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College of Science and Mathematics

Enhancing lives through learning, discovery and innovation

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CSI Cal Poly

Girl taking notes at the Summer Learn by Doing labA terrible crime took place in Cal Poly's Learn by Doing Lab this summer: someone stole the candy jars. Luckily, students from Pacheco Elementary School in San Luis Obispo solved the mystery using skills they'd learned during the four-day Learn by Doing Science Summer Camp.

The camp offered hands-on science experience to 31 underrepresented students. The kids learned how to take fingerprints, use physical and chemical properties to identify white powders, and analyze dirt samples. Along the way, they discovered that tap water can conduct electricity, practiced chromatography, and learned to use a microscope, among other skills. 

When the Pacheco students returned from their snack break on the final day, they found the candy jars missing. Working first in teams and then as a larger group, the young sleuths analyzed the clues and correctly identified the culprit as one of the teacher-leaders. Though it turned out that she had been framed and the candy hadn't gone far, the excitement about science was real.

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