American Heritage Boca/Delray has just unveiled its newest facility dedicated to the pursuit of STEM. The new, 12,000 square-foot building includes labs for robotics as well as a scanning electron microscope. The attendance of the ribbon-cutting ceremony included figures such as Boca Raton mayor Scott Singer and Bill Nye “The Science Guy.” Nye has previously worked on shows such as “Bill Nye the Science Guy” and currently serves as CEO of the Planetary Society.
Nye arrived at campus shortly before the ceremony and helped cut the ribbon to the new building, alongside a scissor-wielding robot as well. Following the ribbon-cutting, Nye gave a brief press conference and answered questions from student and professional journalists.
“I would like to remind everybody that in the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8 clause 8, refers to the progress of science and useful arts,” Nye said. “Everybody who is going to be the next innovator has to get excited about it in high school. That’s why this building is part of the bigger picture. It’s patriotic, for crying out loud.”
Following the lead of sister school American Heritage School in Plantation, American Heritage Boca/Delray adopted the Pre-Engineering track this year. “Dr. Laurie knew we had Pre-Med, Pre-Law and when we wanted to launch Pre-Engineering up here, we didn’t have the facility to go into science research and [expand] Pre-Med and the robotics program,” headmaster Bob Stone said. “He was motivated probably two years ago to look ahead and think if we’re going to push for engineering and accelerate the robotics, we’re going to have to have a showcase building to do it in.”
In a nod to Nye’s role in the Planetary Society, Heritage created a “planet walk” for students to see as they walk from class to class. “It’s a whole constellation of our planets laid out throughout the property to scale of how they are in the universe,” Stone said.
The planet walk consists of stones labelled with a planet’s name and facts about it that are spaced apart according to their distance from each other and from the sun. It begins at the robotics building and spreads out as far as the upper school library across campus.
Nye defended space exploration in the face of critics. “You’ll hear people say a lot, ‘why are we planning to send spacecraft to the moon or to destinations in the solar system when we have these other problems?’ Well look around. All the clothes we’re wearing, with very few exceptions, were made on another continent. They were brought here on ships, because our ancestors figured out the world is a big ball. The world’s not flat, by the way. We checked. We managed that by understanding the position of stars in the sky. As we explore space we learn more about ourselves and our place in the cosmos,” Nye said.
He further offered hope for the future generation, especially with schools such as Heritage supporting the rise of STEM in the coming years. “You’re living in an extraordinary time,” Nye said. “As Barack Obama remarked, ‘If you couldn’t pick where you would be born but you could pick when, this would be the time.’ As messed up as things might appear to be, they’re so much less messed up than they used to be. Because of science.”