The annual Wisconsin Science Festival is returning to Madison Oct. 17 through Oct. 20, featuring scientific activities and events for both the public and the campus community.

In its ninth year, the Wisconsin Science Festival has grown exponentially, featuring more than 220 events in over 100 locations across the state.

Laura Heisler, director of programming for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and director of outreach for the Morgridge Institute of Research, helped co-found and create the Wisconsin Science Festival.

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“We envisioned early on that the science festival would be a great way to bring the campus and community together around science,” Heisler said. “On campus we have so many amazing researchers and amazing groups that exist to connect people to science.”

This year, the festival has many exciting events coming to campus with the hope of engaging students, including a new events series on science in the realm of arts and entertainment. Events on the role of science in art and entertainment include an expert panel and a speaker on the science of Star Wars.

In the afternoon of Oct. 18, a panel of experts in the fields of visual arts, theatre, dance and film will meet in the Discovery building to discuss how science plays into entertainment. Speakers from the Institute of Discovery and other universities will discuss and explain how science is interwoven into their fields.

Oct. 19 at 8 p.m., Kyle Hill, editor for Nerdist and host of the well-known YouTube science talk show Because Science, will moderate “The Science Behind Star Wars,” a highly-anticipated event. Hill will debunk myths about the popular Star Wars series and then respond to questions from the audience. Fans are encouraged to wear their favorite Star Wars gear.

The festival takes over downtown Friday night with Science on the Square, featuring over two dozen small events at venues all around the Capitol. Different museums, restaurants, and stores host events ranging from food tasting on State Street to stargazing on the roof of Parthenon Gyros. There is also the Science Trivia Trolley circling around downtown where participants can test their scientific knowledge and win prizes.

In response to Governor Tony Evers declaring 2019 the year of clean drinking water in Wisconsin, the festival features another theme focused on water and environmental sustainability throughout the state.

In Madison, Big Ideas for Busy People: Water, Water, Everywhere is a free event in the Discovery Building featuring fast-paced 5 minute talks from different experts across the university and community.

“We are a part of a national effort to look at how we can be more sustainable in our festival,” Heisler said. “That is, to improve sustainability practices internally, but also raise awareness around sustainability practices.”

Interim Dean at the College of Letters and Science Eric Wilcots is serving as the moderator of the event.

Wilcots said Big Ideas for Busy People is a great way for students to get a lot of information in an exciting, quick way.

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“You’ve got a great diverse set of speakers,” Wilcots said. “The idea really is to convey information about really important issues in a really compact and accessible format.”

The event will feature speakers from the DNR, non-profit advocacy groups and other experts from the university touching on topics ranging from social ideas of water justice to components of civil and environmental engineering. Wilcots said the event is interesting because it touches on topics that greatly impact students and the community through multiple perspectives.

Wilcots encouraged students invested in water research or environmental justice to attend the event, stressing the importance of gaining knowledge from professionals in refining their knowledge and career endeavors.

“This forum is a really neat way just to see how the work they might be doing or the courses they might be taking intersect with a larger discussion about water in Wisconsin and really worldwide,” Wilcots explained. “It’s an opportunity to get a broader perspective on an issue they might be thinking about.”

Wilcots said the festival is a great way for students to utilize the resources and museums available to them on campus.

While Wilcots and Heisler both emphasized the importance of connecting the community to science, they both agreed the main reason to show up is to just have fun.

“We want to engage people, just for them to enjoy themselves and indulge their curiosity and their creativity,” Heisler said. “It is a fun way of exploring and interacting with the world.”

Heisler also said students should consider volunteering for the festival. There are volunteering opportunities available in all capacities of the festival. All volunteers get a free meal and t-shirt.

More details on events and volunteering can be on the Wisconsin Science Festival website.