Mechanical students set up shop at Rochester Athenaeum, Mechanics Institute

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RIT Archives Collections

The grinding or buffing wheel arbor (inset) was created as a student project.

Two items have recently been donated to the RIT Archives by the family of Howard C. Riker, 
a 1928 Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute cooperative mechanical program graduate. 

Coursework related to the mechanical field began at the founding moment of the Mechanics Institute in 1885. The first and only class offered was mechanical drawing, as local industrial leaders considered drawing and hand-eye coordination the basis of all manufacturing processes. Mechanical courses have been part of the curriculum since then, and the roots of the current mechanical engineering program reach back to this period. 
In 1928, when Howard Riker attended RAMI, the cooperative mechanical course took 
three years to complete. The program covered drawing, mathematics, machine shop and 
a “laboratory” group of classes which provided experience with the kinds of machinery 
and apparatus the students would encounter on the job, such as The Power House, a simulated modern plant with boilers and stokers, generators and a steam turbine and 
blower fan for testing. A gas engine laboratory housed gas engines and devices for measuring their efficiency. The students eventually ventured into materials science, hydraulics, internal combustion engines and industrial management where the students learned economics, psychology, foremanship and industrial organization. 

Students in the department were required to design and construct tools, apparatus and machines. The grinding or buffing wheel arbor pictured was created by Riker as a student project. The archives holds a curriculum book titled, Engineering Drawing and Mechanism, that outlines drawing this very grinding or buffing wheel. He made the mechanical drawings, then the wooden patterns for all of the cast parts and finally machined all of the several parts to complete the unit. Cast into the front of the frame are the words “Made by Students” and on the back side “Mechanics Institute, Rochester, NY.” Also donated was an 8-inch saw table built by Riker, who graduated with honors for having the highest average in his senior class. He began his career at Gleason Works as a co-op student in 1925 and retired from 
the company in 1965. 

The donated items and more images and documents are on display in The Wallace Center through April.