Kearney, Mo., May 11, 2021: The crystalline seeds of Micah Trevino future started with a half-cup of aluminum potassium sulfate.
Mr. Trevino, a senior at Kearney High School, learned recently that his entry got the highest rating in the 2020 U.S. Crystal Growing Competition among students in grades 9-12. His entry also took second place in the overall category.
Earning an elite status among crystal growers across the country is both a capstone and a launching pad for the young scientist.
“I was pretty excited and surprised when I found out,” he said. “I knew I had grown a good crystal, but it was kind of small and I wasn’t sure what the competition would be like this year.”
The U.S. Crystal Growing Competition is an annual event sponsored by the University of Buffalo and the National Science Foundation. Thousands of students from across the nation submitted crystals this year.
In alignment with Kearney School District’s Real World Learning initiative, the competition gives students the opportunity to get hands-on, self-directed experience with practical science. Growing crystals requires being patient and methodical, according to Micah.
“It’s not really that hard or complicated,” he said, being modest. “You just need to take your time and do things the right way.”
He started with a solution of aluminum potassium sulfate – “alum” – which he dissolved slowly and at low heat in a beaker of distilled water. That mixture was allowed to slowly cool in a dark, dry environment while small crystals coalesced, similar to salt.
Micah then selected the best of those crystals as seeds that were hung with fishing lines and allowed to grow in more alum solution. He harvested the winning crystal based on its striking clarity, shape and sharp lines.
Micah entered this year’s competition with the prompting of Dr. Brad Miller, one of his science teachers at KHS. Amid his classroom’s blacktop lab tables, clear glass beakers and stainless-steel Bunsen burners, Dr. Miller smiled as his pupil posed for pictures.
“Micah worked hard on this project and did a great job. He deserves this,” Miller said. “This is the fourth year I’ve had students participate in the crystal growing competition and his crystal was the best we have grown up to this point.”
Dr. Miller clearly provided expert guidance for Micah. But his superb qualifications as a teacher and scientist are reinforced by the fact that he got the top award in the nation for crystals grown and submitted by teachers this year.
Micah’s national recognition comes with a certificate and $100. He’s not sure yet how he wants to spend the money from his harvest (“I’ll probably just put it in savings,” he said), but his plans for the fall are starting to crystalize and grow: taking science-related classes at Witchita State University and going into a STEM career.
I’m prepared to succeed no matter what I choose to do.Micah Trevino
“I’m not exactly sure what I want to do, maybe aerospace engineering,” he said. “I’m prepared to succeed no matter what I choose to do. This is a great way to finish my time at Kearney High School and head off to college.”
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