CSI Day Camp Hits Long Beach, MS

On Thursday, October 16th, our STEM team hit the road and landed at Harper McCaughan Elementary School in Long Beach, MS to end our final Camp-for-a-Day with a bang!

This camp consisted of a fantastic group of 99 6th and 7th grade students from both Harper McCaughan Elementary School and Long Beach Middle School. These students gathered together to learn about the various scientific, technological, and mathematical skills that are utilized by CSI professionals.

After a brief introduction to the program, students were thrown into the throngs of a crime scene: a kidnapping had occurred and students were tasked with solving the mystery! Six middle school teachers helped guide the students through each step of the investigation. Throughout the day, students were given a rare glance into the world of CSI. Students were split up into three teams: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie. The teams were then steered through a series of activities involving paper chromatography, facial recognition, and fingerprint dusting, to narrow down their initial lineup to three suspects.


Investigators narrowing down their suspects in the lineup.

Students enjoying a snack and learning about fingerprint patterns.

Our investigators were also treated to an exciting visit from the Keesler Air Force Base criminal investigation unit.

Students were pumped up by presenters from Keesler Air Force Base.

Crime scene suits provided by Keesler Air Force Base were a hot commodity.

Just when students thought they were about to finish up the case, another crime was committed. By utilizing the skills that they had learned throughout the day, the teams were able to determine that the two crimes were related and this helped them uncover the identity of the mysterious perpetrator!

We had such a fun time bringing our CSI Camp-for-a-Day program to another community and we are grateful for the equally enthusiastic participation from students, teachers, and school administrators. We want to give a special thanks to the 21 teachers who attended the teacher workshop the night before the event to learn the curriculum and take part in the camp. We are confident that this curriculum will continue to be shared and taught, and many other students will be able to learn how fun STEM can be for years to come!

CSI Boys Summer Camp – Day 4

Our gumshoes made significant strides on day 4. First, campers witnessed a compelling presentation by Special Agent David Marshall with the world-renowned FBI.

DSC_2463Special Agent Marshall gave campers the inside scoop about what FBI agents do on a daily basis,


and how they too could pursue a career with this high-profile organization.


Campers (and staff) had a lot of fun during this presentation, but you know what they say: All good things must come to an end.



After getting jazzed about a potential future with the FBI, campers got straight to work processing some more evidence that was found at Monday’s crime scene. Our investigators were able to further narrow their list of suspect based on a soil sample found at the crime scene and a note written by the perpetrator.

It was suspected that the soil sample found at the scene came from the bottom of the perpetrator’s shoe. To find out how this piece of evidence could help the investigation, campers compared this sample with samples of the soil found at the different places that each suspect had been that day.


After looking closely at each sample,




investigators were able to determine where the soil sample came from. Then, armed with this information, they were able to make a determination about who they could eliminate from the suspect list.
DSC_2572The next piece of evidence they processed was the note written by the perpetrator. How did they do this? Through a paper chromatography experiment. Since each suspect on the suspect list was found carrying a different type of marker, campers were able to determine which type of marker wrote the note found at the scene

DSC_2799by seeing how differently the pigments in each marker separate when exposed to a solvent. In this case, the solvent was water.



While the morning was all about processing evidence and narrowing the list of suspects, campers returned to the wonderful world of DNA in the afternoon. Campers were first greeted by an after-lunch presentation by Dr. Teresa Strecker with SMU’s biology department. Dr. Strecker took some of the mystery out of DNA


and discussed why DNA can be so helpful in crime scene investigation.


Then, campers got to try their hand at DNA eletrophoresis. DNA electrophoresis is a technique used by forensic scientists where they compare DNA samples found at a crime scene with the DNA of suspects in a case.



Only one more day until all is revealed and this case is solved. Stay tuned for the gripping conclusion to this year’s CSI Boys Summer Camp!





CSI Boys Camp – Day 3

The CSI saga continued on day 3, and the human body was the name of the game. First, were visited by Medical Examiner Amy Gruzeski, who gave campers a first-hand look at the role forensic pathologists play during investigations. What is a forensic pathologist? These are the people who conduct the examinations that determine the cause of a person’s death. This presentation did include some “gross pictures” according to camper Drake,


but campers also “liked learning about the medical examiner’s job.”


Then, campers took their understanding about the human body a step further in the forensic anthropology activity and gait recognition activity. During the forensic anthropology activity, campers learned that you can predict someone’s height based just on the length of his or her leg bone.


Campers also learned how investigators can differentiate between people based on the way they walk during the gait recognition activity.



From there, it was on to DNA, as campers learned how all living things, including fruits and vegetables, contain DNA. In this experiment, campers learned how to extract DNA from a strawberry by mashing it,


combining it with a solution,


and extracting the separated DNA using a highly scientific instrument—a paperclip.



Campers ended their day learning fact from fiction when it comes to the world of an NCIS agent. Special Agent Don Goates visited our investigators-in-training to dispel the myths about what it means to work for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.




Stay tuned for more tales from our CSI summer camp!


CSI Boys Camp – Day 2

The events of day 2 had a… shall we say, furry start. To lend our campers some help, and to potentially track down our kidnapping victim, Deputy Clayton Wood and K9 Rocky kicked off day 2.

DSC_0490Although the tracking trail went “cold” near the parking garage, these two visitors also gave campers a glimpse into the lives of law enforcement K9s and their handlers.


And while Deputy Wood gets a salary as a reward for his service, Rocky is content with his verysion of a bimonthly paycheck—a 50 lb bag of food, and a couple of treats of course.

DSC_0486After the K9 and his handler departed the scene, today’s events were all about biometrics. Biometrics is the science behind using biological traits in identification. First, campers learned all about what makes our fingerprint unique, and got to see their own fingerprint up close using a fingerprint scanner.

DSC_1733Then, campers learned how to dust for and collect a fingerprint from a crime scene (with a little help from the SMU police).






And rather than just learning interesting stuff, this activity had an end game: campers made their first discovery that helped them narrow their list of suspects. The suspect’s fingerprint type was a loop!

Next, campers learned other ways in which different parts of our bodies can be used to identify us. They learned what is unique about our hands and our eyes.


DSC_1766To round out the day’s events, campers had a surprising visit from the SMU Police and SWAT team. This visit was most surprising for camp director Phil Munsterman, who was ordered to get down on the ground upon their arrival.


But their dramatic entrance was all in good fun, and they spent the rest of their visit giving campers insight into what it takes to enter a career like theirs and what their daily duties include.




Day 2 was definitely full of excitement, so stay tuned to see what the rest of the week has in store for our investigators!



Another Investigation Begins at the 2014 CSI Boys Summer Camp

Another week, another crime. Yesterday we welcomed boys from around the Dallas/Ft. Worth area to our second, and final, CSI summer camp. In order to provide a real-world look into the lives and professions of those who work in CSI-related fields, campers were treated to a presentation by Dallas Police Department’s Sean Kearney. Kearney introduced campers to the types of skills and tasks required of crime scene investigators.

After Kearney’s presentation, the campers walked in on a ghastly sight… a kidnapping had occurred at camp! Though this was bad news, it gave the investigators-in-training an immediate chance to test their CSI skills. Campers documented the scene,



collected evidence,


and took measurements


for a scaled sketch of the scene.


After the scene was thoroughly processed, campers learned about DNA evidence through a presentation from Forensic Biologist Amanda Webb.


Webb’s job as a forensic biologist requires her to process DNA evidence found at crime scenes. When asked what was the most unique object she’d ever had to test, she replied that “The craziest thing we had to test was a fried chicken leg with a big bite taken out after a crime was committed.” This goes to show that evidence can be everywhere!

Campers finished up their day learning all about change blindness, the phenomenon that explains why eyewitness testimony isn’t always the most reliable piece of evidence. And just so we don’t let the campers have all the fun, you can get in on the CSI action by watching the following videos. These videos will introduce you to the change blindness phenomenon and also allow you to test your observational skills.

This knowledge of change blindness came in handy when campers observed an interview with an eyewitness.



And lastly, did we mention that the campers had fun? These students were introduced to a number of new friends, a fact that is sure to make this coming week a memorable one. Stay tuned throughout the week to follow their investigation!




CSI Girls Camp – Day 4

Today our investigators-in-training got straight to business with a visit from Lt. Kevin Clark and other members of the Denton County Sheriff’s SWAT team. Since no one likes being cooped up first thing in the morning, the girls were called upon to gear up



and man their stations.



After their call to battle, it was time to start processing some hard evidence found at Monday’s crime scene. Campers were able to narrow their list of suspects by analyzing a soil sample during the microscope lab



and find out which type of marker was used to write the perpetrator’s note in the paper chromatography lab.



After this evidence was thoroughly process, camper learned that DNA is becoming an afternoon theme here at our CSI summer camp. Yesterday, the girls tried their hand at DNA electrophoresis, and today the campers deepened their understanding of DNA through an engaging presentation by SMU’s Dr. Teresa Strecker


and an activity in which they extracted the DNA from a strawberry.




There are only a few steps left to solve this crime, so stay tuned for tomorrow’s gripping conclusion!

CSI Girls Camp – Day 3

Our CSI camps were still going strong yesterday as our gumshoes worked through a number of new CSI activities. And the name of the game for Day 3: the human body. First, campers were treated to a presentation by Medical Examiner Dr. Sheila Spotswood, who gave our girls a glimpse into a day in the life of a medical examiner.



After being acquainted with this new profession, campers learned how a person’s body, and even the way they move, can reveal a ton of information about them in the Forensic Anthropology and Gait Recognition activities.




Then, after grabbing a quick bit to eat, campers moved into an in-depth DNA exercise: the DNA Electrophoresis Lab. DNA electrophoresis is a technique used by forensic scientists where they compare DNA samples found at a crime scene with the DNA of suspects in a case. Scientists are able to use restriction enzymes (protein “scissors”) that cut a piece of DNA at specific points in the sequence. Because everyone’s DNA sequence is different (unless you have an identical twin), the pieces of DNA that are cut will be different lengths.






Lastly, the girls concluded their day by getting insight into the day in the life of an NCIS agent from Special Agent Don Goates.


After their third day of camp, these students have gained a number of CSI skills. Yet there’s still much more to come, so stay tuned to find out what Day 4 had in store for these investigators-in-training!

CSI Girls Camp – Day 2

Who says humans are the only ones that can get in on the CSI action? This morning, our CSI girls were joined by the furriest of this week’s presenters: K9 Rocky (and his handler Deputy Clayton Wood).



K9s play a key role in many investigations, and Rocky had a chance to show off his tracking skills. 


After the wonderful K9 unit presentation, the campers got straight to work processing their first piece of evidence: a fingerprint! To learn how to properly dust for and collect a fingerprint sample, the girls were joined by members of the SMU Police.



Campers dusted,




and analyzed the fingerprint found at the scene of yesterday’s kidnapping.


Campers also had a chance to try their hand at a few biometrics activities before being joined by more professionals from the SMU Police Department and tactical unit. These professionals discussed what it’s like to be women in law enforcement


and gave a real-world look into the day in the life of a SWAT team member.


Tomorrow promises to be another fun-filled CSI day as the campers work to further narrow their list of suspects. Stay tuned!





SMU Kicks Off 2014 CSI Summer Camps – Girls Begin the Investigation

It’s that time of year again! Our new set of gumshoes arrived early this morning to kick off our 2014 CSI Summer Camps. Without missing a beat, campers were immediately acquainted with the world of CSI through a great presentation by Sean Kearney with the Dallas PD. Through this presentation, campers learned that there’s a lot of math and science involved in crime scene investigation. “In forensics we don’t ever guess,” explained Kearney, “we have to have hard evidence.”

Sean Kearney, Dallas PD, displays evidence to campers.

Sean Kearney, Dallas PD, displays evidence to campers.

What happened next was most unfortunate…photoA kidnapping occurred on campus! Good thing we have this team of CSI investigators-in-training to help solve the crime.

Each unit took turns examining the scene and taking notes,


gathering evidence,



and taking measurements for a scaled sketch.



Then, after thoroughly processing the crime scene, campers were visited by Amanda Webb, a biologist with the Dallas County Crime Lab. Webb’s visit was all about DNA, and campers learned how DNA is used to investigate crimes.


Campers finished up their day learning all about change blindness, the phenomenon that explains why eyewitness testimony isn’t always the most reliable piece of evidence. And just so we don’t let the campers have all the fun, you can get in on the CSI action by watching the following videos. These videos will introduce you to the change blindness phenomenon and also allow you to test your observational skills.

Stay tuned to keep apprised of all the latest developments of our CSI investigation!