IYCr Legacy
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2015 Wisconsin Crystal-Growing Competition

[Map] Map showing the locations of participating schools in Wisconsin, USA. Ten schools out of 25 participated in the contest for the second time.

The 2nd crystal-growing competition among Wisconsin high-school students aged between 14 and 18 has been successfully conducted. The contest, which perfectly aligns with the Wisconsin Idea, inspired participation of over 550 students and teachers from 25 schools across the state and one school from Moscow, Russia. Students from seven WI schools received prizes at an award ceremony held on May 22, 2015, at the Chemistry Building, UW-Madison.

[Judges] Judges evaluate crystals and artwork submissions.

To promote the contest we set up a booth at the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers Conference in March 2015 to inform the public about the crystal-growing contest, crystallography and education at the UW-Madison Chemistry Department. A web site provided the information necessary to register for the competition, to learn about crystals and to learn the details of the crystal-growing procedure. There were links to the related national and international events.

The main goal of the contest was to grow large blue crystals of cupric sulfate pentahydrate. The crystals were evaluated for size and quality by a committee comprising six PhD chemists and one chemistry graduate student. The high-school students submitted 44 crystals that had won their local contests. New for this year was a contest-inspired art competition for which 11 submissions of drawings and mixed media were sent in. All winners were recognized with certificates, books, T-shirts and cash prizes. The best crystals and drawings are on permanent display in the Chemistry Department, and can be seen at www.iycr2014.org/about/reports/activities-for-schoolchildren/2015-wisconsin-crystal-growing-competition.

[Winners] Contest winners who attended the award ceremony: six students and their teacher. The organizer is on the right.

Additional contest goals were to motivate students to learn about solution chemistry, compound solubility, purification, crystallization and optical microscopy. The students adopted an advanced vocabulary and learned to work in teams, keep detailed records of their progress, communicate with their teammates and follow good laboratory practices.

All participants of this important scientific outreach activity were invited to tour the UW-Madison campus, the Chemistry Department and the Molecular Structure Laboratory. They were also invited to the award ceremony that featured several high-profile speakers. Assistant chair Mark Ediger described the significant role of the department on campus. John Moore presented a lecture with experiment demonstrations to illustrate what it is like to be an undergraduate student in this department. A guest speaker from U. of North Carolina at Charlotte, Dan Rabinovich, spoke about crystals and crystallography on postage stamps. Paula Piccoli described the contest and its significance and then Ilia Guzei awarded the prizes. Over 70 students, teachers and parents attended the award ceremony.

The Wisconsin Crystal-Growing Contest is now an annual event; for details of the 2016 contest, please go to http://xray.chem.wisc.edu/WICGC_2016.html. On, Wisconsin!

Ilia A. Guzei, Organizer

Letters from students, teachers and leaders of the science clubs participating in the 2015 Wisconsin Crystal-Growing Competition

...This is way cooler than I thought...

Thank you so much again for organizing this event. I think the crystal growing competition is a good opportunity to introduce students to work in the laboratory. Aqueous solutions of copper sulfate are pretty safe to work with and the crystallization conditions allow enough permutations to provide a challenge to the students to find appropriate conditions for growing seed crystals and competition crystals. The students were intrigued by the intense color of the solution alone and literally blown away by the beauty and size of the crystals. We luckily had enough material that they even ventured into growing little crystal gardens. The students had fun, learned to work accurately and cleanly and follow instructions. They learned from their mistakes making adjustments to improve results. They learned to relate results to crystallization conditions and modify conditions to improve results.

My favorite quote: 'This is way cooler than I thought!' All of them were looking forward going into the 2016 competition with so much more experience.

Michael Ruf, coach of a student team, Verona, Wisconsin

I'd also like to thank you for again hosting the Crystal Growing Competition. I also organize a major academic competition and I know how time-consuming it can be, but it is also very rewarding. I want you to know that all of my students gave this competition two thumbs up and they very much enjoyed their visit to UW. Several students commented that they would have liked to stay overnight and take more tours. I am hoping that this competition continues to be an annual event and you continue to have the awards before summer as it easier to get the kids there.

Tim Cox, Berlin High School Chemistry, Wisconsin

At DC Everest High School, I run the crystal growing competition as an afterschool enrichment activity. This year is the second year we have participated in your contest. The students and I think it is great. Students love the intra-school competition. The students that participate are highly motivated students, and love a challenge. Thank you for running this statewide competition. It is a great learning activity for our students. The documentation you provided for instructions for the contest are very clear and user friendly. I do not have any suggestions for changes other than to please include us again.

Thank you for providing us with this opportunity.

Ann Wiernik, Chemistry Teacher, DC Everest Senior High School

I just wanted to tell you that I had a lot of fun doing the Crystal Growing Contest. It was a highly rewarding experience because I was able to create my own experiment within the experiment. It was hands-on and watching the crystals grow under different conditions was very interesting. In my opinion, any chance to learn and have fun while doing one is an opportunity that should not be passed up.

Thank you for organizing this.

Abby Schuett, high-school student, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin