Bright young minds spend holidays solving crime

A GROUP of budding young sleuths connected a suspected murder with arsenic, to a robbery at an Armidale bank.

The fictitious felony was just one scenario tackled by

90 bright boys and girls from across eastern Australia, who attended the 16th annual Forensic Science Camp at The Armidale School during the first week of the holidays.


camp was first held in 1994 and attracted widespread interest after featuring on the former ABC TV science show Quantum.

Participants were divided into groups and then solve fictitious felonies using a range of forensic techniques, including microscopy, chromatography, fingerprint analysis, cryptography and general science. 

They analysed the evidence, identified and interviewed the suspects, ordered medical and scientific tests and searched criminal databases.

“Our scenario was about a murder that took place after a car was wrecked beyond repair. During the week we were given multiple pieces of evidence that lead us to the guilty party such as blood samples, hair samples, soil samples, and DNA test. 

All of this came to a search warrant where we found the evidence we needed to arrest our guilty party and have the magistrate approve a trial,” Mike Nyathi, a TAS student from Glen Innes, said.

He said he enjoyed the experience to solve a realistic crime as part of a group of new people, in a thrilling situation.

“The camp also helped me develop a greater sense of precision in testing for example finding a missing segment in a DNA structure and being accurate when it comes to writing details. From the camp I also realised that I should not always take my first option and that I should be patient and wait until finding the best option possible,” he said

Students at this year’s camp came from as far as Ballarat and the Sunshine Coast.

“It helped develop forensic science skills because it taught us skills we wouldn't be able to learn by ourselves.

 It also taught us leadership, responsibility and cooperation because we all had to work together and decide on one conclusion and then prove why our conclusions were right,” said Sydney Girls’ High School student Mariya Shmalko.

The camp is largely run by older students who have previously taken part – some developing the crime scenarios, some managing the event itself.

Camp director Emily Wark of Armidale High School, attending her fifth camp, said the student-led event was an incredible opportunity.

“They learn how to deal with people they don’t know and my not even like, work together to respond to a challenge and meet a deadline, and develop all sorts of other skills including logical thinking, public speaking, and leadership.”

 Mariya Shmalko Tilak Groger Mike Nyathi

Mariya Shmalko Tilak Groger Mike Nyathi