Welcome Forensic Investigators! On a sun-bright summer day, we welcomed our awesome forensic crews: Shemaree, Tanaya, Oliver, Zion, Risean, Salimah, Camille, Dakari, Darius, and Jocelyn. Before getting into the forensic world, we had to set up our Code of Conduct that helps us stay accountable for one another. Be respectful. Be an active listener. Contribute to the activity. Be proactive. Finally, have fun! We started our first day responding to a question, “What do you think forensics is or what word could you come up with when you hear forensics?” All students had the exact same response: CSI and Fingerprints! Yes, it is. The fingerprints are a part of forensics. CSI is a part of it as well, but does not give enough clues of forensics. I was very glad that the students mentioned CSI. This summer in Forensic Investigators will be an amazing opportunity for all of us to find out the truth in forensics, not as seen in the show CSI.
It has been such a wonderful week with amazing guest-scientists, Ms. Lisa Gilbert and Mr. Moses Boyd from Illinois State Police Department and a former news reporter Ms. Tracee from Free Spirit Media. Even with a fun visit to Chicago Regional Computer Forensics Lab added on our first week, we have tasted the real forensic world! Ms. Lisa Gilbert took us on a surprising forensic journey from a crime scene to the lab. From the lab to the court. Forensics has to be based up on the law. Like our students, most people think that forensics involves only the crime scene. Ms. Gilbert introduced the Criminal Justice System and her part at the court as an expert witness. No lies or changes allowed, but only the truth has to be said with the proven evidence. With having this in mind, Ms. Gilbert and the forensic crews started lifting our own fingerprints in a zip-block bag. Yes, the zip-block bag. One of the simple housekeeping materials! Science always can be found in small and simple things just like a zip-block bag. We pushed in our fingers inside the zip-block bag then put a cotton swab with a drop of super glue on it and blow hot air inside the bag. Let’s see what is coming up next. Our very own fingerprints! The students were so excited to see their own prints developing on a zip-block bag. Such a simple, yet stunning way to observe our own fingerprints! Everyone did a beautiful job on developing the fingerprints
Next day, our forensic crews welcomed Ms. Lisa’s colleague, Mr. Boyd a Drug Analyst at Illinois State Police. He brought a fake marijuana powder that looked like a real one to grab our crews’ attention. “It’s real!” Darius screamed. “No it’s not, but we can still see if it’s marijuana or not,” said Mr. Boyd with a smile. Mr. Boyd demonstrated first to show how the color liquid would respond to each powder. Then each crew had their own palette to experiment. All crews were very ready to be a drug analyst! As Mr. Boyd demonstrated, they started comparing two different powders with red-color liquid and white-color liquid. See how these turned out! One would stay same, which means it is not drug. The other turned into blue or purple that means it is either cocaine or marijuana. This was a cool experiment to see color changes and this could catch the bad guys who do drugs even trade with others.
Towards the end, Mr. Boyd shared his personal experience as an African-American forensic scientist. He is the first generation that could start working in a professional field like forensics. He shared his passion, how much he loves working in this field. “Let me be blunt with you. I am the first generation in my family who went to a four-year college, but back then it was still hard to get a job anywhere. Now they want you to have at least a master degree. It is totally up to you to make a right decision at your age, but I want you to make a decision now,” said Mr. Boyd.
For our very first field trip, we visited Chicago Regional Computer Forensics Lab in downtown. Below is one of the students’ responses. “Today I learned about digital forensic science. I learned that you can take all the data from the bad guy’s phone and then put it on another computer. The lab had a machine that looks through the data so you (a person) wouldn’t have to do all the work. I also learned that a computer can hold up to about 2.4 billion files.” –Jocelyn Lewis.
It was a really great and successful first week of our Forensics Program! Cannot wait to see what the other weeks bring!