What I built
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.
The automated car seat testers look something like this:
3D render of the car seat tester.
With the electrical panels looking a little more like this:
Schematic of the electrical panel.
And to give you a better idea of what & how they tested:
Diagram of how the seat is tested.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- What you learn in class is almost completely different from what you learn in industry.
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.