Saving the Environment - One Co-op at a Time!

Saving the Environment - One Co-op at a Time!

By: Soroush M. Jafaryvahed | Mechatronic Systems Engineering Student
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I am a fourth-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Mechatronic Systems Engineering (MSE) at SFU. I had the opportunity to do my co-op with Ballad Power Systems where I worked in two drastically different engineering roles over the course of sixteen months. In 2017, Ballard became the first fuel cell company to power buses for more than ten million cumulative kilometers of revenue service.  The vision at Ballard Power is to be the leading global provider of innovative clean energy solutions offering superior performance at a reduced operating cost.

My education at SFU provided me with sufficient theoretical knowledge to make positive contributions to the organization as a co-op student in terms of improving product reliability, maintainability, and performance. What made working at Ballard so enjoyable is that its focus on offering smarter solutions for a clean energy future coincided with my own desire to solve energy and environment-centric issues.

During my first eight months as a Test Engineer, I developed skills in data analysis, effective troubleshooting, and mechanical thinking.  I was mainly responsible for aspects of performance evaluation, robustness, accelerated stress, and durability testing on the next generation fuel cell stacks for use in automotive power applications. This experience challenged both my technical and personal skills and significantly enhanced my knowledge about fuel cell systems and their dynamics. In terms of interpersonal abilities, I improved my written and oral communication skills by documenting test plans and procedures and preparing test reports to present results and recommendations to internal and external clients. Ballard’s innovative advancements in a wide range of stationary power distribution units and ‘motive power’ clean energy solutions such as hybrid buses, inspired me to pursue a co-op with Ballard for the second time. This position echoed my goals in the engineering profession and provided me with an excellent opportunity to expand my technical knowledge.

My second eight-month position at Ballard as a controls/electrical engineer exposed me to many technical details in software design and validation, high voltage and low voltage electrical design, and generating complex system requirements. While originally, I was only responsible for troubleshooting and resolving issues with the existing controls software for commercial fuel cell modules used in hybrid buses around the globe, my responsibilities progressively expanded to implementing and designing new features such as more reliable and robust control strategies. Dealing with new responsibilities is always overwhelming but I learned that creating a schedule, staying organized and asking for help when needed can make it all possible.

A few months later, I became more comfortable with my tasks as a controls engineer, which allowed me to get involved in electrical system design and verification rather than just focusing on software development. In addition to my existing duties, I also became responsible for selecting and testing electrical components and developing requirements for overall system design. Collaborating with test engineers, component and system design engineers, researchers, and applications engineers on a daily basis was a rewarding experience that provided me with unique insights in the field of engineering.

My main goal throughout each of my co-op terms has been to challenge myself and learn something new every day. I successfully achieved this goal by always trying to seek out new projects and challenges rather than passively waiting for tasks to be assigned to me. It’s important to remember that just because we are students, it doesn’t mean that we can’t make a lasting impact on an organization. The trick is to always aim higher and work hard.

Image Credit: EQ International 


Beyond the Article 

  • Connect with Soroush M. Jafaryvahed on LinkedIn
  • To learn more about opportunities for Mechatronic Systems Engineering students visit the Engineering Science Co-op homepage.
  • Fellow engineering student, Scott Beaupré utilized research postions available at SFU to build invaluable experience and shape a career. Read his story, here.  
Posted on April 18, 2018