By Marty Finley
Grills, stereos, alcohol and footballs were in fans’ hands as tailgating began last Saturday. But for one certain group, football and hotdogs were not on the day’s agenda. A trio of female students, led by senior Cynthia Carter, moved in close to a red Jeep parked at the end of one of Alumni’s lower rows, pushing down on the driver’s side door handle to see if the door would open. Freshman Alyssa McNabb pointed out the peculiarity of the situation. “(People) are looking and going, ‘Do you think they’re trying to break into that guy’s car?'” she said.
There was no robbery at hand, but rather the Vehicle Carpet Fiber Database Project, which was led by Eastern’s Forensic Science Club.
With tools and envelopes in hand, club members flanked the Alumni Coliseum parking lot looking for people willing to let them take a peek at their floorboards and trunks and retrieve small cuts of fiber.
The goal was to assist in helping the FBI build a database containing multiple types of fibers in an effort to prevent crimes, Carter said.
The club broke off into three groups with 30-minute intervals allotted for collecting samples before the group reconvened at its booth to change sample areas.
Less than an hour in, Carter said they were off to a good start. Her group, rounded out by McNabb and senior Erin Strickland, had collected five or six samples, while another group had successfully collected eight.
As the club approached Colonel fans, they seemed initially to be shocked, but they soon became curious.
“If you’re fearless, go for it,” said tailgater Sandra Owens of her Pontiac Grand Prix.
Owens said the idea of an Eastern club working alongside the FBI excites her.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. The more hands-on they can do, the better.”
Owens’ friend Jackie Frost joked about the condition of her vehicle as well.
“It’s dirty,” she told Carter as she opened her trunk. “I hope you can get through the dirt.”
The group initially met with trucks and Jeeps, which made it nearly impossible to lift trunk fibers, so the sight of Frost’s trunk intrigued Carter as she took out her small set of scissors and snipped one-inch sections of carpeting.
The jokes continued from tailgaters as the group moved through the parking lot, with some telling the club they need to remove their dead bodies or drug stash before they enter the vehicles.
“There’s no telling what you’ll find,” said Joe Blankenship to Carter’s group as they moved toward his vehicle. ” I hope you don’t catch nothing.”
William Jennings, chief circuit judge for Clark and Madison counties, joked the FBI was the wrong group to be looking at his car.
“They’re gonna send those (samples) straight to the Smithsonian rather than the FBI because of the age of my car,” he said.
No vehicles were safe from the project as Carter’s group even approached a Winnebago owner. With a simple nod of the owner’s finger, the group was inside trying to decide which section would be the best to sample.
Keith Kuhn, an Eastern alum, said he is glad to see projects like this at Eastern now, and is even a little envious.
“I wish we had something like that when I was here in school,” he said.
As the day ended, Carter said she was pleased with the cooperation of the tailgating community.
“I think we did (well). People were very helpful and very friendly,” she said.
The group estimated they gathered 70 samples and Carter said they plan to do the project again.
“I think it’s well worth it,” she said.