Students take a stab at forensics in Burnaby

Twenty high school students were at BCIT last week, searching for clues after the discovery of two bloodied and lifeless dummies.

The dummies were found lying in the bathrooms of two identical dorm rooms, and the mock crime-scene investigation was the culmination of the technical institute’s popular summer CSI Academy.

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After three days of learning about forensic fields like fingerprinting, anthropology, DNA, chemical-trace evidence, knot and video analysis, students in the summer science camp were divided into two teams and challenged to unravel the mystery of the apparent dummy-icide.

“The idea is just to expose them to a whole bunch of different types of forensics to see if there’s anything that they’re interested in, and then it can maybe inform their future careers if that’s something that they decide they want to pursue,” said camp organizer Steen Hartsen, who teaches forensic DNA at BCIT and manages the DNA lab on campus.

The weeklong, 20-seat camp was started in 2001 and is more popular than ever, with organizers having to turn kids away from this year’s camp.

“Usually they’re very, very keen students who are really interested in science,” Hartsen said of the typical CSI camper. “They’re usually very, very into the whole forensic angle as well.”

Burnaby Mountain Grade 12 student Bailey Bridge, whose parents are both RCMP members, is one such student.

“I just thought it would be a good way to figure out what I was into, like the deeper parts of the subject,” she said.

Learning about knots from expert John Van Tassel, a pioneer of forensic knot-analysis, was especially interesting, Bridge said, as was finding out interesting facts about bones – like that humans don’t have knee caps until about age four.

“It’s all been quite interesting,” she said.

Students spent a day and a half at the mock crime scene last week and then shared their findings at a classroom session Friday.

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