WI Crystal Growing Contest celebrates state-wide winners

By Kaitlyn M. Moore
Department Communications

Kaitlyn Twesme, previous competition winner and space crystal participant, spoke at the event about her experiences working with CASIS.
Kaitlyn Twesme, previous competition winner and space crystal participant, spoke at the event about her experiences working with CASIS.

May 24, 2019, Madison, WI — Today, the UW-Madison Department of Chemistry celebrated the 2019 Wisconsin Crystal Growing Competition (WICGC), a middle and high school competition organized by the Molecular Structure Laboratory, where students and teachers put their crystal growing and art skills to the test. Participants were judged on best overall crystal, best quality crystal, best teacher’s crystal for the crystal competition and best crystal-inspired art in the art competition.

For the crystal growing competition, students receive crystallization materials at the beginning of March and have until April 30 to grow and submit their crystals. Then, the crystals are judged by experts who rank them on a ten-point scale, a ten going to the perfect gem-quality crystal that fits the ideal crystal structure known for the chemical that was used. The crystal-inspired art was judged by a panel that selected the best works based on creativity, aesthetic value, clarity of explanations, and scientific background.

This year, counting high school and middle school participants, there were 604 students, 18 teachers, and 43 schools in the competition. Teams competed for the chance to win cash awards for their schools, books, and the opportunity to grow crystals aboard the International Space Station U.S. National Lab through a partnership with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and their Space Station Explorers (SSE) education program.

The selected winners of the crystal and art contests were given the option of applying for the 2019 WI Space Crystal Mission, and winners will have the opportunity to go to Florida to work with the Wisconsin Molecular Structure Laboratory and the CASIS SSE team. Last year’s winners recently returned from their trip to Florida, having successfully launched their own crystals into space.

Sponsors for this competition include: Alliant Energy, American Chemical Society, American Crystallographic Association, Bruker AXS, The Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre, Covance, The Evjue Foundation, Inc., Hestia Laboratories, the Institute for Chemical Education, International Union of Crystallography, Leica Microsystems, Rigaku Oxford Diffraction, MilliporeSigma, Packers Chemical, Space Station Explorers, UW–Madison Department of Chemistry, Zeiss, and Zurex Pharma.

2019 WI Crystal Growing Contest Results



  •  Middle School:
  1. Cayden Bendlin Penner, Cobain Pellebon-Bohan, and Tatum Metzger from Velma Hamilton Middle School (teacher: David M. Long)
  2. Nathan Kuehl from Indian Mound Middle School (teacher: Brian Coleman)
  3. Madison Vollmer from Shattuck Middle School (teacher: Dean Doersch)
  • High School:
  1. Will McGrath, Tyler Parteka, and Pablo Bustamante from Hartford Union High School (teacher: Kathy Abraham)
  2. Kaitlyn Twesme from Lake Mills High School (teacher: Cameron Dary)
  3. John Manning, Thomas Rose, and Zachery Baldridge from Marquette University High School (teacher: Nicole Williams)


  • Middle School: Zach Twesme from Lake Mills Middle School (teacher: Mark O’brien)
  • High School: Khush Patel and Idalis Roman from J. I. Case High School (teacher: Kara Klaves)


  • Middle School: Dean Doersch from Shattuck Middle School
  • High School: Erik Duhn from Little Wolf Junior/Senior High School


  • Middle school:
  1. Payton Kelly-VanDomelen from the Bright Minds Academy (teacher: Cheryl Kelly-Van Domelen)
  • High School:
  1. Avalon Border from Border Home Tutorial (teacher: Dee Border)
  2. Adriana Marquardt and Abby Stout from Hartford Union High School (teacher: Jamie Lauer)
  3. Nikki Messick from Neenah High School (teacher: Shelley Dorner)

2019 Space Crystal Prize

  • Cayden Bendlin Penner
  • Avalon Border
  • Payton Kelly-VanDomelen
  • Khush Patel
  • Thomas Rose


2019 Winners at the Awards Ceremony

2019 Crystal Competition Winners 2019 Crystal Competition Winners 2019 Crystal Competition Winners