Engineering students prepare for co-op experience during summer program

Co-op Connections Program supports largest class of second-year students in mechanical engineering

Follow Michelle Cometa on Twitter
Follow RITNEWS on Twitter

Michelle Cometa

Second-year mechanical engineering students toured Gleason Corp. and met with employees to learn more about the role engineers play in the company. The tour is part of a summer program to introduce students to engineering firms in preparation for co-op experiences. (From left) Konrad Ahlin, Andre Stihi, Edward Hensel (department head, mechanical engineering) and Bettina Burleigh spent time with Charles Clark and John Kislinger discussing the process of manufacturing large gears for windmills.

While some college students traveled to out-of-the-way places for summer vacation, several RIT mechanical engineering students toured local companies —and learned that engineering can be equally out-of-the-ordinary.

The RIT students, all in their second year in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, participated in Co-op Connections, a summer educational program developed to prepare them for upcoming co-op experiences.

On June 25, 11 students toured Gleason Corp., one of seven manufacturing and engineering corporations scheduled as part of the program. Each week a different site is featured, and students are able to learn more about the company’s business as well as the responsibilities of its engineers.

At Gleason Corp., the RIT students met with Charles Clark, a manager in the Specialized Gear Services unit. He showed students the different machines built in-house to manufacture gears for products as varied as racecars and wind turbines.

“Nearly 90 percent of the gears used for NASCAR are produced at the Rochester plant,” said Clark, who apprenticed as a lathe operator when he began with the company 42 years ago. He continued his education while working, earning a degree in mechanical engineering from RIT.

The students were familiar with Clark’s references to spur or beveled gears and spindles. They asked about different machine frames, customer expectations, and the integration of components and materials.

“The tour was a great way to see all the steps in manufacturing—each one is a specialized step,” said Konrad Ahlin, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student.

Students in the mechanical engineering program must have five co-ops prior to graduation. Companies like Gleason Corp. usually take two or three co-op students per year.

“The students get to experience being in front of prospective employers, getting to know the facilities and doing things together,” says Barry Robinson, director of mechanical engineering student services and one of the coordinators of the Co-op Connection Program. For the prospective employers, especially those with ties to RIT, the program is a way to re-connect with the college, he adds.

Other local sites that the students will tour throughout the summer include Garlock Sealing Technologies, Southco Inc., Dresser-Rand, Gould Pumps-ITT, Welch Allyn, and Constellation Energy.