4 Lessons from Bill Nye for Military Kids

bill nye talks to military kids
At a 2011 NASA Future Forum event, Bill Nye asks a question. (Bill Ingalls/DVIDS)

Military students from Japan, South Korea and the United States hopped on a Zoom call in October with Bill Nye, the Science Guy.

With the help of Dr. Becca Frucht, a program officer with the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, and the USO's Military Virtual Programming series, the students were able to ask science questions and receive in-depth answers from Nye.

He said he was excited and eager to participate, even though he was sure the students wouldn't like some of his answers.

Lesson 1: Science should be appreciated in our daily lives.

When asked how students can understand the importance of science, Nye immediately referred to the video call they were on, which allowed him to speak with students in faraway countries. He recalled how, when visiting the 1964 New York World's Fair, he was able to have a video call with someone standing a few meters away. And now, thanks to science, such calls are a part of everyday life.

Lesson 2: Learn Algebra.

Algebra, Nye said, has changed the world. To stay engaged and be successful in the current learning environment, he encouraged the students to study algebra.

"If you want to be successful as a scientist or engineer or an accountant or a teacher, learn algebra," he said. "The trouble with it is, you guys, it takes practice. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. It just takes practice. It took practice for me. It's going to take practice for you. That's why you go to school. Get over it."

Lesson 3: Don't be afraid to make mistakes.

When one student asked Nye whether any of his experiments have gone wrong, he jokingly replied, "It was the worst day of my life."

Nye described a common experiment in which you put very, very hot water into a plastic bottle, then gently pour the liquid out and quickly replace the cap. As the container cools off, the water vapor condenses and atmospheric pressure crushes the bottle.

Nye once tried the experiment on television with an oil drum -- cooling it off with a fire extinguisher. It just didn't work. He eventually figured it out but said, "The first time I did it was horrible. It didn't work. I was so embarrassed. I'm still upset about it."

Lesson 4: Always keep learning.

Nye told students that every day is an opportunity to learn. He discussed how calorie counts are determined in things like candy and explained how he was using science to prepare a special chute to distribute Halloween sweets.

But he encouraged students to step outside the world of science and study other things as well, such as the U.S. Constitution.

"I'd like to remind people, in the U.S. Constitution, Article One, Section Eight ... what they call Clause Eight, the phrase between commas, refers to the progress of science and useful arts. Even in 1786, they realized the importance of science. And useful arts, I think, was how you would describe what nowadays we call engineering in the 18th century, or the 1700s. Engineers use science to make things like computers and cameras and microphones and hats and frames on the wall and stuff like that," Nye said.

If you want more nuggets of goodness from Bill Nye, The Science Guy, watch the full session, available on the USO's YouTube Channel.

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--Rebecca Alwine can be reached at rebecca.alwine@monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebecca_alwine.

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