Learning by Doing: How Co-op puts Theory into Practice

Learning by Doing: How Co-op puts Theory into Practice

By: Puneet Sran
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As someone who never imagined being an engineer, I have been extremely fortunate to work in such a technical field, among highly intelligent individuals. This blog post is about my co-op experience at Verathon which has been one of the greatest highlights of my undergraduate studies. However, it is worth mentioning that it was my first co-op at SFU (with Dr. Siamak Arzanpour's exoskeleton research) which introduced me to CAD modelling and allowed me to gain hand-on experience with various tools. I will always be thankful to my first employer for giving me the opportunity to learn as it helped me get my second co-op at Verathon, an incredible learning experience on its own.

When I first started working at Verathon, I had beginner’s knowledge of SolidWorks, little experience with 3D printers, and no experience working with technical drawings and dimensional tolerancing. The first few months were spent getting to know the different products at Verathon, familiarizing myself with project names, and the work environment. Verathon Inc. designs and manufactures medical devices in Canada and internationally. Their main product in Canada is GlideScope, which provides a visual illustration for airway intubation – used in anesthesiology, critical care, military, and various other markets. The second product BladderScan (designed in Bothell, United States) is a bladder volume measurement tool. These products are easy to use for healthcare professionals and help improve lives around the globe.

It was after working at Verathon, I realized just how important and reputable their medical devices were. Soon after joining, I was taught intubation on a mannequin and can now perform it within seconds!

In addition, I got the chance to work with diverse teams at Verathon including mechanical, electrical, sustaining, testing, and manufacturing. My work ranged from updating CAD drawings, determining dimensional tolerances, designing and being responsible for fabrication of jigs and fixtures, to other housekeeping tasks. I was very satisfied with the responsibilities assigned as they were always changing depending on which step of development a product was at. Future co-op students will likely have different responsibilities due to the ever-changing product development cycles.

During my time at Verathon, I worked on multiple tasks at once and faced a number of challenges. I realized that tight deadlines can be stressful and require one to think fast and prioritize tasks accordingly. However, during stressful times, it becomes difficult to concentrate and maximize productivity. I slowly understood that there were no reliable tips or tricks on the internet that could help me enhance my performance. After continuing to work at my own pace – I realized that with practice, I was getting better. It was a slow process but rewarding, nonetheless.

When I heard others speak of culture at a company, I never understood what it meant. After working at Verathon however, I understood that culture is all about the people; about the work environment and being comfortable with your co-workers. I made many friends at Verathon and got to know as many people as I can – whether they work in production, accounting, research & development, quality, or project management. Overall, I obtained a very good understanding of the role each department plays in a medical device company.

From this experience, I have a clearer view of what I’d like my future job to be. I would like it to have a positive culture where I can ask questions and be creative. I have also realized that the skills I was so worried about are not as difficult to acquire as I originally thought. One should definitely have a good skill set and be able to continuously enhance it and learn more. However, there are several other areas of expertise that one should prioritize, besides technical skills. For instance, effective communication is one of the greatest skill once can have. It allows us to process information correctly and execute exactly what is desired.

To conclude, I feel extremely privileged to have worked at Verathon where I not only gained expertise in my field, but also acquired valuable life-skills. I am excited to see what the future holds.

Beyond the Article

  • Connect with Puneet Sran on LinkedIn.
  • To learn more about co-op opportunities for Mechatronic Systems Engineering students, visit the Engineering Science Co-op homepage. 
  • Fellow MSE grad, Michael Kotanist, shares his experience as a co-op student with Tesla Inc. Read his story, here.
Posted on June 13, 2018