How I Made It

Mackenzie Sulyak, Member of an All-Female Robotics Team

Mackenzie is one of six members of the Ontario-based Amazon Warriors all-female robotics team—which advanced to the world championships earlier this year. Here, she tells FLARE how she made it

(Eddy G./FIRST Canada)

Mackenzie Sulyak; @Team6875

What grade are you in?

I am in grade 11 in the International Baccalaureate Programme. I would like to eventually study veterinary medicine.

Tell us about your biggest accomplishment to date!

Earlier this year, we discussed this question with our mentors. Each one of us began to talk about the little things that we have done, but didn’t think really “counted”—and we realized we were underestimating ourselves. We concluded that our small accomplishments are amazing because lots of small accomplishments can add up to something just as powerful as one life-changing accomplishment. Personally, it’s hard to pick just one of my accomplishments because they are all very important to me—but I am proud of learning code and being able to program a robot with my robotics team that made it all the way to worlds!

Can you describe a typical day, detailing everything you do from when you first get up to when you head back to bed?

I wake up around 6 a.m. and go to school from 8:30 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. I typically have an after-school activity, including band, figure skating, horseback riding, interning at my riding centre, boxing or robotics. Afterwards, I complete my homework and head to bed.

What would you say has been the most significant challenge in life you’ve had to face to date? How did you overcome it (or learn to live with it)?

I wasn’t able to find my “niche” in grade 9, which hurt my confidence a lot. I didn’t have many close friends and even when I did, they had better friends than me to hang out with. That left me feeling very alone and made me retract from engaging in school. However, I eventually realized that everyone finds their niche when they are free to express themselves.

When you’re feeling low about school or something else, what’s the one thing you always do/watch/read/listen to bring yourself back up again?

I like to talk to my robotics team mates and work to accomplish a common goal. Programming a part of the robot or working to learn a new code always makes me feel better.

What’s the number one biggest issue facing young women your age in Canada right now? How can this be fixed/eliminated?

I’ve heard so many times that an all-girls robotics team is sexist and there should be all-male teams as well. The problem is that robotics is already dominated by the males. Our goal is to promote girls in STEM and encourage girls to join because there are minimal numbers of females in the field. We all need to take a stand to create a more equal world for both genders.

What’s your best piece of advice for other young women who want to make a difference in the world?

Believe in yourself. If you’re not like other people, that’s okay because you are better being yourself than trying to be someone you’re not.

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