Some people might call Mark Rober the world’s biggest kid.
The former NASA engineer turned YouTube sensation has amassed 15 million subscribers through videos of larger than life science experiments, like building the world’s largest Nerf gun or a bowling ball that only makes strikes.
Rober says he makes these videos because he’s “passionate” about getting people “just stoked” about science and engineering.
“That’s kind of my M.O. Like, all of my videos essentially drive back to that point,” Rober said. “So I’ll suck people in with something big, like, world’s largest Nerf gun, world’s largest Super Soaker, but at the end of the day, it’s about telling them about the science of what’s going on there.”
“Nightline” caught up with Rober last year, before the coronavirus pandemic began. But while much of the world stopped, Rober, who has been making videos for nine years, continued experimenting. The scientist even documented his isolation following a positive COVID-19 test in a Shark Week video.
Rober says he discovered his gift for physics, chemistry and math at a young age.
“High school physics was a big deal for me,” he said. “That’s when it finally clicked for me that you could just explain the world around you… And so, a lot of my videos come down to physics principles. I’m trying to explain to people, like, ‘This world is magical but magical in a way that if you understand how it works, you can predict the future and you can make cooler things.”
Rober spent nine years at NASA, working in its jet propulsion lab. For seven of those years, he worked on the Curiosity rover, which was sent to Mars in 2011. He said that every so often, he’ll sit in his backyard and look up at the sky at a “little dot” that is Mars.
“To know that something I’ve touched and designed and tested is roving on that little dot in the sky, 90 million miles away, it’s a cool feeling,” he said.
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It was while Rober was working for NASA that he produced his first video, in which he demonstrated a Halloween costume that used two iPads to make it seem as if he’d had a hole blown through his torso. The video racked up nearly 10 million views.
“That was a