Space, gerbils, and Bill Nye the Science Guy

by Drew Lacy, Communication ’14

The first time many Florida Tech students probably heard of ISU  was when it was mentioned alongside a slightly more immediately recognizable name in science. A slightly more immediately recognizable name in science from the 1990s with a self-titled kids’ television show that had one of the catchiest (and simplest) theme songs of all time.

I’m talking, of course, about Bill Nye the Science Guy.

It started out as a murmured rumoring online. Strange claims of Bill Nye sightings popped up on Facebook feeds. “Bill Nye? No way.” “I think it’s a joke.” “Why is Bill Nye here?”

It culminated in photographic mayhem. Sneaky cell phone photos of the famous Science Guy himself, humbly eating in our very own Panther Dining Hall.

As a ‘90s kid (more specifically, a nerdy ‘90s kid), I found it too good to be true. It was a once in a lifetime chance to meet and maybe even talk to one of the most iconic names in science. But where was I?

I was sitting in a veterinarian’s office with a cardboard box in my lap containing a skittish gerbil with a cold. I had taken the afternoon off to bring the little guy in for a much needed visit to the gerbil doctor for some gerbil medicine for his gerbil…cold. So, while Bill Nye discussed the future of space science over lunch at Panther Dining, I was warily eyeing up a large dog who was a bit too interested in the contents of my cardboard box.

If there’s a more obscure reason to miss a meet-up with your childhood hero, I haven’t heard it yet.

When I arrived home and hopped on the computer, I found my Facebook wall bombarded with Bill Nye mania. From photos to anecdotes to wild claims of sightings all across campus, I knew I’d missed something awesome.

Amid the cacophony of comments, one particular question kept popping up: Why was Bill Nye at Florida Tech? The answer, it turned out, was ISU.

ISU is short for International Space University, which, in addition to having one of the coolest names ever, is also a pretty cool program. Consisting of around 130 students from all over the globe, ISU is a one of a kind summer educational program focusing on space physical sciences, life sciences, human spaceflight, and more.

Attendees from around the world are meeting up at Florida Tech to participate in lectures from globally renowned experts in space and aeronautics… in the same classrooms we use for our own lectures!

It all started on June 4, when these 130 students from around the globe all took to the Clemente Center for ISU’s opening ceremony. You got a sense that ISU’s Space Studies Program at FIT was shaping up to be the learning experience of a lifetime for their students.

There are a ton of events taking place both on campus and the Kennedy Space Center, with activities ranging from lectures about space psychology to robotics competitions to a prestigious TEDx talk. Eventually, ISU students will break up into work-groups where they’ll be brainstorming ways to solve some of today’s most pressing issues in space exploration, including space debris, colonization, exploration and how to educate future space scientists.

With Florida Tech serving as the host for such a unique and important program, you can expect to see a variety of space experts and events popping up around campus in the coming weeks, so don’t forget to keep an eye out, and maybe stop by Panther Dining sometime to meet some of the students and professors.

If Bill Nye was casually stopping by, who knows what scientists could be around campus for you to meet next? (Assuming, of course, you aren’t stuck taking a gerbil to the vet.)

If you want to tap into your inner space geek, there are several opportunities:

Free Lecture by French artist and designer, Remy Bourganel, on July 4

Register for the TEDxISU talk on July 6

International Astronaut Panel on July 11

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