The Robertson Family: Generations of EngSci Ingenuity

Written by EngSci Alexandra Davidson (1T7)

There really are no limits to the opportunities available as an Engineering Science graduate. It takes just one look at the Robertsons, three success stories of Engineering Science alumni over two generations, to demonstrate the driving force of EngSci to establish lasting careers and push the boundaries of the impossible.

The Father: Clive Robertson

Clive Robertson 8T0

Clive Robertson (8T0) was the Engineering Science vanguard of the Robertson family, selecting the Chemical Option which was available at the time. His foray into Chemical Engineering resulted in his thesis in polymer chemistry, under Professor Ray Woodhams, entitled “Coupling Agents in Mica-Reinforced Polypropylene”. His foundational studies and specific experience with polymers led him directly to a position at DuPont following his graduation from EngSci, where he established a long lasting career in the Performance Polymers division. In addition to his engineering contributions, he has also spent the past twenty years doing business and market development as the Global Marketing Manager for Energy and Advanced Development.

During his time at the University of Toronto, Clive shared classes with students such as Dr. Jun Nogami, the current University of Toronto Materials Science and Engineering Chair, and even met his prospective wife, a Chem Eng student. He was also very active, playing squash and nurturing an interest in sailing and the outdoors. Clive personally vouches for the broad knowledge that the first two foundational years gave him, allowing him the span of many possible pursuits. The opportunities available to him during his undergraduate EngSci studies have really given him the means to a successful and fulfilling career in the engineering industry.

The Brother: Bruce Robertson

Bruce Robertson (8T3), entered Engineering Science within a few short years of his brother, Clive Robertson. Bruce shared an interest in materials and composite structures with Clive, driving him to choose the Mechanics and Materials Option in his third year. For his thesis, Bruce delved into the structural testing of concrete,, saturating samples with water and various solvents in an attempt to understand the internal forces acting on the cement structure. His aptitudes led to his role as one of the original employees of Aercoustics, a consulting engineering company with a focus on the acoustics, noise, and vibration.

Bruce is currently involved in a small derivative company but has expanded his pursuits well beyond engineering. Bruce always demonstrated a passion for sailing, rock climbing, and other outdoor adventures, proving himself to be quite the world traveller. He is known to especially love South America and recently returned from a solo trans-Atlantic sailing expedition. He has even obtained a certificate in herbal medicine and is writing an illustrated book on medicinal plants used by North American Aboriginal Peoples. With the combination of his wide span of interests, engineering education, and adventurous attitude, it seems Bruce Robertson will never run out of fascinating pursuits.

The Son: Cameron Robertson

Following closely in his father’s and uncle’s footsteps, Cameron Robertson (0T8) enrolled in Engineering Science. However, after the two foundational years, Cameron truly took flight above and beyond his forefathers and specialized in the Aerospace Option, showing a marked interest in human-powered feats of engineering. This interest developed into his BASc thesis, “Structural Optimization of a Human-Powered Ornithopter Wing” which explored the topic of human-powered flight. Cameron began to work in tandem with fellow EngSci Aerospace graduate Todd Reichert on the design and construction of Snowbird, a human-powered ornithopter, the flight of which had been deemed impossible. Following his graduation in 2008, Cameron began a Masters degree at the University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) with the continuation of his quest for the impossible. His MASc thesis, entitled “Structural Characterization, Optimization, and Failure Analysis of a Human-Powered Ornithopter,” outlined his extensive research into the formula for successful human-powered flight.

The Snowbird proved successful in 2010 and the project was awarded the CASI Trans-Canada McKee Trophy. With the inception of AeroVelo, Cameron and his partner Todd strove to continue their endeavours to achieve the impossible. Their next project, the Atlas Human-Powered Helicopter, won them the AHS Sikorsky Prize which had remained unclaimed for more than three decades. Their current focus at AeroVelo includes pushing the limits of human speed through the development of the world’s fastest human-powered vehicle, a speed bike named Eta for its efficiency. It is evident in his work with AeroVelo that the culmination of his Engineering Science education, continuing studies at UTIAS, and his passion for design has truly driven Cameron to achieve feats previously deemed impossible.

Cameron remains very involved in the Engineering Science program, recently presenting a lecture with Todd on their successes and aspirations as part of AeroVelo for the Aerospace Lecture during the 2014 Engineering Science Education Conference (ESEC). In addition to his work with AeroVelo, Cameron is also one of three instructors for the infamous AER201 Engineering Design course in which second year Engineering Science students design and construct a fully autonomous robot to perform a specific set of tasks. Cameron himself was in charge of the electro-mechanical subsystem during his own AER201 course, claiming it to be a time-consuming but overall very rewarding role. Cameron attributes much of his success to the general foundation in EngSci as well as his involvement in many of the University of Toronto design teams. Interestingly enough, Cameron also met his prospective wife, Nicole Chatterton of Civil Engineering, during his time at U of T.

Robertsons CamGpaClive

Cameron Robertson (left) and his father Clive Robertson (right) at the Atlas helicopter testing.  Cameron’s grandfather (center) worked as a Design Draftsman on the Avro Arrow.

Generations of Ingenuity

While their career paths may have diverged, their shared interest in structures, materials science, and composites is evident in their respective accomplishments. Among their engineering achievements, the Robertsons have also maintained many of the same hobbies and interests from their university days, including sailing, outdoor activities, and various sports, including squash. However, it is their passion, drive, and adventurousness, along with a shared foundation in Engineering Science, which has really defined them in their endeavours. EngSci or not, it can be said with certainty that the Robertson family will continue to make a positive impact on the engineering society, as well as the world at large.