iCAP students were involved in a project called VWCSI. On launch day, students walked into a “crime scene” in which chemicals were stolen from the iCAP chemical closet. In the scene there were several chemicals left behind as some sort of accident happened while the perpetrators were planning their getaway. Students were led by guest speaker and VWPD Detective Joe Motycka to start their initial examination of the crime scene. Through the guidance of Detective Motycka, the students were allowed to brainstorm what next steps they could use to start reconstructing the crime. From that day forward students focused on four main sections of the project dealing with Algebra and Physical Science to determine what chemicals were left behind, what those chemicals could be used for, what sort of street value they commanded, and possible identification of the culprit(s). In the first section, students made the correlation from “footprints” left at the crime scene to project the possible height of the suspects addressing the Algebra standards of:
• Linear Functions
• Slope Intercept, Standard, and Point-Slope Forms of Functions
• Graphing Linear Functions to Determine Slope that Relates Two Variables
Students collected class data over shoe size and height to establish a linear function that they used to determine the potential height of the suspect. Students were then given a list of possible people in the building during the crime and they began to collect data from anyone on the suspect list to see if they met the function parameters established by the Algebra standards. Students used that data to start trimming their suspect list down.
In the second section, students explored chemical bonding as well as physical and chemical properties to begin exploring what chemicals were actually left behind at the crime scene. Students focused on key Physical Science Standards such as:
• Electron Dot Diagrams
• Ionic vs. Covalent Bonding
• Lewis Dot Structures of Compounds
• Physical and Chemical Properties of Matter
From the Science standards students analyzed a chemical inventory list of any chemicals that were left depleted after the crime had occurred. From their original list of 20 chemicals, students began to eliminate chemicals that were not in question by cross referencing the chemicals left at the scene to the inventory list they were given.
In the third section, students again focused on trimming down the original suspect list even further through more Algebra standards. Students were given an updated memo from the VWPD of information not previously available that not only revisited the function of shoe size to height, but also the stride length of a suspect to height as well. Students then analyzed both functions using the Algebra standards of:
• Linear Systems of Equations
• Describing when Systems have one Solution, no Solution, or Infinite Solutions
Students were able to relate both functions from the VWPD memo to provide an updated list of suspects still in question for the crime.
Finally, in the last leg of the project, students took on the role of forensic scientists to begin developing a set of procedures using the steps of the scientific method to positively identify the chemicals from the crime scene. Through workshops and great laboratory experiments, students were able to use two physical and chemical properties to identify both crime scene chemicals. The Physical Science standards addressed were:
• Physical vs. Chemical Changes
• Describing Chemical Reactions
• Balancing Chemical Equations
• Development of Experimental Procedures Using the Steps of the Scientific Method
Once the chemicals were positively identified through methodology students created, they then determined a motive based on what the chemicals could be used for and what value they have on the street. From this information, students interviewed anyone still on the suspect list and presented their findings of the possible culprit(s) in a formal presentation that related each section of the project together through an investigation log kept for the duration of the project.