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Super Sleuths

Given a mystery scenario, evidence, and a list of possible suspects, teams will be expected to perform a series of tests to solve the crime. 

Division: A- Elementary

NC Essential Standards Alignment: 3.P.2, 4.P.2, Science as Inquiry

Event Rules: See 2024 Division A Rule Manual


Given a mystery scenario, evidence, and a list of possible suspects, teams will be expected to perform a series of tests to draw specific conclusions about the scenario and suspects. The test results along with other evidence will be used to solve the mystery of the scenario.


Teams must bring something to write with.

  1. Teams may bring only specified items and goggles. No other items are allowed. The event supervisors will check the kits, and confiscate non-allowed items. Students not bringing these items will be at a disadvantage. 
    1. Spot plates, cups, or any containers in which teams can perform the tests
    2. Droppers, popsicle sticks, spatulas, plastic spoons, tongs, and/or forceps for handling materials
    3. pH test strips or pH paper
    4. A ruler 
    5. A wash bottle or dropper bottle of distilled water (don’t use tap water for this)
    6. Hand lens (aka magnifying glass) 
    7. Paper towels
    8. A disposable cup for solid waste
    9. Writing instruments
    10. Safety gear – see rule #7.
    11. Each participant may bring one 8.5” x 11” two-sided page of notes containing information in any form from any source.

Students must wear the following or they cannot participate: 

      1. Closed-toed shoes 
      2. Safety goggles (indirect vent goggles)
      3. Long hair must be tied back
      4. Optional: aprons, gloves, and lab coats

Students who unsafely remove their safety goggles or are observed handling any of the material or equipment in a hazardous/unsafe manner (e.g., tasting chemicals or flushing solids down a drain) will be disqualified from the event.


  1. The team with the highest score wins. Time will not be used for scoring. The score will be composed of the following elements (percentages given are approximate):
    1. Analysis of chemical evidence 50%, analysis of physical evidence 30%, and analysis of the crime 20%.
    2. Tiebreaker: The highest score on the chemical evidence analysis will break ties.
    3. A 10% penalty may be given if the area is not cleaned up as designated.


When I went to purchase Sodium Acetate on Amazon, I noticed two options, anhydrous sodium acetate and sodium acetate trihydrate.   Which type might be used in the event?

For most of the tests that the students will be doing, it doesn’t matter which one. Either form will give the same results for the tests that are the most useful for identifying sodium acetate. However, the one that we use for most of our labs is the Sodium Acetate, Anhydrous.

Common Mistakes:

The biggest problem elementary teams have is time management. Be prepared to divide and conquer parts of the test, or you may not get done.

Event Resources:


General Sites on Forensics
Links to forensic activities for studentsPrevious Years Information:

Polymers and Fibers: 
Microscopic Images of Fibers—search for the types of fibers and select the kind of microscopic technique for the image you want.
Animal Hair Images
Hair and Fiber