Climate Quest

Climate Quest ran from April 2014-March 2015.

Climate Quest is a campus and community-wide open design challenge to develop proactive solutions to mitigate or adapt to challenges related to climate change. Originally called the Climate Change Solutions Initiative, Climate Quest is led by the UW–Madison Office of Sustainability in partnership with the Global Health Institute, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, and Wisconsin Energy Institute. American Family Insurance and Madison Gas & Electric provided corporate sponsorships.


How is it different?

Unlike many traditional research competitions, Climate Quest focuses on applications and driving large-scale adoption. Interdisciplinary teams from across UW–Madison and the community will harness cross-cutting research, thinking, and action to create tangible solutions in the form of policies, new products, or social innovations. The challenge is to shape and package evidence, technology, and creativity to show proof-of-concept.

Non-climate change-related examples of the types of solutions we seek include:

People Pic   Social Innovation = Micro-lending

New product 1 icon     Product = $1 Foldable Microscope

citizen icon  Policy = 30-Hour Work Week

Why is it important?

Climate change offers an urgent challenge as well as a thrilling opportunity to shape the future. Climate Quest is a chance to be a part of meaningful work with creative, smart, and well-connected people who want to make a difference, while working toward grant opportunities and personal and societal gains. The experience of building a strong, multi-faceted team may also provide competitive advantage for future funding and research efforts.

How does it work?

Apr 4, 2014

Climate Quest Mixer: Bring an idea and meet a diverse group of people

Jun 12, 2014

Solutions Workshop: Form a team and learn tools for innovative thinking

Aug 25, 2014

Summer Concept Development: Package idea into concept paper

Sept 19, 2014

Concept Pitch Presentations: Present concept to Review Panel

Oct-Dec 2014

Proposal Development: Finalists write full proposals for designing, testing and proving concept

Jan 2015

Final Awards: Top team(s) will receive resources to put ideas into practice



Eighteen teams presented at the Concept Pitch on Sept. 19, 2014.

  • MIGHTY MEALworm, Rachel Bergmans
  • Shining Schools Solar Collective
  • Holistic Water Decision Platform
  • Madison2050:   Now and Beyond
  • Mindful Climate Action
  • Real Cost Home Energy Evaluator
  • Veggie Bike
  • Climate Knowledge Project
  • EcoVentures Institute
  • Jefferson County Biomass Energy Project
  • Model Retrofit Neighborhood Solution
  • Community Climate Masters & Capacity Centers
  • Improving Global Dairy Production
  • Household Independent Power Products
  • The Dionysus Project
  • The Wisconsin Portfolio
  • Transportation Innovations in Food Freight
  • EcoMotion



Five finalists advanced to the Climate Quest Finale on Jan. 30, 2015.

The Dionysus Project

Team members: Bartlett Durand (lead), Michael Gurin, Sean Murdock, Russ Conser, Peter Byck, Anthony Michaels, Teresa Forst, Patrick Michaels, Geoffrey Steinback

Additional advisers: Allen Williams, Bill Niman, Nicolette Hahn Niman, Brian Bradley, Timothy Zauche, Steve Wille

The Dionysus Project is a re-creation of the beef industry to create a closed-loop, carbon-neutral and energy-efficient model centered on a “human-scale” slaughterhouse paired with a digester, full waste stream management, and process and energy efficiencies to dramatically reduce the carbon and energy waste typical in the industrial meat model.


Team members: Keari Bell-Gawne (lead), Jonathan Elmergreen, Dennis Ramirez

EcoMotion is a game-styled mobile app that increases social motivation to combat climate change by encouraging individuals to make behavioral and lifestyle choices that reduce their personal carbon footprint.



Improving Global Dairy Production in the Face of Climate Change

Team members: Warren Porter (lead), Paul Mathewson, and Matthew Axler

This project will provide online and mobile access to a tool that allows users to assess climate change impact on milk production and identify environmental or livestock changes that can improve milk production under current or future climate conditions.



MIGHTi (no video available)

Team members: Rachel Bergmans, Valerie Stull

MIGHTi is exploring microlivestock farming – production of edible insects – as a means to cultivate an inexpensive and low-environmental-impact nutrient source that will be sustainable in a changing climate, while simultaneously mitigating food insecurity and empowering women in developing areas such as rural Zambia.


Mindful Climate Action

Team members: Bruce Barrett (lead), Carmen Alonso, Mary Checovich, Bob Gillespie, Maggie Grabow, Cathy Middlecamp, Margaret Mooney, Evan Moss, Kristi Rietz, Leah Samson-Samuel, Julia Yates

Additional advisers: Steve Ackerman, Richard Davidson, Mark Johnson, Ken Kushner, Sonya Newenhouse, Dave Rakel, Dick Smith, Jon Temte

This project combines mindfulness-based stress reduction training with education on climate change, energy use, and carbon footprints to create a program that will stimulate people to adopt more sustainable behaviors and lifestyles.



MIGHTi was announced as the Climate Quest winner at the UW–Madison Sustainability Forum on Feb. 26, 2015, for their work developing mealworms as a nutritious and inexpensive protein source accessible to food-insecure global communities.






Climate Quest will use design thinking to develop climate change solutions (May 6, 2014)
Climate Quest Solutions Workshop to be held June 12 (June 10, 2014)
Designing solutions to mitigate climate change (June 16, 2014)
Teams prepare for Climate Quest Concept Pitch (Sept. 16, 2014)
Climate Quest finalists range from meat processing to mindfulness (Sept. 30, 2014)
Climate Quest Finale set for January 30 (Nov. 18, 2014)
Public invited to attend final Climate Quest showcase (Jan. 27, 2015)
Climate Quest Finale showcases climate solutions (Feb. 3, 2015)
Climate Quest winner announced (Feb. 26, 2015)