The RIT Archive houses two very interesting items recently donated by the family of 1928 RAMI Cooperative Mechanical program graduate Howard C. Riker.
Coursework related to the mechanical field began at the founding moment of the Mechanics Institute in 1885. The very first and only class offered was mechanical drawing, as the local industrial leaders considered drawing, and hand-eye coordination the basis of all manufacturing processes. Mechanical courses have 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, and he alternated one month on co-op with one month at school. 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. Among these was The Power House, a simulated modern plant with boilers and stokers, as well as generators and a steam turbine and blower fan for testing. A Gas Engine Laboratory housed gas engines as well as devices for measuring their efficiency. The first year of the program emphasized the fundamentals, with mathematics, mechanical and freehand drawing and the basics of mechanics and heat. The second year built on this foundation with courses in electrical machinery, materials strength, and steam engines. In the third year the students ventured into the materials science, hydraulics, internal combustion engines and industrial management where the students learned practical problems of 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. 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 eight inch saw table that Riker built. A complex object, the table had to adjust upwards, tilt sideways, and include a belt to be driven by an external motor. The archives also holds a curriculum book titled Engineering Drawing and Mechanism that outlines drawing this very grinding or buffing wheel. This class introduced drafting techniques and the conventions of machine drawing including applied geometry and orthographic or isometric pictorial representation while the second part of the book was built around the study of various types of mechanisms such as cams and gears, and their importance to machine design. When finished with the course the student would have a fundamental understanding of the motions which allow machines to run, preparation needed to take the later classes in machine and instrument design which allowed the student to design and build their own.
Riker graduated with honors for having the highest average in his senior class, and was a cooperative student at Gleason Works, starting in 1925 and until his retirement in 1965.