Friday 8th January 2021: Science Foundation Ireland research centres iCRAG, the SFI Research Centre for Applied Geosciences, and SSPC, the SFI Research Centre for Pharmaceuticals, have this week launched the 2021 National Crystal Growing Competition. Announced at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, the competition challenges primary and post-primary level students to grow a single crystal, judged by expert scientists at the iCRAG and SSPC research centres.

Back by popular demand, the very successful National Crystal Growing Competition will challenge participants to grow crystals using ingredients readily available in the home, pharmacies, and hardware stores. This iteration of the competition has been specially designed for parents struggling to find appropriate activities for home-school science lessons during this period of school closure. It’s the perfect solution for all the young budding scientists out there.

Elspeth Wallace, Education and Public Engagement Officer for iCRAG commented: “We are delighted to be once again working with SSPC to run such an innovative competition. At this moment in time, it is so important to find ways to engage with Irish students at home through which we can continue to encourage and develop their scientific interest. The National Crystal Growing Competition is an exciting challenge for both primary and post-primary level students.”

Dr Sarah Hayes, Associate Director Academic Partnerships & Public Engagement for SSPC added:

 “We have always had a very high quality crystals submitted to this competition and a high level of energy and dedication shown by the students and their teachers. As someone who appreciates the beauty and importance of crystals, it excites me to see the competition back in action. I can’t wait to see what the fantastic young scientists out there come up with.”

The National Crystal Growing Competition is an important element of SFI’s public engagement remit. The aim of the competition is to have fun with science and also inspire young minds to explore careers in the field. The competition is open to primary and post-primary students in Ireland and aimed at students who were challenged to grow a single crystal from a variety of compounds such as: Salt (Sodium chloride or Potassium chloride), Alum, Sugar, or Copper sulphate.

To enter the competition, participants must send a picture of their crystal to experts at iCRAG and SSPC before the closing date of April, 16. More information, including crystal recipes and growing instructions can be found on the National Crystal Growing Competition website.

The competition originated in 2014 with the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) Crystal growing competition, as part of the celebrations for the International Year of Crystallography. It has since grown from strength to strength and is a great addition to the many SFI public engagement programmes hosted in Ireland.

iCRAG is hosted at the University College Dublin and SSPC at the University of Limerick, both working with a host of partners.