Engineering professor brings his practical experience and his love for a challenge into the classroom
'I want to show my students that nothing is impossible'
James Hendrickson’s academic life has come full circle.
A former Penn State Beaver student, Hendrickson went on to University Park to complete his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
Years later, he returned to University Park to accept the prestigious Penn State Engineering Alumni Society Outstanding Teaching Award.
Hendrickson, an assistant teaching professor in engineering who has taught at Beaver since 2006, said it was an honor to receive such a prestigious award.
“This award is really based on student opinions, which means that I’m doing more good than harm,” he said. “I like to work with young people who are enthusiastic about their ideas.
“When you work in the engineering field, people become burned out and think everything is impossible, but I want to show (my students) that nothing is impossible.”
His teaching was also honored when he received the Penn State Beaver Advisory Board Michael Baker Jr. Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award.
Before teaching at Beaver, Hendrickson worked as principal engineer for Mine Safety Appliances in Cranberry Township. He was also a senior engineer for Westinghouse Electric Corporation's Science and Technology Center and Nuclear Service Divisions.
He holds U.S. patents in the fields of superconductive energy storage, power generation, thermal imaging, personal protective equipment, and continuous steel casting.
So, what brought him back to Beaver campus?
“Coming back to Beaver was a great opportunity. I had a fondness for the campus because I went here,” he said.
That fondness doesn’t translate into softness in the classroom.
Hendrickson has a reputation for tough tests and hard work. But his students find success because of it. One group built a working replica of the original Henry Ford engine that is on permanent display at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. Another group used a CNC router and some old-fashioned ingenuity to fix the campus’ iconic chimney stack entrance sign.
And although 2 + 2 engineering students must move on to another campus to earn their degrees, it’s never long before they return to visit Hendrickson.
“He can’t get rid of us that easily,” says former student Nicole Chemini.
Mechanical Engineering Fellowship (Post-Graduate) University of Pittsburgh
Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering University of Pittsburgh
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering Penn State University