On Saturday, 12 middle school students put aside any Valentine's Day plans to solve a horrific crime: Theodore M. Banannas, the star monkey of the Happy Dappy Circus, was stolen! Possible suspects: Bob the Builder, Papa John and Cat the veterinarian.

The students used fingerprints and powders found at the scene of the crime to reveal that Papa John was guilty.

This forensic science activity – led by Mandy Richer, a sophomore; Jon Williams, a sophomore; Moon Shik Woo, a first-year; and Clara Sears, a first-year – was just one event that was part of this year's regional Science Olympiad tournament.

Eight middle schools and eight high schools from northern Indiana participated. The students participated in 38 different events related to physics, biology and chemistry.

The format of the tournament is modeled after the Olympics. The participating schools each create a team of 15 students who compete in the events.

The schools first compete in the regional tournament for a chance to advance to the state and national competitions.

Three middle school teams and three high school teams from each region will advance to the state tournament. Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis will host the state tournament on March 28. A wild card tournament for the teams in fourth place will be held on March 14 at Ivy Tech in Lafayette. The national tournament will be held on May 15 and 16 at Augusta State University in Georgia.

"This is an opportunity for academically-talented persons in the sciences to show their stuff and have fun in their chosen fields of interest," said Dan Smith, professor of chemistry. "My guess is that many of the students helping me organize the event learned more than the students participating in the event." Smith organized two forensics events.

The high schools from the northern Indiana region advancing to the state tournament are: Riley High School (first place); Northridge High School (second place); and La Lumiere High School (third place).

The middle schools that advanced are: Stanley Clark Middle School (first place); Northridge Middle School (second place); and Manchester Jr. High (third place).