He is the Executive Director of The Planetary Society, an engineer by profession, the owner of three PhDs, an Emmy Award winner, a stand-up comedian and a childhood inspiration for most: Bill Nye the Science Guy received nothing but attention from Tech campus during his official visit to campus on Tuesday, April 12, in an event hosted by the Student Center Programs Council (SCPC).
The instant the lights dimmed and Nye walked across the stage, Tech students leapt from their seats and gave a two minute standing ovation, including screams of “I love you, Bill” and “You’re my hero!”
Not even rock stars and professional athletes receive the same adoration from the general public; Nye had a much more profound effect on the current college-aged group than any ordinary entertainer did.
Most know him from his eponymously titled show, Bill Nye the Science Guy, which aired 100 episodes on PBS between the years 1993 to 1998. His episodes are now used as common teaching material in elementary and middle schools across the nation.
He followed in a tradition of American academic entertainers, such as Carl Sagan and Mr. Wizard, whose broadcasts were part of a larger effort to make the country more scientifically literate.
However, Nye did not just educate school children; he inspired a generation of engineers and scientists.
“I met my idol, and he turned out to be every bit as awesome as I thought he would be,” said James Hines, a first-year ME major.
With his signature comedic and wacky teaching style, Nye led the audience on adventure from Mars, to rocks, to sundials, to climate change and then to space travel.
He captured the crowd’s imagination with photographs of bright stars and galaxies, all cosmic wonders surrounding a pale blue dot known as Earth.
His message was clear: Tech will protect the planet and change the world for better.
Nye has always believed children to be the most open to new ideas and the future hope of our world.
“I wanted to do a children’s show because I wanted to affect the youth of this country and, well, teach people of all ages, really,” Nye said.
Indeed, a majority of people in America can say they have watched his show at one point or another. The age of mass communication has permitted Bill’s message reach all ends of the age spectrum, and he is the “Science Guy” even when interviewed on CNN.
So how did normal Bill Nye become the all-knowing and inspiring Science Guy?
Nye’s love for science started when he was barely three years old and his older brother placed baking soda and vinegar in the palm of his hand.
That moment sparked a reactionary passion in Nye for curious and odd things in nature alike, a childlike wonder that would never fade.
He attended Cornell University and graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. During his college career he attended the first Intercollegiate Ultimate Frisbee Tournament at Amherst in 1975.
Shortly after college, he was employed as an engineer in Seattle, Wa., but as fate would have it, he won a Steve Martin look-alike contest and followed a path to comedy and entertainment that he never left.
His career did not stop at the kid’s show; he published a book, hosted two additional shows, invented a toe shoe for ballerinas, promoted the EarthDial project and put a sundial on the Mars rover.
Today, Bill hosts “Stuff Happens” on Planet Green, promoting climate change awareness and environmental responsibility by competing with his neighbor Ed Begley to make the smallest carbon footprint.
His upcoming show “Solving for X” will be more reminiscent of the benevolent, didactic figure most college students remember from their youth.
“I didn’t know Bill Nye had such a sense of humor in real life too. He seemed to be a really cool guy; he likes biking, swing-dancing and was just a very down-to-earth guy,” said Sam Worsham, a first-year ISyE major.
He says his goal is ultimately to spread the “joy of discovery” to everyone, young or old, to revive a lost interest in the sciences.
“The main issue is funding science education in America. Some districts do not even have a science requirement in school at all,” Nye said.
He wants to see algebra become important to schools again.
P, B and J; the passion, beauty and joy” are the most integral parts to science, according to Nye.
Math and physics should be fun, as he taught America so vividly on television.
More important to him than the mechanics is the meaning behind scientific exploration. More important to the modern college generation than the TV shows is the excitement and wonder shared with Nye.