Forensic Science Camp

Applications are now closed as we are at capacity!  

Please feel free to email [email protected] if you wish to be put on the waiting list.

Tuesday 9 July - Saturday 13 July, 2024 

For almost two decades, budding young sleuths from across eastern Australia relish the opportunity to solve simulated crimes at The Armidale School Forensic Science Camp. The camp was first held in 1994 and attracted widespread interest after featuring on the former ABC TV science show Quantum. Such has been its success that each year it regularly attracts more than 80 bright Year 8-9 students from Brisbane to Ballarat, and many places in between.

Boys and girls, from both government and independent schools in the city and the country, are divided into groups of four detectives. They then solve fictitious felonies using a range of forensic techniques, including microscopy, chromatography, fingerprint analysis, cryptography and general science.

They analyse the evidence, identify and interview the suspects, order medical and scientific tests and search criminal databases. On the final day of the camp, a local magistrate conducts a ‘court case’ in which the teams had the chance to convict their suspect. The scenarios are developed by ‘Camp Controllers’, former participants who lead the camp.  Scenarios use procedures including blood typing, fibre testing and soil analyses to solve a range of crimes, from theft to vandalism and murder.

Participants develop skills in logic and organisation, using technology and forensic science – and it’s a whole lot of fun. However, it is not so much about criminology as about giving bright students an irresistible platform in which they learn how to use logic and organisation to solve complex problems, in groups.

 

Have you ever solved a crime?

I don’t mean a ‘who left the towel on the bathroom floor’ type of crime. I mean a real crime – like a murder, a fraud, a break and enter – something that would demand your total focus, the cooperative assistance of like-minded colleagues, the resources of a National Police Force and access to the nation’s forensic science labs.

No? I didn’t think so. They don’t tend to trust kids with that sort of thing.

But I bet you’ve often thought that you could do it. Everyone has. Much of our literature and most of our movies and TV series are concerned with ‘whodunits’. They draw us all in. They are often intriguing and exciting but they all cast you in the role of spectator. You watch someone else solving the crime or prosecuting or defending the accused in court. It’s not quite the same as being in the middle of the action yourself.

We can put you right in the middle of the action for 5 exhilarating days in a crime-solving situation that is so realistic that you will forget that it’s only a game. You will be a detective, you will interview witnesses, you will order medical and scientific tests, you will search the criminal databases, you will test the physical evidence yourself in the laboratory. You will request search warrants. You and your colleagues will sift through the evidence, pursue ‘red herrings’, argue your point of view, and when and if you crack the case you will make a formal application backed by solid evidence to convince a Judge that your suspect should stand trial.

These could be the five most exciting, agonising, stimulating, frustrating and intellectually invigorating days of your life. Have you the courage to come? You won’t be disappointed. Do you dare to stay away?

About the Camp

Where is the Camp held?

The Armidale School’s Forensic Science Camp is held at The Armidale School campus in Armidale NSW, 550km north of Sydney and 500km south of Brisbane on the New England Highway.

When is the Camp on?

The Camp starts with registration at 2.00 pm on Tuesday and runs to Saturday at 12.30pm. Applications close on Friday 14 June or before if positions are filled.

What does it cost?
$880

Fees cover full board, materials and the entire Camp program. NO EXTRA MONEY OR FOOD WILL BE REQUIRED by students, the Camp will provide everything that is needed.

Please refer to the Travel page of this website for more information about the possibilities available. Travel expenses are in addition to the camp fees quoted above.

Where will Students be accommodated?

Campers will stay in the residential boarding houses at The Armidale School. Males and females will be accommodated in separate boarding houses, with appropriate adult supervision from Camp staff. The camp also gives students a fantastic opportunity to have a residential, “boarding school” experience.

Meals

All meals will be served in the school Dining Hall.

 

How to apply

The Camp is designed for talented and motivated science students who are in Year 8.

Every year we receive more applications than there are places at the Forensic Camp. This pleases us because we can see that the Camp is widely recognised for what it is, the premier extension vehicle for able junior secondary students. But it places us in the odious position of having to accept and reject among the applicants, please do not feel discouraged to not apply. We can only base our decisions on the information that the applicants provide us, however the earlier the better.

If the Camp looks interesting to you, read the information contained on this website until you are sure that you understand what it is about.

When you have done this and if you have decided you have what it takes to attend the Forensic Camp then it’s time to do something about it.

Dates: The 2024 Camp starts on Tuesday 9 July 2024 and finishes on Saturday 13 July 2024.
Applications close on Friday 14 June or before if positions are filled.


Applying as an individual camper

Learning to work with people you have never met is one of the best parts of FSC, and is one of the aspects that previous campers talk about as the most memorable. If allows you to develop interpersonal skills and, in many cases, make wonderful new friendships. If you apply to attend the camp as an individual camper, we will place you with a group of students that we believe you will work well with.


Applying as a school-based team

You have the option of working with a team of students from your school (minimum 3, maximum 4 people). If you wish to apply as a school-based team then:

  1. Each student needs to apply individually by following the instructions below.
  2. In their application email, each student needs to list the names of the other students that they are going to work with.

What we would like you to send us?
  1. (A) “Why you want to come” essay (mandatory)

We want to know whether you are genuinely keen to be at the Camp. Some may apply because their friend has applied or their parents want them to. We also want to know if you can express yourself clearly and logically in writing, so we ask all applicants to write about 200 words telling us why you want to come to the Camp.

  1. (B) Your “academic credentials” summary (mandatory)

We want to know if you have the qualities that will allow you to benefit from the Camp. How well you perform at school can be an important indicator, so we would like you to provide a summary of information related to your academic performance (under academic we include creative arts and extra-curricular activities). This may include:

  1. (a) Information about your current school – name, size and a brief description
  2. (b) The classes you are in and approximately where you rank in that class
  3. (c) Your results in any of the state-wide or national competitions
  4. (d) Any other achievement that might be relevant, eg debating team, drama productions.
(C) School support statement (desirable but not mandatory)
  1. The camp management values the input of school teachers who have specific knowledge of their students and we trust a teacher’s judgement that the applicant has the qualities that will allow him/her to benefit from the Camp. We are also aware that many campers (eg those doing home-schooling) do not apply through a school, so we cannot make a supporting note from a school obligatory.
  2. We ask that a supporting teacher emails us a short note of support for the applicant at [email protected]. If a number of students from the same school are applying, it would be economical of the teacher’s time if the one letter covered all of the applicants.

(D) Please forward the following contact information:

  1. (a) Your details: full name, contact phone number, postal address, email address and gender
  2. (b) Contact details for a parent/guardian: name, postal address, contact phone number and email address
  3. (c) Your school details: name of the school, postal address, phone number

When you are ready to send your application

1.Email your application (ie the, ‘Why I want to come to the Camp’ essay and the ‘Academic Performance’ summary) to us ([email protected]). We will be sending you emails from time to time in the period before the Camp so if your application is being sent from a computer that you don’t generally use, please include your preferred email address in the text of your email. When we receive your application we will send you an email acknowledging its receipt. If you don’t get this within a week please contact us.

2. It is important that you name the attached documents so that we are able to find them among the 450-odd documents from other applicants, so ensure that your own surname is in the document. The subject of the email must be your name as shown in the document.

[email protected]


What happens after my application has been received?

1. All applications will be assessed in the order that they are received.

2. If the Camp Management forms the view that the applicant does have the qualities that will allow him/her to benefit from the Camp, the application will be accepted and an Application Acceptance Email will be sent.

3. If insufficient information has been provided or if the Camp Management believes that the applicant has not presented him/her self as well as he/she could have, an email will be sent suggesting that the applicant may like to resubmit the application which then goes to the back of the queue.

4. If, on the basis of the information provided or the manner of presentation, the Camp Management believes that the applicant is unlikely to benefit from the Camp, an email will be promptly sent notifying the rejection of the application.



What happens after my application has been accepted?

1. Attached to your Acceptance Email will be a link to a form that we will use to collect all of the information that we need to have to run the Camp (personal details, medical details, travel details, etc). Please enter all of the required information without delay your information will be submitted when you finish the form.

2. Please send the payment of the Camp fees within fourteen (14) days of the dispatch of the Acceptance Email. Your place at the Camp will be held for this period. If this proves difficult, please contact Ms Alice Hudson to discuss available options ([email protected] or (02) 6776 5800). Payment options include sending payment by cheque or paying by credit card.

3. An information package is sent to all successful applicants closer to the camp. As the camp requires a minimum number of attendees to run, we recommend that all campers hold off booking any travel arrangements until we notify all successful campers that we have sufficient numbers for the camp to proceed.

 

Information for students

It was a quiet midweek morning at the Westpac Bank Armidale, when two males wearing balaclavas and brandishing pistols, thrust a note at the teller demanding cash. The terrified Julie Macdonald emptied her cash tray into a bag and handed it over. One of the thieves stepped back onto a chocolate ice cream dropped by the child of a customer, swore in a Scottish accent and retreated through the doorway. As he sprinted around the corner to the get-away car, the tall, freckled-faced thief collided with a shopper and in his haste didn’t realise that he had dropped his gun and balaclava. A stray German shepherd dog was killed instantly by the speeding get away car. Plastic fragments from the shattered headlight protector were later collected from the road by Scene of Crime Officers.

An event like this could be the starting point for you and three other able students at the Talented Students’ Forensic Science Camp. You and your three colleagues will be cast in the role of detectives. The four of you together make up a Crime Task Force which has been formed for the purpose of solving this crime. You will have no direct access to the scene of the crime or to witnesses, but by using an email link to the Crime Operations Centre you will have access to all of the resources of the national police forces.

You will be able to:
• direct Scene of Crime Officers (SOCOs) to examine the crime scene
• ask detectives or uniformed police to search premises
• ask detectives or uniformed police to interview witnesses or suspects •view Autopsy Reports from the Office of the Coroner
• apply to a magistrate for warrants to search premises or to arrest a suspect

You will have direct access to the Criminal Database and you will have free use of the Forensic Laboratories where you can carry out tests on items of physical evidence (fingerprints, blood, weapons, bullets, tool marks, documents etc) that may emerge from the searches that you requested.

An essential aspect of the Camp is that at no time will you be given or receive formal instruction. Everything you need to know about cryptology, blood typing, chromatography, soil analyses, fibre analysis, ultra-violet analysis of inks and soil, ballistics, computer operation or finger print analysis is set out in a book, the Forensic Manual, that was written specifically for the Camp. The Manual will also explain aspects of Law that pertain to the rights of Police, witnesses and suspects and you will be obliged to abide by the Law throughout your investigation. Evidence gained unlawfully is not admissible in court. The work involved in setting up the camp is prodigious.

 

Five crime scenarios are created, for each Camp. This means that four CTFs will work in parallel (and independently) on each scenario. The creators of the crime scenarios are campers from last year’s Camp. We call them “Controllers”. A Controller may live anywhere in Australia and each scenario is developed by Controller pair. They have been working on their scenario for nine months and they have been trained by a Controller Manager who was a Controller at last year’s Camp. As well as creating the ideas that make up the scenario, the Controllers have to collect all of the items of physical evidence (photographs, fibres, blood stained clothing, shoe prints, shoes, soil samples, documents, broken headlight covers, ink samples, fountain pens, letters) that are related to the scenario.


All of these items of physical evidence are real. The fingerprints are real, the fibres, soil, footprints, blood, inks, bullets are all real. You will be wise if you rehearse laboratory skills before attempting to work on the evidence from the scene of the crime. If your laboratory technique is not up to scratch, vital evidence could be irretrievably lost. Just as in real life, there can be no replacement of damaged evidence.

Let’s return to the Westpac Bank robbery. On the first day of the Camp your CTF will receive a parcel of material from Sergeant McKidd, who responded to a phone call from the bank manager and attended the scene of the crime.
This parcel may include:
• a brief report describing the events that had occurred at the Bank, based on information provided by witnesses.
• a list of individuals who were inside and outside the Bank and their contact information.
• the note that the robbers had handed the bank teller.

What your CTF does from this point is entirely up to the four detectives in your CTF. Remember that you have all of the resources of the nation’s police forces at your disposal but your greatest asset is your collective intelligence and imagination. Not all of the Camp is hard work, however.

When the groups are not solving crimes, there are recreational activities in the morning and at lunchtime, making use of The Armidale School’s gymnasium, as well as large sporting fields. In the evenings, activities are held varying from games and theatre sports and trivia nights. After the crimes have wound to a close on Friday, the ‘detectives’ come together as a whole to form a legal team, which must prepare a case to be presented to an officer at a Committal Presentation. They then have Friday afternoon to prepare their case before presenting it in the courtroom on Saturday.

Once the Officer has delivered, if there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial, the Forensic Science Camp has come to an end, and the Campers are free to return to the real world…or are they?

 

 

Information for Parents

The Talented Students’ Forensic Science Camp has proved to be a powerful stimulus for setting able minds on fire. It would be wrong to think of it as entertainment to pander to the current forensic science craze. It employs the inherent interest in all of us to solve a ‘whodunit’ as a motivator, but it is much more than a simple whodunit.

Campers at Forensic Science Camp

Davis & Rimm (1989) stated that the goals of educational programs for gifted & talented students should be:

“to assist students in becoming individuals who are able to take self-initiated action. . . . . . and who are capable of intelligent choice, independent learning and problem-solving.

To develop problem-solving abilities and creative thinking skills; develop research skills; strengthen individual interests; develop independent study skills; strengthen communication skills; receive intellectual stimulation from contact with other highly motivated students; and expand their learning activities to include resources available.”

G A Davis and S B Rimm (1989). Education of the Gifted and Talented. Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon.

If Davis and Rimm had the opportunity to assess the Forensic Camp’s compliance with their goals they would give it 10 out of 10. It meets all of them.

Underlying the camp’s design is our conviction that most children have depths rarely exposed by traditional methods of education. One of our aims is to create in the students a need to overcome the difficulties of working together and to focus cooperatively on a common task, a need to do the job well.

A forensic science theme was chosen because of the inherent interest in solving a “whodunit”. Who can resist one? But the forensic focus has a number of other advantages:

•Forensic science encompasses a wide range of laboratory techniques, many of which are within the capacity of year 8 students.

•Students can clearly see that, in a forensic context, the laboratory techniques are a means to an end not an end in themselves. In normal school science, students often form the contrary view.

•Working toward the solution of a complex crime scenario involves many more ‘scientific skills’ than those encompassed by laboratory tests alone. Deductive reasoning is vital and the ‘intuitive leap’ or guess, has an important role. The discipline imposed on each group is the requirement, that in order to be awarded a warrant to arrest a suspect, they would have to convince a ‘magistrate’ that their case was sufficiently strong to justify the invasion of an individual’s privacy. The second discipline is that at the end of the Camp the campers must argue their case in a court trial where all of the evidence they have gathered will be presented in an attempt to obtain a conviction. Thus the Forensic Camp mirrors the scientific process in that there is no correct answer. The best answer is the one that is best supported by the evidence and that the only judge of that is a body of peers.

•The involvement of sources of evidence apart from the laboratory test results (such as interviews with witnesses and criminal associates or information from a criminal database) provides another dimension to the problem-solving exercise and enhances the atmosphere of reality. It also introduces other sets of skills that need to be mastered.

In summary the Forensic Camp operates like this:

1.Before arriving at the camp students receive their Forensic Manual via email. This contains everything they need to know about laboratory procedures, the use of the computers, databases and the Law for the final committal presentation.

2.Students are assigned in groups (of three to four) to a Crime Task Force (CTF).

3. CTFs are assigned a work space (“Detectives’ office”) in “Police Headquarters”.

4. Each CTF receives a package which contains a report from the police officer who attended the scene of the crime. With the report could be records of interview, photographs and some items of physical evidence.

 

5. What the group does from this point is entirely up to its members. They are cast in the role of detectives but they cannot leave police headquarters. Their sole contact with the outside world is via email and evidence from the Crime Operations Centre. Through the Centre they have access to ‘all of the resources of the national police force’. They can request interviews, premises searches, vehicle registration checks. They have their own direct access to a large computer database of criminal record and to the laboratories. If they act appropriately, they will receive items of physical evidence from the Crime Operations Centre and eventually they will thread their path through the ‘red herrings’ and construct a case. The Crime Operations Centre is manned by the year 9 and 10 students who designed the scenarios and compiled the reports, database and items of physical evidence. This group, called Controllers, represents the other dimension of the Forensic Camp. They perform a role that extends over nine months and culminates in 5 days of intense interaction with the camper groups. Many of the requests and questions they get are anticipated and responses are prepared, but just as often they have to respond to issues that they haven’t conceived of and their responses must be consistent with the whole scenario. To see these Controller groups in action is something to behold. Few adults could perform their role more professionally.

The duration of the Forensic Camp is important. It could not be any shorter and would serve no useful purpose if it were longer. During the days that are spent actually solving the crime all groups seem to go through the same three-phase metamorphosis.

 

Phase 1 – Unfocused Activity

• Individuals of the group are uneasy with one another, their contact with one another is social not intellectual

• Problem solving is unfocused, methods erratic, uncooperative.

• The computer is seen as the ‘source of wisdom’ – ill-considered questions are fired at the operations centre and database searching is random

• Laboratory work is superfluous and laboratory tests are performed on evidence without rehearsing the skill, this leads to corruption of physical evidence.

Phase 2 – Frustration

• Frequent disruption within the group, sometimes leading to fragmentation ie subgroups and individuals go their own way working on their own hypotheses.

• Much chasing of ‘red herrings’ due to guessing without confirmation by evidence.

• Much duplication of effort

• Frustration is universal

 Phase 3 – Resolution

• Individuals realise that the task is impossible by themselves, groups reform and become task orientated

• Cooperation is high and individuals specialise in carrying out specific laboratory tests but group makes decisions together.

• In the laboratory, instructions are read carefully, techniques rehearsed to develop skill, then they are applied to the evidence.

• Questions and requests to the operations centre are carefully thought out and consequently elicit more useful responses

• Conclusions are based on cooperative group discussion

So far, over many camps, not one group has ever ‘tossed in the towel’ during the frustration phase. This is a testimony to the atmosphere of reality that the Forensic Camp creates. The students believe that it is a job worth doing and worth doing well.

Frequently asked questions

Where is the Camp held?

The Armidale School’s Forensic Science Camp is held at The Armidale School campus in Armidale NSW, 550km north of Sydney and 500km south of Brisbane on the New England Highway.

When is the Camp on?

The 2024 Camp starts with registration from 12 pm – 2 pm on Tuesday, 9 July 2023 and finishes at approximately 12 pm on Saturday, 13 July 2024.

What does it cost?

$880, which covers full board and the entire Camp program. NO EXTRA MONEY OR FOOD WILL BE REQUIRED by students, the Camp will provide everything that is needed.

No payment is required until your application has been accepted and our minimum numbers for the camp to proceed have been met. Successful campers will be advised when payment is required. It is also advised that travel plans are not paid for until this time also.

Where will Students be accommodated?

Campers will stay in the residential boarding houses at The Armidale School. Males and females will be accommodated in separate boarding houses, with appropriate adult supervision from Camp staff. The camp also gives students a fantastic opportunity to have a residential, “boarding school” experience.

When is the closing date for applications?

Applications will be received and evaluated until the spaces at the Camp are all taken up. When the Camp is full, a notice will be posted on this website.

Who runs the Forensic Science Camp at Armidale?

A number of Year 9 and 10 students from The Armidale School are the driving force of the Camp with the assistance of Ms Alice Hudson, FSC Coordinator.

What level of adult supervision is there?

The camp is essentially run by a group of school students (the Student Management Team). A part of their organisational role is to ensure that there is adult supervision in areas where this is appropriate or essential, eg, especially in the laboratories and in the boarding houses at night. All adult Camp staff are screened for suitability by the Camp Manager, Ms Alice Hudson, and have completed appropriate child protection declarations.

Who is the Camp for?

The Camp is designed for talented and motivated science students who are in Year 8. It is up to each school to determine whether their students have the qualities that will allow them to benefit from the Camp.

What will participants achieve?

Children who demonstrate interest and ability in learning will benefit greatly from the extension that this Camp will provide. The focus of the Camp is complex problem-solving with a forensic science theme. This area lends itself well to both the acquisition of specific scientific techniques and skills and opportunities for real-world problem-solving. In addition, the residential nature of the Camp, together with an organised recreational program, provides an excellent social context.

What will happen at the Camp?

Participants will be fully supervised. Each day will feature a carefully planned mixture of academic and recreational programs. In small groups, students will work together to solve a ‘crime’, learning a variety of skills such as microscopy, chromatography, database searching, fingerprint analysis, cryptography, and collaborative problem-solving.

The goal of each group is to solve the crime, and then use the evidence they have collected to prosecute the criminal in a committal presentation on Saturday, which is open to parents and members of the public.

At least 2 hours of each day is spent ‘resting the brain’ with a recreation program that includes the use of a gymnasium, other sporting facilities, and large open spaces. In addition, the evenings will include activities such as theatre sports, trivia night, games and films.

How do I apply?

Go to the “How To Apply” section above. All applications must be sent via email in the manner described on this website. Paper-based applications will not be processed. Please ensure that you check your email regularly after sending your application. You should expect to hear from us within a week of sending through your application.

How is transport organised?

Transport to Armidale is the sole responsibility of the camper. We will meet all trains, planes and buses in Armidale, and ensure that connections are not missed when returning home. To do this, we must have travel details for any student travelling by train, plane or bus.

What do you need to bring?

Campers need to bring clothing, a pillow, a sleeping bag or doona, a towel and toiletries. They also need to bring clothes suitable to play sports (swimmers are optional) and clothes suitable for the final Committal Presentation. The Camp is held during the Armidale winter, which can be very cold, so students are advised to bring warm clothing.

We understand that students may wish to bring a mobile phone &/or electronic devices to camp, however, we require that they do not use them between 8 am and 5 pm as it distracts them from the purpose of the camp. The school takes no liability for any equipment brought on-site.

The Committal Presentation

An important facet of the TAS Forensic Science Camp is the committal presentation that presents evidence to send alleged criminals from the crime scenarios to trial. The committal presentation will take place on the last day of the Camp. The role of the judge is played by a legal professional. The committal presentation will begin at 9 am on Saturday at Memorial Hall.

Lunch for family and friends after the Committal Presentations

Campers’ families, friends and the general public are invited to join the campers and camp managers for a sit-down hot lunch at the end of the camp. Lunch tickets are included with the camp fees. You can RSVP by emailing [email protected]

 

Travel and Contacts

Armidale is a city of 25,000 people located on the New England Tablelands in Northern NSW, midway between Sydney and Brisbane. Driving along the New England Highway, the distance from Sydney is around 550km.

Since the 1800s Armidale has been a city of schools and churches, with two impressive cathedrals (Catholic and Anglican), a university (The University of New England), two public high schools, a catholic high school and three independent schools. Armidale’s altitude of 1000 metres ensures its summers are cooler than most parts of Australia, while its winters are bracing. The camp will be held in Autumn, one of the most beautiful times of the year in the picturesque New England.


Transport Links

Armidale is well served by air, bus and train. Campers attending the Forensic Science Camp by any of these methods of transport will be met on arrival, and seen off when they depart by an adult staff member. For this reason, it is essential that you keep the Camp organisers up to date with your travel arrangements. As the camp requires a minimum number of participants to go ahead, we recommend that all successful applicants hold off booking and paying for transport until we advise that we have sufficient numbers for the camp to go ahead.

 

 

Bus
There are several bus companies servicing the Armidale region from north, east and south.

Air
Armidale is served by several QantasLink and REX flights each day from Sydney, some of which may be appropriate for students attending the Camp. We will meet all flights into Armidale provided the Private Transport Form is returned prior to the camp.

Visit www.qantas.com or for more information.

Armidale is also served by Link Airways flights from Brisbane a few times per day.

Rail

CountryLink trains move between Sydney and Armidale daily, and stop at major stations between Sydney and Armidale. This service departs Sydney Central at 10am, arriving in Armidale around 6pm; with a 9am departure and 5pm arrival on return. These times DO NOT fit in well with the timings for the Forensic Science Camp and thus should only be used as a last resort. Campers will not miss out on anything of importance if they arrive on the train on the Tuesday, however, leaving early on the Saturday is much more difficult as they miss out on the final court case.

Visit www.countrylink.info for more information.

 

 

Forensic Science Team 

Ms Alice Hudson (FSC Coordinator)
Dr Charlotte Mack (FSC Coordinator)
Mr David Moffitt ( Head of Science)

Please send all email correspondence (including applications) to: [email protected]

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