Sandia LabNews

CSI: Dognapping

Innovative program honored for science outreach

Four hundred fourth-graders from underrepresented schools across New Mexico suited up in lab coats and goggles at Sandia’s Advanced Materials Laboratory to discover that chemistry is a real blast. The CSI: Dognapping outreach program, now in its 11th year, recently received national acclaim from The American Chemical Society, winning The ChemLuminary Award for Outstanding Kids & Chemistry.

The weeklong workshop was designed by Tim Boyle and Bernadette Hernandez-Sanchez, and is run by volunteers from Sandia’s Materials Science and Engineering Center. Students interact with Sandia scientists and engineers, following clues to find the missing chemistry dog. 

The program is geared toward exciting students about careers in STEM.

Tim says, “We learned that fourth grade is when many of these kids start thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.”

Bernadette says, “This national award is a huge accomplishment for Center 1800 and all of the Sandia volunteers. The feedback we get is that these kids go home viewing themselves as junior scientists and playing CSI on the playground.”

CSI classroom
Amanda Cappuccilli, an undergraduate intern with Sandia’s Advanced Materials Lab, garners attention with a chemistry experiment called elephant toothpaste.
CSI kids
Fourth graders from Barcelona Elementary School raise their hands to vote on which suspect they believe may have kidnapped the missing dog.
CSI car
Sandia chemists Tim Boyle and Bernadette Hernandez-Sanchez use creative props to make the science workshop fun and engaging for kids.
CSI kids
Junior scientists examine the evidence at the scene of the CSI: Dognapping crime.
CSI researcher
Program founder Tim Boyle asks the fourth grade students questions to get them actively engaged in the STEM workshop.
CSI smoke
Volunteer Christopher Larsen blows students away during the chemistry magic show at the Advanced Materials Lab.
CSI lab test
Local elementary school students are absorbed in hands-on chemistry work.
CSI guide
Sandia STAR fellow Maddison Casillas shows the fourth graders how to examine their evidence.
CSI dog
The star of this year’s workshop was Sister, a four-year-old Borzoi who played the part of the missing chemistry dog.