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Bill Nye teams up with 4-H to 'take students to Mars'

Bill Nye, everybody's favorite "science guy," has teamed up with 4-H to take students to Mars (figuratively speaking.) 

4-H is a network of youth organizations across the United States that provides educational opportunities. Every year, 4-H hosts the 4-H STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Challenge (formerly known as 4-H National Youth Science Day). This year's challenge — Mars Base Camp — marks the 13th annual event to date, and it will explore human space exploration and humanity's efforts to reach the Red Planet

To get students excited not only about Mars but the wide range of STEM subject areas that come into play with space exploration, science communicator and Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye will serve as the 4-H STEM Challenge Ambassador for this initiative. Nye will virtually engage with students through 4-H to guide hands-on, at-home activities that students and families can do to engage with STEM topics. 

"There's going to be somebody walking on Mars someday. Well, that person's in elementary school right now ... So we're going to engage future astronauts, future space explorers," Nye told Space.com. 

Related: Bill Nye and former astronaut Leland Melvin talk racial injustice and space exploration (video) 

"Mars Base Camp," which is open to students everywhere, consists of a variety of activities that kids age 8 to 14 years old can do at home. These activities incorporate a variety of STEM skills and topics including physics, computer science, agriculture and mechanical engineering, according to 4-H

"Getting kids excited about planetary exploration is part of that because this is how we learn about our own world," Nye said.

"You can teach any aspect of science with space science," Nye continued. "And so there are activities involving erosion, sand dunes, the formation of mesas, the chemistry of water and clays … What would you need to do to search for life? What is it about living things on Earth that would inform your exploration of this other world of Mars? And so, there's all sorts of materials associated with getting students to ask those questions and seek those answers." 

To kick off the challenge, Nye surprised four 4-H youth members when he guest-hosted a virtual Mars Base Camp Trivia Challenge on Facebook Oct. 1. The four 4-H members surprised by Nye are STEM leaders in their communities and each of them won a $2,000 grant to support their local 4-H Club's STEM projects. 

Students are encouraged and invited to participate in the challenge and can start getting involved here. The challenge includes a variety of online activities and families or groups of students can go one step further to complete in-person activities at home as well. 

This year's 4-H STEM Challenge "Mars Base Camp" was developed by 4-H with support from Google and 4-H's national partners, including Bayer, Toyota and the U.S. Air Force.

You can check out Bill Nye for free online at this year's virtual New York Comic-Con. Sunday (Oct. 11) at 6:35 p.m. EDT (2235 GMT), Nye will talk about his book "Bill Nye's Great Big World of Science," with coauthor, science journalist Gregory Mone.

Email Chelsea Gohd at cgohd@space.com or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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