A Crystal-Clear Competition


Payel Islam

Mrs. Jessica Weedon showcases her impressive crystal.

The end of October marked the commencement of crystal growing for the annual U.S. Crystal Growing Competition, and this year over fifty Bronx Science students grew and entered crystals in one or more categories of the competition: ‘highest quality,’ ‘coolest crystal,’ and ‘overall crystal.’ Participants followed a set procedure along with the formal guidelines of the competition, in order to grow their crystals. Working in groups to grow one or more crystals, some dyed theirs different colors, placed objects inside their crystals, or chose to simply grow regular seed crystals.

Payel Islam
Mrs. Jessica Weedon holds her crystal suspended in solution.

The crystal growing took place in the Advanced Placement Chemistry laboratory. Participants were instructed to use no more than one hundred grams of starting substance, which included either aluminum sulfate or copper sulfate. They created a saturated solution of the substance and distilled water, then proceeded to heat the solution in order to allow for the residual substance to dissolve. As seed crystals formed, students chose the best ones to grow further, dissolving the rest. The chosen crystals were suspended in solution and allowed to continue growing, with frequent examination from members of the team.

Payel Islam
Hillary Fu’19 dissolves the solution for her crystal on a hot plate.

Students who participated did so for a variety of reasons. “I heard about it from my friends, and I decided to join them at the interest meeting,” Jiwon Yi ’20 said. “We ended up becoming a team and made a pretty cool crystal!”

While some joined the competition after hearing about it from their friends, others chose to enter simply due to their love for chemistry. “I really like chemistry, and since I’m not taking any chemistry-related courses this year, I was looking for something else that I could do related,” said Dion Sukhram ’19.

The U.S. Crystal Growing Competition began in 2014, as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of x-ray crystallography. In addition to overseeing the competition, Mrs. Weedon has entered her own crystal to the ‘Teacher Crystal’ category. According to Mrs. Weedon, “It’s a time where students can experiment in the lab without the stress of grades or worrying about getting a right answer. Students have to learn to be creative, patient, and to solve problems.”

While guiding students as they grow their own crystals, Mrs. Weedon grows her own crystal using the same materials and general procedure. In 2016, Mrs. Weedon won first place for the Teacher Crystal category and has entered again this year.

“I heard about it from my friends, and I decided to join them at the interest meeting. We ended up becoming a team and made a pretty cool crystal!” – Jiwon Yi ’20

Although the competition occurs every year, many of the contestants had never heard of it prior to this year. Most of the contestants either found out about it through word of mouth, or through Mrs. Weedon. Regardless of whether this was their first time entering the competition or if they had participated multiple years in a row, all of the contestants thoroughly enjoyed their experience. “I had a lot of fun growing the crystal,” said Jialin Zhuo ’19. “I’ve always loved doing hands on activities and science experiments; this was a great chance for to me do what I enjoy.”

When asked if they’d recommend entering the competition to other students, this year’s contestants vehemently encouraged others to do so. Danielle Chan ’18 said, “This is my third and, unfortunately, last year entering the competition. I expected it to be a lot of work, but the directions were pretty straightforward. I would definitely recommend everyone participate next year!”

Payel Islam
Kevin Liu’ 19 pours his bright purple solution into a different beaker.

Official results of the competition came out in late December. After weeks full of anticipation, one particular group was ecstatic to find out that they won second place for the overall crystal category. The members of this group, Kazi Sadman ’18, Chenyang (John) Hu ’18, and Chenhao (Hans) Hu ’18 won $100 for their outstanding crystal. Additionally, for the second consecutive year, Mrs. Weedon has won first place for the teacher crystal category, accompanied with a prize of $100. All of the prize money will be used to fund the next crystal growing competition.

Of the hundreds of entries from schools around the nation, Bronx Science has triumphed once again, continuing its winning streak. Although only one of the student groups’ crystals won, every participant can agree that the experience has been rewarding and worthwhile.