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Mechatronics Engineer @ Paragon Systems

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Paragon Systems services manufacturing clients from around the world across a range of industries including automotive, electronics, marine, ground transportation, medical products and construction.

Paragon Systems

At Paragon Systems, I worked as a coop on the automation team to build large build large-scale automated carseat testers, gaining exposure to both mechanical and electrical components of a mechatronics system. I was part of a team of 8 to build and install car seat testers for major car brands like GM and Mercedes.

What I Built

The automated car seat testers look something like this:

test-mechanical2

3D render of the car seat tester

With the electrical panels looking a little more like this:

test-electrical1

Schematic of the electrical panel

And to give you a better idea of what & how they tested:

test-programming2

Diagram of how the seat should be tested.

The Experience

I remember walking in the first day and seeing one machine which was almost ready to ship. I was appalled and I knew from that point that if I make the most of this term I would be able to significantly “level up” my knowledge and experience in mechatronics systems (which is what I studied in university). What I didn’t expect was the amount of effort and overtime that would go into this coop over the whole 4 months.

During my time at Paragon Systems, I worked on every aspect of this tester. I built the frame, assembled the robotic testers and the testing platforms, screwed on all the controllers, bearings, and even more. I worked on testing and calibrating the tester through calibration tests. I wired the electrical panels from the drawings and connected them to the I/O controllers littered around the system. Needless to say, I tried a lot of different things.

What I experienced here was far more applicable than anything I’ve learned until then and forced me to think outside of my comfort zone. My way of thinking changed. I found myself thinking beyond the design and had thoughts like “how much extra slack in the cables do I need to accommodate for movement and corners” and “these holes have to be an extra 1/4″ wide so that all 9 of these cables can fit through easily”. I got to work in the tester itself, seeing what building a “robot” looks like which I thought was awesome. This was an eye-opening experience that shifted the way I designed in CAD, thinking not only from a theoretical perspective but also practical.

I also want to mention that the people I worked with were awesome. The only reason why I was able to learn so much and was given so many opportunities was because I had these people supporting me. They provided proper mentorship and taught me everything I needed. They provided enough supervision for me to get started but also enough freedom and responsibility to learn on my own. Most of all, they loved when I asked questions and made sure I understood the answer to whatever I didn’t understand. They even took me on trips to the United States to install these testers at the factories. By the end of the term I felt like I had made friends with amazing people, ones who really advocate for learning and opportunity.

My Realizations

Although the experience was great and I learned a lot, I found that mechatronics wasn’t the career for me. I had a ball building these systems and working with everyone there but I couldn’t see myself working in this field for the rest of my life. Building these large machines/systems was not as exciting as I originally thought, and that’s totally ok. It just means that there is something else out there that is waiting for me that I haven’t found yet.

There are two things I realized during my time here:

  1. Coops are an opportunity to gain exposure in your field of study and an opportunity to really see if that is what you want to do as your career.
  2. What you learn in class is almost completely different from what you learn in industry.

Conclusion

Overall, I learned a lot about electromechanical systems. I added both theoretical and practical knowledge to my tool belt. I also experienced the importance and impact coops have on a person’s career. I loved the job but found it wasn’t for me but I’m still grateful for the time I worked at Paragon Systems.

Thanks for reading! The next chapter talks about the start of my transition to software engineering.

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Gerry Saporito

An Entire IT Department

Gerry is the co-founder & CTO of Lumaki Labs, a startup assisting companies build future-proof talent pipelines by building a platform to maximize internships. When he isn’t working or watching anime, he is either playing tennis or looking for new companies to add to his WealthSimple portfolio.

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