The 8th annual Wisconsin Science Festival took place across Wisconsin October 11-14. Inspired by the September EvalFest workshop and the high standards set by our peer festivals, we captured some of the festival highlights using infographics and photos for use in our annual report.

In addition to our LEGO-based project to capture participant data and perceptions, there are a few other innovations from this year’s festival that we’d like to highlight:

  • We debuted our new mascot “Beesly” the honey bee (Wisconsin’s state insect).  At our Science on the Square event on the Friday night of the festival, we encouraged people to post selfies with Beesly on social media to “earn” light-up antennae. This activity was a hit, and we think that we can encourage even more participation by keeping Beesly busy!
  • We continued our tradition of tackling controversial subjects. This year’s session focused on vaccines and infectious disease via the Big Ideas for Busy People format (5 minute talks followed by 5 minutes for Q&A). We had audience members don different colored stickers that denoted their immune status and then had “actors” (members of our team) pretend to be sick with measles and pass out “germs”. At the end of the event, the audience found out how the half of the room with high vaccination rates protected un-immunized participants through herd immunity, while the low vaccination half of the room had very high incidence of “infection”. A “sick” time was had by all.
  • For the first time this year, we asked our participating sites around the state to tell us how many STEM professionals and volunteers participated in their events, and we can now report a ratio of STEM professionals to participants as follows:

We also used some of our data from the EvalFest Attendee Survey in this year’s annual report:

  • 90% of attendees surveyed reported the festival made them more aware of STEM in daily life
  • 100% of attendees surveyed reported the festival made them more aware of WI as a state making advances in STEM
  • 100% of attendees surveyed rated event as good or higher; 98% as very good or higher

Check out additional infographics we created to highlight our festival from data that we gathered:


Dr. Wes Marner is Deputy Director of the Wisconsin Science Festival. A chemical engineer by training, today, he is a program manager that coordinates with colleagues at the Morgridge Institute for Research, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and the University of Wisconsin – Madison to connect STEM researchers with more than 60,000 members of the public each year.

Jo Withers works as part of the Discovery Outreach team to partner with local and national corporations to secure philanthropic support for our many engaging public programs, including the annual Wisconsin Science Festival. Additionally, she collaborates with the outreach team and student interns to actively deliver these unique experiences to our visiting youth and families.

Laura Heisler is Director of Programming for WARF and the co-founder and director of the Wisconsin Science Festival. She is a patent agent registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and holds a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from UW-Madison.  Before joining WARF in 2004, she worked as as a research scientist for a biotechnology startup, Third Wave Technologies.