About Camp CSI

Camp CSI: Birmingham is designed to show high school students, grades 10-12, the reality behind the forensic science depicted in such television dramas as CSI, CSI New York, and NCIS; to develop their interest in science and the scientific method; and provide them information on forensic science education and career opportunities.

By engaging in substantively related activities during a one-week period, Camp CSI: Birmingham will

  • Help students develop their analytical skills;
  • Help students learn (by doing) the steps involved in the scientific method;
  • Teach students how to collect, preserve, secure, analyze, and present evidence;
  • Expose students to current generation equipment and methods used in forensic-based laboratories;
  • Expose students to the reality of forensic-based investigations of crime scenes;
  • Allow students to have fun while learning about such topics as DNA, fingerprints, criminalistics, and related forensic-based concepts

Description of Activities

  • First day of camp, students meet in Justice Sciences’ Teaching Lab and are divided into five four-member teams and assigned roles for their CSI Unit (Investigating Officer, Photographer, Evidence Collectors). Each group is assigned a camp counselor – forensic science undergraduate and graduate students. Counselors supervise the campers, but the campers do all the work!
  • Each day begins with staff (graduate students, forensic science/criminal justice faculty) presentation to the teams of background on the “case” for the day; each team is assigned a case (e.g., who, what, where, when, etc.).
  • Staff will first assess students’ core knowledge of the subject matter for the day (e.g., DNA) by asking the group questions and engaging them in dialogue about the topic.
  • Each team will process the crime scene (i.e., secure the scene, survey it, diagram it, take notes, collect evidence, etc.). Staff will assign an “evidence locker” to each team in which will be placed that day’s evidence.
  • For the remainder of the week, students analyze evidence in the crime lab. After training with known samples, each team receives evidence from additional crime scenes and all team members participate in analyzing the evidence.
  • After the students process the evidence and answer questions from staff about the evidence (in front of the others), staff reveal the “true facts” of the case by reconstructing what actually happened.
  • Cases from each day are related to a series of crimes where suspects, victims, and witnesses are linked together.
  • On Friday, the students will have one big crime scene where each group will have to collect a different type of evidence and process that evidence in the morning. In the afternoon, group members will question the suspect, and there will be a mock trial where members from each group will testify about their evidence as an expert witness, and play the role of prosecuting and defense attorneys.  Finally, the “guilty party” will be revealed.