“Anytime I can wear a kilt, it’s always a fun experience,” said Nicholas Hennigan. “If people see someone walking down the street in a kilt, with a sporran and a crazy jacket, they have to smile. Although it’s slightly embarrassing, you are definitely making someone’s day.”  

As a volunteer with the Council of Scottish Clans and Associations, Hennigan has made a lot of peoples’ day by helping them discover their Scottish roots. After high school, he took some time off before college to travel with his grandfather at home and abroad, talking genealogy and helping bridge American and Scottish cultures. It was part of his personal journey to explore interests outside of STEM.  

“I was always surrounded by science and technology,” Hennigan said. “I wanted to make sure this was a passion I truly wanted to follow.”  

So, Hennigan also took up the piano, sailboat racing, and started gymnastics lessons, joining the American Turners Gymnastics Society. He’s also enjoyed stage acting and plays the trumpet and ukulele.  

All of these things gave him a new perspective but helped him see his passion for engineering had never faded. Hennigan ultimately chose to major in mechanical engineering at MSOE.  

“At MSOE, immediately you get hands-on experience with all kinds of engineering disciplines,” he said. “I find that really rewarding and exciting because you’re starting right away with the thing you’re super interested in.”  

Hennigan appreciates the accessibility of MSOE’s faculty, whether it’s helping with course work or offering advice. He says the camaraderie among the students also makes MSOE stand out. “MSOE is not an easy school. So, through this forging process, it turns out these strong bonds and teamwork from relying on each other. There’s this neat kind of brother- and sisterhood going on as you progress toward your degree.”  

Hennigan is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He’s also a recipient of the 2017 Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium High-Altitude Balloon Payload Team Fellowship Award. While Hennigan has been active in science and research team activities, he saw the University Innovation Fellows program as a unique opportunity.  

“I feel this program is this perfect mix of creativity and entrepreneurship in which we can really start something amazing here at MSOE,” Hennigan said.  

As a Fellow, he looks forward to collaborating and problem solving with different kinds of groups and individuals. He’d like to inspire other students to participate, as well. He also hopes to see the Fellows make connections with other area colleges and create positive change for Milwaukee in general.  

“I enjoy helping people,” he said. “As an engineer, I’m very much a problem solver. If I can improve someone’s life or move something in the direction that will get people excited about things or get people motivated, it’s very rewarding. It’s also great to see someone you help succeed in life and move to greater things.”

Meanwhile, Hennigan is still looking for an excuse to wear his kilt on campus.