Advancing San Diego Intern Spotlight: John David Lopez & Candelario Caldera, Paragrine Systems

The Advancing San Diego (ASD) Internship Program launched in Summer 2020 in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to provide up to 100 San Diego-based companies with fully subsidized interns. This program targets companies with 100 employees or less, which comprise 98 percent of all businesses in San Diego, employ nearly two thirds of San Diegans, and account for 70 percent of job growth. A key issue for these companies has been a lack of time and resources to recruit the skilled talent necessary to continue their growth.

As students are closing out their Fall engineering internship experiences, EDC has rolled out this blog series to highlight the innovative local companies that comprise the second cohort of the program, and the interns they hosted.

In this feature, we sat down with John David Lopez and Candelario Caldera, interns at Paragrine Systems. As part of the second cohort of host companies, Paragrine Systems, builds air and ground mobility into single rugged and efficient vehicles. Both Lopez and Caldera are graduating students at UC San Diego studying mechanical engineering and electrical engineering respectively.

Read on for more from John and Candelario.

JDL: John David Lopez (pictured above)

CC: Candelario Caldera

Tell us about yourself.

JDL: My name is John David Lopez and I am currently a fifth year (third year transfer) Mechanical Engineering Major at UC San Diego. After graduating from Fallbrook High School, I began my college journey at Mira Costa College where I was then able to transfer to a four-year university in 2018. I am a San Diego native who loves the sun and plans to enjoy living here for as long as I can. When I am not studying, I am involved with Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) at UC San Diego where I have gladly spent my weekends working on collegiate level rocketry. My other hobbies include weightlifting, classic muscle cars, and Legos. Recently, I have had the opportunity to intern at Paragrine Systems, which is an awesome aerospace/defense company that I am incredibly thankful to work for.

CC: I am a third year Electrical Engineering student from UC San Diego. Interning at Paragrine Systems has been amazing. Seeing all the work that goes into the project was overwhelming at first; but I have come to find out that each task plays a key role in getting the bigger pictured finished. Prior to joining the team, I was not sure what turning an idea into a product would be like. It’s been super fun!

How has your experience in the Advancing San Diego Internship Program been, and what projects/assignments have been the most meaningful?

JDL: I have thoroughly enjoyed and have been grateful for the opportunity the Advancing San Diego Internship Program has given me. Interning at Paragrine Systems has allowed me to gain real world experience working alongside professional engineers. My supervisor, Scott Duffy, has been able to mentor me on the engineering requirements and decisions that go into designing an Air & Ground Utility Vehicle (AGUV). My main tasks include packaging the avionics systems on the AGUV, creating a system model for the components to interface, and reverse engineering parts to be utilized in the final design. The most meaningful aspect of my internship experience has been learning to accomplish goals and solve problems in a professional engineering environment.

CC: My internship experience is amazing. Interning at Paragrine Systems has been the best thing to happen to me in term of my professional pathway and career development. I think it is crucial to shadow; it gives you an inside look on how the job is and performed before you even take on a job. This internship has reinforced my motivation for becoming an engineer and has made me excited for what is to come!

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your day-to-day, and what challenges have you faced as a student?

JDL: Adapting to COVID-19 has definitely been a challenge—something I know that many students face. The pandemic has offered me new, interesting opportunities, as well as restricting things I have taken for granted in the past. My school specifically has allowed for asynchronous learning, which gives me the ability to structure my day differently. As a previous commuter student, it has been very nice to not have to arrive at school at 6 a.m. to then leave at 8 p.m. However, something that I have taken for granted has been the compartmentalization the university environment provided. In addition, I have also had to overcome the sense of isolation working from home. Frequent trips to the public park and group calls with close friends has been incredibly helpful, but I am sure we all look forward to the day when the world is back to normal.

What advice would you give to high school students looking for a successful career in the local software industry? 

JDL: I would tell high school students to never stop trying, even when faced with adversity, and to never give in to imposter syndrome. Being a transfer commuter student from a low-income background has definitely created some mental and logistical challenges, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel as long as you persevere.

CC: Continue to be curious!

Learn more about Advancing San Diego and our internship program.

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