New year, new sparkle! National crystal contest to be judged at UB

Hand holding a crystal.

A crystal delivered to the University at Buffalo Department of Chemistry to be judged in the U.S. Crystal Growing Competition. Credit: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo

The contest — founded by a UB chemist and judged in WNY — reaches thousands of children around the country each year

Release Date: January 8, 2019

Jason Benedict holding a crystal.
“We had over 150 crystals sent in from across the country. The submissions for the ‘coolest crystal’ category seem cooler than ever before. Kids are really starting to blend some amazing creativity into the contest.”
Jason Benedict, founder of the U.S. Crystal Growing Competition and associate professor of chemistry at the University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Not ready to let go of that holiday sparkle?

The U.S. Crystal Growing Competition will be judged at the University at Buffalo on Wednesday, Jan. 9, bringing a bit of dazzle and shine to a long Western New York winter.

The contest, created by a UB chemist, is celebrating its fifth year. It challenges children and K-12 teachers across the United States to grow big, beautiful crystals using aluminum potassium sulfate (alum), a nontoxic chemical used in water purification.

Do it perfectly, and you’ll get a crystal with sharp edges and clear facets — a radiant rock. Those are some of the qualities that judges will be seeking when they examine entries mailed to UB.

The competition is organized by founder Jason Benedict, PhD, associate professor of chemistry in the UB College of Arts and Sciences. More than 250 teams signed up this year, representing thousands of K-12 students and teachers, along with home-schooling families. Participants hail from 42 states and Washington, D.C., though not all submitted completed entries.

“We had over 150 crystals sent in from across the country,” Benedict said. “The submissions for the ‘coolest crystal’ category seem cooler than ever before. Kids are really starting to blend some amazing creativity into the contest.”

UB graduate students opening boxes and envelopes.

From left: UB chemistry PhD student Zoe Marr and UB chemistry master's student Xiaotong Zhang open boxes and envelopes holding crystals mailed to UB. Credit: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo

WHAT: U.S. Crystal Growing Competition Judging

WHEN: Wednesday, Jan. 9, at 10:30 a.m.

WHERE: Natural Sciences Complex, Room 306, on UB’s North Campus.

VISUALS: Nine judges, including UB faculty members and experts from other universities, will be scrutinizing over 150 crystals, most placed in plastic cups labeled with entry numbers. For reference, see photos from last year’s judging.

WHO: Benedict, who is not a judge, will be available to discuss the competition.

Three people in a lab examining crystals or entering information into a laptop.

From left: Tasha Benedict, the competition's administrative assistant, enters data about crystals into a laptop with help from UB chemistry PhD student Gage Bateman and UB chemistry master's student Devin Angevine. Credit: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo

The panel of nine judges includes faculty and staff members or graduate students from UB, the University of Central Florida, Georgetown University and Texas A&M University. Researchers at these latter three institutions serve as regional coordinators for the contest.

SPONSORS:  The contest is sponsored by the American Crystallographic Association, the UB Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Western New York section of the American Chemical Society, Bruker, The Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre, Krackeler Scientific, the National Science Foundation, VWR and Ward’s Science, along with individuals who have made donations.

Crystal decorated with sunglasses and other attire.

An entry in the "coolest crystal" category of the U.S. Crystal Growing Competition. Credit: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo

Media Contact Information

Charlotte Hsu
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Sciences, Economic Development
Tel: 716-645-4655
chsu22@buffalo.edu
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