When Kayla McCarthy and Robert Busic arrived at 11 p.m. Monday to line up to see Bill Nye speak tonight at the University of South Florida Marshall Student Center, they found they were the first ones there.
"It paid off," McCarthy, a senior cellular molecular biology major, said this afternoon as they sat outside the ballroom where "The Science Guy" is scheduled to speak at 7:30 p.m.
"We got here too early!" Busic, a junior chemistry major, chimed in, laughing. The pair had slept outside overnight, but were able to secure their prime spot inside this morning.
"Once we got in and we're sitting here, I was like 'It was so worth it!'" McCarthy said.
By 12:30 Tuesday, the pair were joined by around 200 classmates. The line of students, some of whom snacked on pizza and played board games, snaked along the Center's second floor hallways, down a flight of stairs, along the edges of the main atrium lobby and down another lengthy hallway.
And when asked why they lined up so early, many said the same thing: "I grew up watching Bill Nye the Science Guy!"
"He was sort of the core of all my science classes, all the science teachers, when they failed to explain something, they'd put on a video of him," Busic said. "He was there through my whole education and now that I'm a science degree, it's sort of like, he's an idol, he's important to me, he was an important educator in my childhood."
The magic of syndication kept Nye's award-winning series on students' TVs after it ended its five year run on PBS in 1998.
But even after hanging up his trademark bow tie and white lab coat, the former Boeing engineer continues to speak out on scientific issues.
Earlier this year, he took on "DeflateGate," where the New England Patriots' allegedly used deflated footballs in the AFC Championship game, by contrasting the controversy with climate change.
He also made headlines with his 2014 "creation vs. evolution" debate against Creation Museum founder Ken Ham.
Nye's lecture begins at 7:30 in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom, and while the public is welcome, seating will be extremely scarce. A question-and-answer session and book signing will follow the speech.