Science Detectives Challenge

  • What's it about?

    Our popular CSI-style Challenge for secondary schools uses an exciting combination of forensic observation, analytical chemistry, social media analysis and suspect profiling to unravel the clues to solve a crime scene scenario. This exciting competition maximises the opportunity for forensic science-related STEM learning. The 2020 Challenge is called 'Death among the fossils.'

    Eligible school year groups: Years 8-10

    Entries accepted from: Teams of 3-5 students

    Open to: Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire Authority Schools, Academies and Private Schools within the circulation area of the Loughborough Echo or who are members of the Loughborough Learning Alliance. Schools may submit a maximum of 3 teams for this Challenge. Teams may be mixed age if desired.

    Participating teams will visit 3M's offices and Research & Development laboratories to investigate three specific areas of a Crime Scene which they will be required to document, photograph and take samples for further analysis. They will then rotate around laboratory activities where they will receive supervised guidance on conducting a number of analytical techniques on evidence found at the scene. Further evidence and information will be provided during the visit for analysis back at school.

  • British Science Association CREST Awards

    CREST Bronze Awards

    3M will pay for all entries to be submitted for a British Science Association CREST Bronze Award. See our Terms and Conditions. Please indicate your consent on the Entry Form.

Important Dates

Closing date for entries: 22 January 2020. Visits to 3M for Crime Scene and Laboratory activities: 28 and 29 January 2020, individual times to be confirmed.

Judging: 18 and 19 May 2020 at 3M, Charnwood Campus, 10 Bakewell Road, Loughborough, LE11 5RB. Please indicate your preferred date/time on the entry form.


All entries will be screened to ensure they meet the entry criteria. Teams, accompanied by their teacher, will be asked to develop and present to the judging panel:

1) A short Crime Scene Report
2) A Lab Analysis Report
3) A Poster summarising the conclusions and inferences drawn from their investigation

The judges will ask questions of the team about their thought processes, forensic and analytical observations. The poster can be any size and format, and exhibition panels will be provided to display the above materials.

Mark Scheme
Up to 20 marks for the Crime Scene Report
Up to 20 marks for the Lab Analysis Report
Up to 20 marks for the Poster of conclusions and inferences
Up to 20 marks for verbal presentation of materials
Up to 20 marks for response to judges’ questions
Total marks available = 100

The students’ year group(s) will be taken into account when awarding marks.

Up to 4 finalists will be invited to attend the Young Innovators Challenge presentation evening at Charnwood Campus on 19 June 2020, where their posters and presentation materials will be displayed, and the winner will be announced.


£750 of scientific laboratory equipment for school use plus a £50 gift voucher for the winning individual or team member. All finalists and their schools will receive a framed certificate.

All entrants will receive a certificate of entry and personalised feedback from the judges.

Curriculum links

Links to Science Curriculum (England)

Key stage 3

Scientific attitudes; pupils should be taught to:

  • pay attention to objectivity and concern for accuracy, precision, repeatability and reproducibility
  • understand that scientific methods and theories develop as earlier explanations are modified to take account of new evidence and ideas, together with the importance of publishing results and peer review

  • Experimental skills and investigations; pupils should be taught to:

  • ask questions and develop a line of enquiry based on observations of the real world, alongside prior knowledge and experience
  • make predictions using scientific knowledge and understanding
  • select, plan and carry out the most appropriate types of scientific enquiries to test predictions, including identifying independent, dependent and control variables
  • use appropriate techniques, apparatus, and materials during fieldwork and laboratory work, paying attention to health and safety
  • make and record observations and measurements using a range of methods for different investigations; and evaluate the reliability of methods and suggest possible improvements
  • apply sampling techniques

  • Analysis and evaluation; through the content, pupils should be taught to:

  • apply mathematical concepts and calculate results
  • present observations and data using appropriate methods, including tables and graphs
  • interpret observations and data, including identifying patterns and using observations, measurements and data to draw conclusions
  • present reasoned explanations, including explaining data in relation to predictions and hypotheses
  • evaluate data, showing awareness of potential sources of random and systematic error
  • identify further questions arising from their results

  • Key stage 3 Chemistry

    Pure and impure substances

  • the concept of a pure substance
  • mixtures, including dissolving
  • diffusion in terms of the particle model
  • simple techniques for separating mixtures: filtration, evaporation, distillation and chromatography
  • the identification of pure substances

  • Chemical reactions

  • representing chemical reactions using formulae and using equations
  • combustion, thermal decomposition, oxidation and displacement reactions
  • defining acids and alkalis in terms of neutralisation reactions
  • the pH scale for measuring acidity/alkalinity; and indicators
  • reactions of acids with metals to produce a salt plus hydrogen
  • reactions of acids with alkalis to produce a salt plus water
  • what catalysts do

  • Key Stage 4 Chemical analysis

  • distinguishing between pure and impure substances
  • separation techniques for mixtures of substances: filtration, crystallisation, chromatography, simple and fractional distillation
  • quantitative interpretation of balanced equations
  • concentrations of solutions in relation to mass of solute and volume of solvent

  • Important documents to download

    Please make sure you download these important documents for the Science Detectives Challenge. Please save the entry form to your device and send as a file attachment to younginnovators@mmm.com.

    If you have any questions, please Get in Touch.
    Please see our Terms and Conditions.


    • Sam Holmes

      Sam Holmes is a Marketed Product Support Group Leader in the Analytical Research and Development department at 3M. She graduated from York University in 2003 with a Chemistry degree and subsequently completed a Masters in Forensic Science. Sam enjoyed mentoring a group of students taking part in the 3M Work Experience Week in 2019 and is looking forward to being a judge again for the Science Detectives Challenge. Sam lives in East Leake with her partner and six year old daughter.

    • Dr Martin Arrowsmith

      Dr Martin Arrowsmith

      Dr Martin Arrowsmith is a medical device consultant with over forty years' experience in healthcare science. Following completion of his research into novel drug delivery systems at Nottingham University, Martin investigated the physical chemistry of new drugs before joining 3M in pharmaceutical development. He later transitioned to support 3M's UK and European wound care and infection control business. During his 33 years with the company, Martin mentored many new recruits and is looking forward to judging the Science Detectives Challenge again.

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