Bill Nye the Science Guy: Daring Students to Change the World

by | Jan 3, 2017 | Inside Mines, Winter 2017

Over two decades after his show aired on PBS and took the ’90s by storm, “Bill Nye the Science Guy” is still a hit among science enthusiasts, especially the millennials who grew up watching him. On October 5, 2016, Nye visited Mines to speak to a sold-out crowd of students, alumni, faculty and staff as part of the President’s Distinguished Lecture series and kickoff to the 2016 Homecoming festivities.

“It was a childhood dream come true,” said sophomore Victoria Martinez-Vivot. Martinez-Vivot got the opportunity to meet Bill Nye prior to the talk, due to her role as MAC Co-Publicity Chair.

Nye’s talk focused on the biggest problems facing our planet and what society, especially young people, can do to make the world a better place. His catch phrase for the night was: “I want you guys to—dare I say it—change the world.”

Climate change sparked the conversation, but was only one element of Nye’s advocacy for “renewable and reliable energy for all.” In addition to encouraging the crowd to recognize renewable resources as the future of energy, he also dared Mines students to design a better battery and invent hydro-fusion engines for airplanes.

Fueled by his views on climate issues and the need to recognize the reality of our rapidly changing planet, Nye challenged the crowd of young engineers to solve the world’s top three engineering grand challenges: providing clean water; renewable, reliable energy; and internet access for all. He also expressed his support for space exploration.

“Space exploration brings out the best in us,” said Nye. “There are two questions we all ask: Where did we come from, and are we alone in the universe?” Nye asserted that our desire to explore space illustrates the innate yearning within humankind to understand our origins, despite the problems Earth may face.

Highlighting just how exciting Nye’s presence was for Mines, one student shared a heartfelt message with Nye during the Q&A at the end of the lecture: “I just want to say that your plate tectonics episode is probably the reason I’m here studying geology right now, so thank you.”

Nye is currently the CEO of The Planetary Society, continuing his legacy of teaching people of all ages the joys and wonders of science. He spent Earth Day 2015 speaking with President Barack Obama about climate change and science education. He also had a short debut on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” but had to drop out after sustaining an injury.

From the fans who have followed him since childhood to those newly introduced, the crowd who came out to see Nye’s lecture at Mines will not soon forget his challenge to change the world.