Forensics class learns in the Mobile STEM lab: Photo of the Day 5/27/19


Thomas French

Zack Olliges, Elizabeth Gilmore and Joseph Hartung test DNA samples in the mobile lab.

by Thomas French, Reporter

On May 23,  Ms. Jessica Baker’s forensics class took a trip to the school parking lot to visit a mobile science lab. The lab was available to all science teachers during the week of May 19- May 24.

In the forensic wildlife lab, students used electricity to study and identify the species of a shark fin. The two controls were a Great White and a Porbeagle shark. Using an identifying technique called PCR, the students were able to identify which shark fin belonged to the DNA they were given. They separated DNA strands with an agarose gel solution using electrophoresis, to determine the species.

Another forensic activity was to analyze the blood DNA from a break-in scenario.  The lap provided DNA samples and, with centrifuge, compared the DNA of the five suspects to the blood found at the “crime scene.”

Forensics student Elizabeth Gilmore said, “I liked how all the equipment was higher quality.”  

Forensics teacher Jessica Baker said, “I thought it was educational and fun. The presenters were well prepared and knew of modern cases that related to the field of forensics. My students were knowledgeable about the techniques, and it was very cool to see them use the information we learned in class in a real setting. I would highly recommend the mobile lab to other high schools.”

The mobile lab is a large truck that expands when it is parked. The Lab easily fit a classroom of twenty students, and the inside of the lab was full of interesting gear. A large table sat in the middle of the well-lit room, with a smaller table towards the back where the instructor showed what the students would be doing. The lab also had four tables with the labs on them and a TV screen that showed what the instructor was doing, like a projector. 

Ms. Emily Freeman, a representative of Learning Undefeated labs, said, “We are trying to add more engineering and technology labs. We are trying to focus more on STEM related labs to widen our horizon to younger kids in the future.” 

The mobile lab visits 30 to 35 schools every year, depending on their scheduling.  Learning Undefeated, the company that produces the science labs, has two forensic labs, a chemistry lab that focuses on biodiesel and natural fuel sources, a genetics lab dealing with jellyfish DNA, an infection lab that teaches about malaria, and a gene lab that teaches students about sickle cell diseases such as sickle cell anemia and many others.