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The Art and Science of Crystal Growing

Running in class during Term 3, 2019.

Registrations close June 28 June 2019.

Many chemical compounds exist in the form of crystals, like table salt or sugar. Sometimes crystals are very small (microscopic in size) and sometimes they can be quite large. People who study crystals in lots of detail are called crystallographers. But you don’t need to be a crystallographer to appreciate the beauty of crystals and to be fascinated by watching them grow.

The aim of “The Art and Science of Crystal Growing” competition is to encourage school children to take an interest in how crystals form and how attractive they can appear.  Students will grow a crystal from solution, take measurements whilst the crystal forms over a period of up to 10 weeks, and provide photographic evidence of their experiment (up to 5 photos during the course of 10 weeks showing how the crystal grows over time). At the end of the experiment, students will use their own imaginations to create an artistic picture of their crystal.

Students can take part individually, in teams of up to 3, or as a whole class (recommended for Grades P-2). The competition will be split into four categories:

  • Grades Prep-2;
  • Grades 3-4;
  • Grades 5-6; and
  • “Open” for junior high school students (7-10). 

Please Click Here for the Rules and Results Form

Please Click Here for the Order Form

How is the competition judged?

The winners will be judged on:

a) the size, shape and clarity of their crystals as shown in their “scientific” photos and how clearly they have reported their observations on the rate of growth, size and shape of their crystals;
b) how artistic their digital photograph of the crystal they have grown is, using light, shade, reflection, refraction and diffraction patterns, different backgrounds, etc.

Students may also write a description of up to 25 words for their “artistic” picture. Final results will be given to schools early in Term 4.

NOTE: We do not expect P-2 students to record their observations. Weekly or fortnightly photos to show crystal growth and solution level in the beaker, and the final “artistic” photo will be sufficient.

How much does it cost to register?

The entry cost is $16.50  (including GST) per school (irrespective of the number of teams entered) to cover administrative costs.

Where do I get the materials needed to grow crystals?

Schools will need to order their crude potash alum (aluminium potassium sulphate dodecahydrate) from Rowe Scientific and allow 14 days for delivery.   Please note that you will need to attach a purchase order from your school to the form. You can then send the order to Rowe Scientific, Unit 2, 42 Green Street, Doveton, Victoria 3177 (Attention: Nic Thomas)

As the competition is to start at the beginning of Term 3, orders should be placed before the end of Term 2 (Friday 28 June). Remember to order the correct grade of material, “GLR” grade, which comes in 500 g packs. 500 g should be enough for 20 students working individually. 

What happens once we've grown our crystals?

Reports and pictures are to be sent to the RACI Victorian Office by the end of Term 3. (Friday 20 September). Note that it can take up to 10 weeks for crystals to grow to their optimum size, so for best results the experiment should start in the first week of Term 3 and end during the last week of Term 3.

Please hold on to your crystals after you take your photos! If you are a winner in one of the age groups, you will be invited to send the crystals in to the national competition.

Potash Alum MSDS

Teachers should download the internet the relevant material safety data sheet here. For reference, the CAS number of potash alum is 7784-24-9.

Potash alum is relatively innocuous and if the instructions are followed properly hazards are minimal. Potash alum can irritate the skin and eyes and should be washed off with lots of water. Eye protection should be worn to prevent dust and splashes getting in eyes. Breathing in any dust should be avoided. If anybody swallows alum solution they should have their mouth washed out. VOMITING SHOULD NOT BE INDUCED and urgent medical advice should be sought. If possible they should be taken to the nearest hospital for treatment.