Y10 Forensic Fun

June 27th / There was a real buzz about the school during this event.  Megan Barr of 10F tells us all about it:

On Wednesday 18th June, Year 10 went off timetable to take part in a Forensics Day in the Science department.

When the day began, we were told that there had been a “murder” the night before in the Drama Workshop.  It was our task to use the clues which had been left behind to solve the mystery of who had committed it.  The day was structured around using different forensic techniques and interviews to collect clues and information – along with evidence which had been found at the “crime scene” – in order to complete our investigation.

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The year group was split into 5 different “incident rooms”, and in these rooms, four separate sub groups were set up. In order to develop teamwork skills we were placed with people we had never really worked with before in previous classes. Our goal was to work together throughout the day to interpret the evidence and come to a valid conclusion. Each group spent the day going through evidence, trying out techniques, interviewing possible suspects and visiting both the crime scene and the forensics laboratory.

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In the forensics laboratory, we spent our time analysing blood and its spatter patterns. First, we had to find out if the substance we were looking at – found in the crime scene – was, in fact, blood. To do so, we used a chemical called phenolphthalein which reacts with the iron atom in haemoglobin (blood) and changes to a pink colour to indicate that blood is present. We then double-checked this test by checking the chemical on some distilled water to ensure that this did not also produce a pink colour. Once we had established that the substance was indeed blood, we looked at the droplet patterns (passive) and the blood splatter patterns (active) that were on display. We studied how to tell the height blood has fallen from, based on the diameter of the circle droplets, and the direction the attack took place, which was based on the blood splatter patterns themselves.

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Throughout the day, we were given lots of evidence to look at. We had fingerprints which we could test by dusting and lifting from a beaker, and comparing with sets given to us; we used chromatography to figure out which pen had written a note that had been left behind at the crime scene, as well as different handwriting samples that we had been given to match up to the note; there was a strand of hair which we examined under a microscope to see if it was dyed, human, and whether or not it had fallen out naturally; and there was also a shoe print plaster cast that we had to take. For this, we had a footprint in a box of sand taken from the crime scene, which we covered in a mixture of Plaster of Paris. After leaving that for 20-30 minutes, we were left with a plaster cast that had a clear footprint imprinted onto it. We then identified shoe size and type, and the most likely gender of its owner.

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Our groups also got a chance to visit the crime scene itself after visiting the forensics lab which held other pieces of evidence. Here, we used all of our knowledge from the day – particularly the bloodstain pattern analysis – to construct a picture of how the crime had occurred at this scene.

After putting all of our evidence together and coming to a conclusion on who the murderer was, we put everything into a presentation which was shown to the students in our incident rooms the next day. Once everyone had presented their cases, we finally discovered who had actually committed the crime on “The Big Reveal” which was theatrically presented to us by the Science staff.

Overall, the day was hugely enjoyable and highly informative, giving us all an insight into what it would be like to have a career in this field of scientific study.