For aspiring crime scene investigators, a personal tour of the FBI is what dreams are made of.
It became reality for area youth from West Virginia University’s Next Generation Forensic Science Initiative this spring. Thirteen middle and high school students toured the FBI’s Biometric Center of Excellence in Clarksburg, West Virginia, experiencing the power of biometrics in criminal and civil law matters first-hand.
“Inviting the class to tour the Biometric Center of Excellence and have a look at the FBI application of biometrics was an opportunity to invest in the future of biometrics,” said William McKinsey, chief of the FBI’s Biometric Services Section. “As part of our partnership with WVU, we are always looking to advance our development and usage of applied science and technological capabilities. The students of today are the developers and investigators of tomorrow.”
While on tour, the students participated in demonstrations of fingerprinting, facial recognition and iris identification through the Next Generation Identification system, the inspiration behind the initiative’s name.
“The national fingerprint and palm print database was the most interesting part of the FBI tour,” said Koa Clark, a rising eighth grader at Mountaineer Middle School aspiring to join the FBI. “We used some of the technology that FBI agents use to gather fingerprints as evidence. Hundreds of thousands of fingerprints are processed every year at the center, and the technology keeps improving.”
The students also interacted with the latest mobile forensic technology and watched demonstrations by an explosives-detecting K9 and his handler.
“My favorite memory from the FBI tour was learning how the explosive dogs were trained,” said Carmela Lily, a rising freshman at Notre Dame High School. “I was surprised the most by how the facial recognition software doesn’t compare features but instead uses measurements of the face to get results. I also thought it was cool that because of the measurements, the software doesn’t use gender or race.”
An avid fan of shows like NCIS, Forensic Files and 20/20, Madison Alix solves cases alongside her favorite TV detectives. A rising freshman at East Fairmont High School, she hopes to work in firearm identification.
“My favorite memory from the tour was meeting the people involved in improving the way law enforcement agencies solve crimes, and, of course Boodles, the FBI’s bomb sniffing dog,” Alix said. “What surprised me the most during the tour was how much technology has improved in just the past few years with fingerprinting, retinal scanning and background checks.”
The Next Generation Forensic Science Initiative provides outreach opportunities in forensic science to professionals, students and educators across West Virginia. For more information about the programs offered by WVU’s Next Generation Forensic Science initiative, visit nexgenforensics.wvu.edu.