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CSI brought to life for teen campers at Penn State Mont Alto

June 19, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

MONT ALTO, Pa. - Crime scene investigation requires not only curiosity, but also an understanding of the sciences and specifically life cycles, 28 teenagers were told Monday on their first day of camp.

"You can determine how long someone's been dead by what type of fly is there," said Deborah Raubenstine, a forensic supervisor with the Baltimore County Police Department.

She went on to describe maggots and pupas on bodies when talking with students participating in the second annual Med Camp based at Penn State Mont Alto.

The first day started with discussion about career options in the forensics field, then featured simulated crime scenes in the afternoon. Middle and high schoolers "investigated" the scenes, bagged evidence, sketched what they saw and reported on their conclusions.

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Today, the teenagers travel to Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center for tours and observations.

"I took this camp to see what I'm interested in. I know I want to do something in the medical field," said Andy Donaldson, a 17-year-old from Fairfield (Pa.) Area High School.

He called it "an inexpensive way to choose what you want to do."

The camp, which is underwritten by The Summit Endowment and The Greater Harrisburg Foundation, cost $50 for the participants.

"If you're not sure what you want to do in the medical field, you should get involved in the program," said Chelsea McKean, 14, of Gettysburg (Pa.) Area High School.

She enjoyed the hands-on experiences of the first day and explained that she learned how to lift fingerprints.

Raubenstine asked questions to prompt critical thinking about the scenes reviewed by students.

"An extremely nosy person makes a good forensics technician," Raubenstine said.

The class asked her questions about what it feels like to see bodies and whether that takes an emotional toll.

"Even if you think you can handle it, you don't truly know until you get out there, see the body and smell the blood," said Raubenstine, whose department receives 6,000 calls for service annually.

The hardest cases are those dealing with infants, she said.

"You have to step away from that and look at it from a purely scientific mind-set. There's no better satisfaction than knowing you put the bad guy away," Raubenstine said.

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