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CSI: Gwynedd Mercy Academy

Gwynedd Mercy Academy students spend a day learning the ins and outs of forensic science, courtesy of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department and the county detectives

Students from the Gwynedd Mercy Academy found themselves submerged in the fascinating world of forensic science on Wednesday, as specialized forensic teams from the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department and Montgomery County District Attorney's Office put on several displays highlighting how law enforcement uses technology to solve crimes.

"The science department decided that since there's so much interest in crime scene investigations, they would reach out to local and county law enforcement and see if they would be willing to make a presentation," said Sister Patricia Flynn, principal of Gwynedd Mercy Academy. "One of the advantages of today's program is that the students get to see real-world applications of their studies, which is incredibly important."

The day began with a presentation titled "Dead Bodies Do Speak", in which Lieutenant Richard Nilson―who serves as the commander of the Forensic Services Unit―narrated a slideshow of old crime scene footage.

Afterwards, the school's three science labs were converted into various displays of forensic precision.

In the biology lab, Lieutenant Nilson and Detective Ed Schikel demonstrated how law enforcement uses a measurement spectrum to digitally record crime scenes.

Across the hall in the chemistry lab, Deputy Edward Mesunas, Deputy John Cagliola and Deputy Ric Miles demonstrated how the county bomb squad uses robots to detect and defuse bombs.

Students in the physics lab were treated to a motor-vehicle accident simulation by Detective Rob Turner and Detective David Schanes, which eventually extended outside to an adjacent parking lot where the students were able to measure freshly-laid rubber in an effort to try to determine speed.

In addition to the presentations, a crime scene truck from the D.A.'s office was on hand as Detective Albert Dinnell explained how its features and equipment worked. Sheriff Eileen Behr was also there to observe the presentations and to answer questions presented by the students and faculty.

By the day's end, students had received a crash course in forensic science, and both the faculty and law enforcement officials hoped their hard work might inspire the next generation of crime fighters.

"It's really meticulous and detailed work, but I think the students that may have already had an inclination towards those fields may decide to pursue a career in forensic science as a result of today's presentations," said Flynn.

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