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Crystal growers claim prize

Francis Howell North Science Club students Emma Rohrbach and Marcus Otto ranked fifth in overall quality in the 9-12 grade category of the 2020 U.S. Crystal Growing Competition.

Crystal growers
Francis Howell North Science Club students Marcus Otto and Emma Rohrbach were recently recognized for growing an award-winning crystal. (Source: Francis Howell School District)

This is the sixth year the Science Club has participated, and the sixth year they have placed in the top 10.

“I encourage kids to participate because it’s a national competition and it teaches a valuable lesson of being persistent and dedication,” Donna Malkmus, chemistry teacher and Science Club sponsor, said. “They have to come in before school and after school every day for a month to continue to problem solve and resolve issues as they try to get seed crystals to grow and then to get that one seed crystal to continue to grow into a larger single crystal.” 

The national-ranking crystal was an aluminum potassium dodecahydrate. 

“They start with a powder that is dissolved in warm water and then allow this to set over time to develop seed crystals,” Malkmus said. “They then select the top three crystals that have the tetrahedron shape to then glue to the fishing line. That seed crystal is placed back into the solution and suspended using a ruler that has the fishing line attached. The student then monitors the grow to insure no more seed crystals grow and that the single crystal on the fishing line grows.”

The United States Crystal Growing Competition is an important scientific outreach activity designed to provide K-12 grade students and teachers a fun, hands-on STEM experience as well as an exciting competition. The objective of the competition is to grow the biggest, highest quality single crystal.

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