Wisconsin Crystal-Growing Competition Nets 76 Submissions from Across the State

Left: crystal submission; Right: Teacher Tim Cox examines a crystal
Left: Crystals submitted for the contest; Right: Teacher Tim Cox examines a crystal

This spring, high school students and teachers at more than 20 Wisconsin schools spent five weeks cultivating cobalt blue crystals. Using cupric sulfate as the basic substance from which to grow the crystals, their goal was to represent their schools in the Wisconsin Crystal-Growing Competition organized by the Molecular Structure Laboratory at the UW-Madison Department of Chemistry. Each school selected and submitted its best entry in the best quality and best overall categories, and each teacher was invited to submit a crystal of his or her own creation as well.

Schools from across the state participated, with entries from: Brown County, Dane County, Dunn County, Forest County, Green Lake County, Jefferson County, Kenosha County, Marquette County, Outagamie County, Racine County, Rock County, Rusk County, Trempealeau County, Washington County, Waupaca County, Winnebago County, and Wood County.

Students Megan Jordan (left) and Ciara Neeb (right) with their crystals
Students Megan Jordan, left, and Ciara Neeb with their award-winning crystals

Dr. Ilia Guzei, Molecular Structure Laboratory director, created and organized the statewide competition as part of the 2014 International Year of Crystallography. The year commemorates the centennial of X-ray diffraction, a method that enabled more detailed study of crystalline materials.

A ceremony and reception held June 20 recognized the award-winning crystals and their creators. Expert crystallography volunteers from local chemical companies judged the crystal submissions for size and clarity. Award-winners were:

Best Overall

  • First prize: Rainee Roger and Laura Smith (Flambeau High School, Tony)
  • Second prize: Payton Goetz and Joseph Robl (Omro High School, Omro)
  • Third prize: Cassidy Colby (F. J. Turner High School, Beloit)

Best Quality

  • Tie: Megan Jordan (Clinton High School, Clinton)
  • Tie: Ciara Neeb (Montello Junior/Senior High School, Montello)

Best Quality (Teacher Submission)

  • Jasmin Gibson (Verona Area High School, Verona)

Organizer’s Favorite

  • Kyrat Krin (Blair-Taylor High School, Blair)

Special Prize for Crystal Drawing

  • Kaitlin Loomis (F. J. Turner High School, Beloit)

Each award-winning individual or team will receive a cash or book prize thanks to the generous support of the competition’s sponsors, which included UW-Madison Department of Chemistry, The Evjue Foundation, Sigma-Aldrich, Bruker, Rigaku, American Crystallographic Association, and the International Union of Crystallography.

The crystals will remain on display near the Chemistry Building’s Shain Atrium throughout the summer.