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Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor, is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science[…]

When an entire eighth grade engineering classroom asks Bill Nye a question, he delivers.

The Question: What sort of advice does he have for these students? Bill begins by regaling algebra, everyone’s favorite least-favorite subject.

“Algebra can be challenging because it takes repetition,” says Bill. “I’m sorry everybody. It sucked for me too.”

Moving forward, it’s important to develop an extensive knowledge of mathematical operations and principles. You have to learn to visualize what you’re creating before you create it. Finally, you must strive to hone your curiosity by taking risks.

Of course, Bill acknowledges that these are eighth graders here. They’ve got plenty of time to get themselves ready to become the doers and shakers of the future. For now, the best advice is to learn to love learning.

Chris: Hi Bill. I’m Chris and this is my eighth grade engineering class and I was wondering if you have any advice for aspiring engineers.

Bill Nye: This is great. You have an eighth grade engineering class. That’s so cool. I did not have anything that cool. But here’s a couple of pieces of advice. First of all, learn algebra. Algebra can be challenging because it takes repetition. I’m sorry everybody. It sucked for me too. You’ve just got to do these problems over and over until you’re good at them because, apparently, being able to think about numbers abstractly — this is to say you have letters representing numbers and their relationships — that allows you or enables you to think abstractly about all sorts of things. And in engineering, what we do is solve problems and make things. And in order to make things, I believe you have to envision it at some level. You have to have a sense of what something’s going to look like or how it’s going to perform or how it’s pieces will interact whether it’s an airplane landing gear or an amazing piece of software, a bit of code that somebody’s written, that you’ve written.

You want to be able to envision how they interact. So algebra’s really important and that will lead to calculus and this mythic thing called second order differential equations, which are just so wonderful. But there’s no hurry on that. Then the other thing is: Try stuff. Just make things. And of course be careful. Just bear in mind it’s not that hard as humans to make things that will injure yourself. And I’m not joking. You can sharpen a knife or you can cut your finger. But if you work with a knife that’s too dull, then you’re actually more likely to cut your finger. So just remember to take chances; try things, but be safe. And make that part of the process. And then you guys you’ve got to clean up. And if you’ve made a mess you’ve got to clean up. But man you’re taking engineering in eighth grade. That is fantastic. Solve problems and make — use science to solve problems and make things. Way to go you guys, you all. Thank you.