The University of Southampton

Murder mystery event returns for National Science and Engineering Week

Published: 7 March 2011

An innovative event devised for National Science and Engineering Week will involve children and their parents in solving a dramatic murder-mystery, using scientific clues in university labs.

'Blood on the Stage Door' takes place this Saturday, 12 March, at the University of Southampton as part of the University’s award-winning Science and Engineering Day.

The family-orientated event has been designed by University researcher Dr Reena Pau, an ECS graduate, in collaboration with the Nuffield Theatre. During the event, families will solve a fictitious (and ridiculous) crime, completing a case-book of clues by visiting research labs and facilities across the Highfield campus. Scientific techniques involved include x-rays, analysis of sound, UAV lights, GPS, and transport modelling.

The trail will be framed at beginning and end by actors from the Nuffield Theatre who set the scene for the crime, and then provide an analysis of the events at the end.

Each of the children taking part will be able to conduct a number of small experiments based on current University research in order to complete their casebook and report back to a staged ‘debrief’. The ‘murder mystery’ makes a unique contribution to the value of Science and Engineering Day by allowing visitors to see EPSRC-supported research labs and other University facilities not normally open to the public. The clues will be solved by the experiments. For example, the children might use the bone scanning equipment to assess where a crack is in a person’s arm or do a whole body scan to see what particular vegetable they had eaten, or use transport modelling to work out fastest getaway routes from the scene of the crime.

“People really get the value of science as a result of events like this,” said Dr Pau. “We have even seen children change their GCSE options because they understand the value of science demonstrated in this way. Kids really like it and we get a lot of audience participation; even the parents end up getting really involved.”

This is the third year that the University of Southampton has run a murder-mystery event at Science and Engineering Day. In 2009 the University was awarded ‘Best Engineering Event’ by the British Science Association for the family-oriented Science and Engineering Day, which is held on the first Saturday of National Science and Engineering Week on the Highfield campus. The ‘murder-mystery’ science trail continues to be a high-profile and extraordinarily popular component of this day, which is free and runs from 10am to 4.30pm. The murder mystery us funded by the EPSRC’s Pathways to Impact Fund.

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