The face of science education through entertainment comes to UVU
There was standing room only as students crammed into the Grande Ballroom to hear what Bill Nye had to say.
Students cheered and laughed Tuesday, Sept. 13, as Nye joked his way through subjects ranging from sundials and cerulescence to our place in space.
Nye began with a description of his father, Edwin Darby “Ned” Nye, a hobbyist geologist held prisoner in the longest POW camp in WWII, 44 months. During Ned’s time as a POW, he became fascinated with astronomy, specifically with sundials.
Ned stuck a shovel in the ground and watched it’s shadow shorten and grow as the days wore on, keeping track of things like meals for his fellow POW’s.
After 44 months, Ned and his companions were released from their prison camp, and Ned went straight home to marry the love of his life, Nye’s mother, Jacqueline Jenkins.
As Nye grew up, his father’s obsession with sundials remained, with sundials as part of his everyday life.
“Everything that sticks up should be converted into a sundial,” Nye said.
Nye even displayed a picture of a pizza box he had converted into a sundial to illustrate this humorous fascination he inherited. Nye’s father proposed that the Washington Monument be converted into a gigantic sundial.
With all of the enthusiasm he puts into his work, it’s not a surprise to find that Nye actually started his career in the entertainment industry.
His work as an actor and comedian led to his debut as “the science guy.” After five years in that celebrated role, Nye went on to participate in other television programs aimed at science education for all ages, including The Eyes of Nye, Battlebots and Numbers.
Nye was just as active in science outside of television. He recounted his experience working with a NASA team to install a sundial on the rover that would explore the surface of Mars.
“We could reckon time, on another world,” Nye said. “It would be cool!”
Nye then seamlessly stitched the topic into a lesson about shadows and lighting. He compared Earth’s lighting to that of Mars, pointing out that shadows on Earth have a blue tint, while Mars shadows have an orange tint.
Maggie Owens, assistant to the vice president of student life and activities, was seen walking around campus prior to the event, letting students know that Nye was speaking. While promoting Nye’s address, Owens only encountered two people who didn’t recognize his name: international students from Russia and Zimbabwe.
Owens was shocked to see so many people in the ballroom, estimating that there were nearly 2,000 people in attendance. She cited Nye’s passion for what he does as the reason for the high numbers.
“When anyone is excited about something, it’s much more fun to learn about and to watch,” Owens said.
Nye finished with the sentiment that it is up to students to decide the future, and that it’s on us to change the world. Nye, now the executive director of the Planetary Society, reaffirmed that this generation must take care of the world.
“There are things we are sure of, that are absolutely wrong,” Nye said.
After his remarks, Nye answered questions from the audience for over an hour before shaking hands and taking pictures with hundreds of students.