Teens attend CSI camp at MTSU to learn about forensic science

The third annual CSI: MTSU summer program has brought high school age students from all over Tennessee and out of state to explore what it is like to be a CSI investigator.

This year students are put into groups and given evidence to solve a murder mystery, with the incentive that the first group who solves the case wins. The event is set up in a classroom environment where the students sit in lectures and run lab experiments. They are given simulated ballistic reports, interviews, sample evidence and even a body dig.

“This was the first year we had a skeleton to dig up,” said 16-year-old Darci Brandon, who has made this summer her third year in the CSI program. “It took us hours just to excavate the head, which made the dig seem very realistic.”

This year the case to be solved was a gang-related shooting incident that “occurred” back in 2007. The crimes given to the students in the past years have had to do with drugs and Internet predators on Myspace.

Students are led by director David Foster and forensic anthropologist Dr. Hugh Berryman for gaining evidence and picking up tips about what it is like to be a real crime scene investigator. There were also six students from the Forensic Anthropology Search and Recovery (FASER) program at MTSU to help assist students with questions.

“We wanted this program to be a way to get kids excited about taking advanced math and science classes,” Foster said. “This is a way for students to build skills in team work, leadership and to really test their critical thinking skills.”

This year there were six teams with six students in each one. The groups are all given evidence to work on together to solve the given case for the week. The crime reports are modeled after real ones seen at the Murfreesboro Police Department and students must figure out how to place all the evidence together to close the case.

“It can be frustrating because you want to know about a person’s fingerprints or you need an interview. We are given a lot of the evidence at once already but they hold back some until the end, which is realistic because most cases take years to build up all the evidence,” said 16-year-old Charlotte Whittaker, who is a second-year veteran to the program.

Students have learned from the past three years about how to use critical thinking skills in a crime scene environment and how to efficiently put together evidence as a team.

It has quickly become a popular summer program for anyone in high school who wants to experience what it is like to be a real crime scene investigator. Local police and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation come out with their CSI truck to give an inside look into the crew and equipment they use.

“We want the workers in the police force and TBI to be positive role models for the kids,” Foster said. “We want them to see what hard work in school can pay off for them to do.”

Plans are already in the making for next summer’s CSI: MTSU program.

For information about the program, e-mail director David Foster at dfoster@mtsu.edu.


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