Key of Excellence Spotlight: Wisconsin Science Festival


In October 2014, The Wisconsin Science Festival received the Key of Excellence Award for its efforts to blend science with both the arts and humanities to cultivate curiosity, inspire discovery, and grow knowledge among citizens of all ages and backgrounds in communities across Wisconsin. 

Since its inception in 2011, the Wisconsin Science Festival has built a community of people who find joy in exploring the unknown and appreciate the intersection of the sciences, arts and humanities. By introducing attendees to resources and ideas that they can tap into year-round, the festival changes the way people of all ages and backgrounds across Wisconsin look at and lead their lives. 

Past festivals have engaged over 31,000 community members and generated $1 million dollars in economic capital for the state.

Here is a look into some of the compelling programming that makes the Wisconsin Science Festival deserving of the Key of Excellence distinction:

  • The festival’s “Big Ideas for Busy People” brought together some of UW–Madison’s best and brightest in areas ranging from cartooning to chemistry highlight their groundbreaking work—for five minutes—with another five for audience Q&A before it’s on to the next world-renowned speaker.
  • Attendees had access to innovative tools like the foldscope, an origami based print-and-fold microscope that can be assembled from a single flat sheet of paper. You can watch Manu Prakash, the creator of the foldscope, demonstrate the tool and explain its benefits for global healthcare and science education in his TED talk.
  • A panel from Stony Brook University’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and UW–Madison faculty discussed why it's crucial for those in science fields to communicate more effectively with a wide range of audiences.
  • Science Café explored the ethical challenges of synthetic biology and the possibilities of recreating extinct species.
  • Children’s writer, Paul Fleischman, spoke with teenagers about issues concerning the environment and brainstormed on innovative ways to engage this important demographic on matters of critical importance to our world.

For more information:
View event highlights, photos and community testimonials

Connect with the Wisconsin Science Festival: 


About Phi Beta Kappa’s Key of Excellence Award:
Recipients of Phi Beta Kappa’s Key of Excellence Award must demonstrate a strong record of success at engaging the public across multiple disciplines in the arts and sciences. Their work must make highly visible the excellence, range, and relevance of the arts and sciences to their communities through public programming and community outreach. In addition, programs must engage diverse constituencies in program planning and execution while improving the availability of and access to the arts and sciences in their community. Nominate a program here.



Love of learning is the guide of life.