Get to Know 3 UWAFT Team Leads

For over two decades, the University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) has competed in the Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTCs). Each year, the team leads at UWAFT work tremendously hard to ensure that competition goals are being met, team operations are running smoothly, and team members are learning a collection of new skills. Let’s take a look at some of the stellar team leads from UWAFT this year as they rev up their efforts in Year Two of the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge.

Meet Mahad Zaryab:

Mahad joined UWAFT in his first year of undergrad little over a year ago and is now a Connected Software Team Lead. One of UWAFT’s unique values is openness in which student volunteers of any background can join and grow as a part of the team – without requiring any application. That’s exactly how Mahad got started with UWAFT.

“UWAFT was one of the only teams that were welcoming of first years. I was moved by how passionate the team was in what they were doing and how they were willing to support the incoming members,” said Zaryab. “I was inspired to join UWAFT because of the innovative culture of the team and everybody’s willingness to learn.”

Mahad’s experience with UWAFT has allowed him to gain a multitude of technical skills in software and automation development – knowledge he now spreads to new UWAFT members as the Connected Software Team Lead. Being on UWAFT has benefited Mahad immensely on a personal level as well.

“As an engineering student with a heavy workload, I find that it’s really important to spend time doing something that you truly enjoy. UWAFT has been exactly that for me.”

Lastly, Mahad has a few words of wisdom for younger UWAFT members who were once in his shoes. “If I were to give one piece of advice to anyone, it’s to never be satisfied with what you already know and always strive to acquire new knowledge. Always push your boundaries and ask yourself how you can improve upon yourself.“


Meet Jerica Rattana:

Jerica, a Mechanical Engineering student, joined the UWAFT team in 2017 and serves as the team’s Mechanical Integration Lead. Jerica recalls UWAFT’s strong values of teamwork and collaboration as the main reasons why she enjoys being on the team.

“Working hard as a team to complete a deliverable together and spending late nights in the bay all working on one thing… It’s incredibly satisfying to submit something that we can be proud of,” said Jerica.

This year, Jerica received the Rookie Award for General Motor’s EcoCAR Women in STEM Awards, which honors women within STEM who demonstrate outstanding technical excellence both within their university academic programs and most notably, through the EcoCAR program. She notes that her experiences working with UWAFT attribute a lot to her professional success.

“UWAFT is a major portion of my resume,” said Jerica. “A lot of hands-on experience and practical knowledge comes from working on the team. My UWAFT projects definitely got me my current coop.”

In addition, participating in UWAFT has helped Jerica greatly on a personal level, as she developed some of her deepest connections and friendships with members on the team.

“I’ve made some great friendships with people outside of my class,” she said. “I’ve gotten pretty close to a lot of people on the team, and that starts with the respect earned from us all working hard towards a common goal. I also have personal relationships with upperclassmen I look up to, and can go to them for things like resume critiques and advice about interviews.“

Overall, Jerica has some final pieces of advice for younger members that aspire to reach their goals at UWAFT. “Take this opportunity at UWAFT to learn new things and find what you are truly passionate about. There is a wealth of knowledge here at UWAFT and people who are willing to teach you what they know.”


Meet Urban Pistek:

Urban is a Mechatronics Engineering student and has been involved with UWAFT team for over a year, which led him to become this year’s Electrical Engineering Team Lead.

Urban notes the the great variety of interesting work that inspired him to join UWAFT, “I loved the intersection of multiple disciplines, how I could get experience with mechanical, electrical, controls, CAVs and now even more. Plus I loved the team culture and environment.”

Urban also recalls the satisfaction of working collaboratively in a strong community in order to achieve goals as what he enjoys about being on UWAFT the most.

“Learning and struggling with my peers, we are all on the same boat, most of us with limited experience,” Urban said. “Therefore, when we succeed together there is a very strong sense of accomplishment.”

Finally, Urban offers an ample amount of thought when asked about advice he would give to younger UWAFT members:

“This goes beyond UWAFT in my opinion. If you start something new, where there is a massive learning curve, looking at the entire pictures is overwhelming and really get you nowhere anytime soon. Focus on one small part of the picture and master it. Once you have done that move onto the next. Before you know you have mastered some of the keys aspects of the picture and now you begin to understand the full picture much better in its entirety.”