SUSSEX COUNTY-Testing DNA samples to solve a crime, decorating cakes with rosettes, designing t-shirts, and cooking a gourmet brunch: Just another day in the life of a Sussex County Technical School student. But for a group of middle school students, it was school like they've never seen it before. More than 160 middle school students from throughout Sussex County got a sampling of the kinds of classes offered at Sussex Tech at the school's second annual Tech Trek, a half day of workshops representing the school's career shops. Seventh- and eighth-graders, many of whom are looking at possibly attending Sussex Tech for high school, chose three hour-long workshops out of a menu of 22 offerings, to get a feel for the kinds of things offered there. "I'm thinking about coming here, especially if they have meteorology classes, because I want to go into the sciences," said Emily Davidson, a seventh-grader from Green Hills School. Davidson had just finished the Web design workshop n which she chose because her family is "into" computers n and was just settling into the DNA workshop, which she chose because she's fascinated by the way DNA is used to solve crimes. "I'm a big fan of the CSI show," Davidson said. She wasn't alone. When the instructor asked who had seen the show, every hand shot up. Using hospital-quality microscopes and synthetic blood samples, she taught the students how to solve a theoretical crime. In other classrooms, students learned to build an irrigation system, created cartoons, painted nails and braided hair, and made napkin holders out of wood. Students interested in the culinary shop got to choose to spend the entire morning in the kitchen cooking. Each workshop offered hands-on work, something that sets Sussex Tech apart from a traditional high school. "Our message is getting across, that education has to be more than right out of the book," said Eileen Arvary, supervisor of occupational programs, who organized Tech Trek. This year more than twice as many middle school students registered for Tech Trek than last year's debut with 78 students, Arvary said. Students came from every local school district in Sussex County this year, she said. Arvary credits word-of-mouth advertising about the school and what it does for the rise in numbers. The school also sent packets to all middle school guidance counselors, mailed postcards to students who attended last year, and advertised on the school's Web site. "I applaud these parents who brought their kids here," Arvary said. "And the kids n they're here on a Saturday morning." Kathleen Oroho of Franklin and Mackenzie Miller of Andover, two friends from Immaculate Conception School in Franklin, returned to Tech Trek this year after enjoying last year's workshops. "We made our own Web pages and saved them on floppy discs so we can bring them home," Miller said. Both girls said they are considering enrolling at Sussex Tech.