue why I volunteered while still being introverted, but during the 2018-2019 season, Mara suggested that the team try for the Chairman’s Award. Myself and team members Mary Pangowish, Ella Williams, decided we could take on the challenge, and we made it to the top 3 finalists at the 2019 FRC Detroit World Championship. In the 2019-2020 season, we did Chairman’s again, and I joined the FIRST Canada Youth Council for 2020.

By the end of my time on Team 5672, I had grown from this 10th grader who was scared to talk to people to someone who enjoyed having conservation and getting to know people. A person who didn’t think that First Nations could do great things into a person who believes that First Nations could do the greatest things. It never gets old when I see successful Indigenous People push boundaries(e.g., Ethan Bear, Victoria Anderson-Gardener, and Team 5672) Also; I believe that it’s important to remember that this team’s success stems from that singular mentor, Chris Mara, who chose to believe in his students.

I am interested in Mechanical Engineering because of Chris Mara’s choice to believe in me; and that one movie with the big robots (Pacific Rim). I think robots and aircraft are super cool! Also, operating them is even cooler.

The advice I would give to people interested in joining Mechanical Engineering is that it’s okay to ask for help, drop a course, take a day off, and start a year later. Watching youtube videos for courses is a great help when you struggle with the material (3blue1brown and Jeff Hanson are godly). Don’t forget to make friends too!

Remember, when you have a little faith, you can make anything happen!