James Forbes

Undergraduate student, Mechanical Engineering

For some, a good design blossoms early.

“The day I turned 14,” mechanical engineering student James Forbes remembers, “my dad told me to go get a SIN card and a part-time job.” He spent his teenage years in a bicycle shop, taking apart hydraulic suspensions, balancing wheels, and repairing welds. “That’s what tied me into engineering, especially mechanical: the elegance of a good design.”

James – with his practical bent – chose Waterloo Engineering because of co-op. His first co-op job was as a machinist; the second as a jig designer for heavy welding, putting together railway cars. It was a stepping stone into a career combining manufacturing and design.

James is most proud of his fourth co-op term, where he had to invent a machine, design it, and manage the manufacturing, all in four months. “I was even down there boring the holes in the concrete to install it,” James remembers. “And to this day, it still runs.”

James’s outstanding co-op performance earned him a job abroad. The company where he worked on his fifth term had a joint venture in the Netherlands. Their Dutch partners were a little skeptical about hiring an undergraduate, but James’s co-op employer made a phone call. “My boss went to bat for me,” James says. “He said, Look, you won’t have to hold his hand. He’s capable. He’s an asset. Hire him.”