Kailee Tait, Tyson Bergen, and Owenn FlamingKailee Tait, Tyson Bergen, and Owenn Flaming, 10th graders at Leamington District Secondary School, won the Best Quality award at Canada’s 2022 National Crystal Growing Competition.

Local team clear winner in crystal competition

Growing a crystal is no simple task. But one high school team from Leamington grew a crystal so fine it won the Best Quality award at Canada’s 2022 National Crystal Growing Competition.

Students from Windsor and Essex County high schools worked with chemistry professor Nick Vukotic and Faculty of Science experiential learning specialist Michelle Bondy in preparation for the national competition.

“A few of my graduate students — Michelle Dao, Ali Baranbo, and Joy-Lynn Kobti — helped choose the best two crystals from local high schools. Leamington and Riverside’s crystals were sent off to the national competition,” says Dr. Vukotic, a researcher with UWindsor’s Advanced Material Centre of Research.

The team from Leamington District Secondary School, 10th graders Tyson Bergen, Owenn Flaming, and Kailee Tait placed first in the quality category to claim a $250 cash prize. A team from Riverside Secondary School, led by science teacher Amy Root with student Ridhima Jain, placed seventh for Best Overall crystal.

Vukotic’s industry research partner Proto Manufacturing was one of competition’s sponsors.

“It is wonderful to see science and chemistry-based activities such as this being so successful in our local region,” says Vukotic.

“Students involved in these activities should consider a career in chemistry as the skills they are developing now could result in new technologies and research which can make a significant impact on people’s lives. I hope to see them on campus in a few years.”

Science and chemistry teacher Lauren Caza led the winning team from Leamington. She says she loves the inquiry process that comes with growing the crystals.

“Growing crystals is the perfect opportunity for students to get a small taste of more of the scientific process,” says Caza.

She says she gave them basic instructions, but ultimately the details were up to the students.

“It is actually very exciting to see them fail and keep trying different methods until they come up with something they are proud of,” says Caza.

“It builds their problem-solving skills, co-operation, resiliency, scientific knowledge, and pride.”

She added that the students were keen to tell her that participation in the contest solidified their desire to pursue a career in STEM and they were excited about future opportunities in science, even thinking ahead to adding this to their university applications.

“They were excited about the cash prize but even more so about the bragging rights!”