March 2023 – Collinsville High School STEM club member senior Sam Stuckey earned 5th place in the 2022-23 U.S. National Crystal Growing Competition.
“Students are given 30 days from late October to late November to grow their crystal. They start with growing seed crystals and then picking the best ones to grow their main crystal,” said CHS teacher and STEM sponsor Pat Szpila, “They want to grow the largest and best quality crystal. The students use alum (also known as potassium aluminum sulfate) to grow their crystals. They can only use a maximum of 100 g per crystal.”
While they are growing, the crystals need to be monitored on a daily basis to grow the best shape and size and to assure smaller crystals do not adhere to the main crystal which can make them lumpy.
Judges use a scoring rubric to grade the crystals. They look at clarity, size, shape and overall quality. Crystals should have nice straight sides and be as clear as possible with the largest mass possible. Sam received 5th with an overall score of 7.00/10.
“This is a great accomplishment since Sam was competing against students nationwide,” added Szpila.
The annual crystal competition is sponsored by several universities and organizations including University of Buffalo (SUNY), Texas A & M, University of Central Florida, University of Chicago, National Science Foundation and American Crystallographic Association.