STEM students from Glades, Hardee, De Soto, Hendry, Okeechobee and Highlands counties had the opportunity to experience crime scene investigations courtesy of the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office’s Criminal Investigations Unit.
Once a month these students, identified by their respective school districts as gifted or talented in the STEM curriculum: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, receive hands-on applications and exercises in some area of science or technology.
In this case the students traveled to Hill-Gustat Middle School in Sebring where members of the sheriff’s office’s crime scene unit set up five stations for study and experience.
Crime scene technician Kathy Perez walked students through a staged crime scene complete with a dummy victim and blood splatter.
Students learned the importance of math skills to calculate angles from blood spatter and project elements of the crime from this data.
Brittany Milrot, a sophomore at Okeechobee County High School, liked “…spraying stuff to show bold even if they cover it up.”
Crime scene investigator Stacy Andrews demonstrated how to make biofoam molds of tire tracks and footprints found at crime scenes.
Brandon Beatty, a junior in the program, said “Biofoam was the most fun because we made something we could keep.”
Everyone seemed to enjoy Crime scene investigator Jon Wilkinson’s demonstration of all the tools of the trade that are transported in the crime scene vehicle.
Students were allowed to try out the metal detectors and discover objects hidden in the grass and get an understanding of the dedication it takes to work crime scenes from start to finish.
John McGehee, an Okeechobee County freshman, enjoyed the fingerprint station set up by Crime Scene investigator and fingerprint master Jeff Fennell.
Fennell explained the science of fingerprints, then demonstrated several ways to get prints to be visible and identified.
Finally, computer expert Jason Dionne, spoke to the assembly of students about computer and cell phone technology and how this is used to make connections between criminals and prove cases in court.
He also demonstrated how pictures and posts allegedly deleted from cell phones and computers are actually saved and can be restored.
John Varady, program coordinator for the Heartland Educational Consortium, said: “The FloridaLearns STEM Scholars Program is a great way to expose some of our most gifted and talented students to careers and post-secondary offerings in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These are opportunities that many of our students in small and rural school districts can’t access as readily as can students from larger districts.”
Sheriff Susan Benton was excited to see the students participating in the STEM program.
“These students are our future members and community leaders. It’s wonderful to be able to tap into our crime scene investigators to give hands-on experiences for them. We enjoyed setting this up and interacting with these young scholars as they see opportunities for their skills in the field of law enforcement and crime scene investigations.”
The FloridaLearns STEM Scholars initiative is a multi-faceted, three-year project funded in 2011 by the Florida Department of Education. The purpose of the $4.5 million award is to create and implement a model STEM high school system for gifted and talented students in 27 of Florida’s small and rural school districts. For more information about FloridaLearns STEM Scholars, visit www.floridalearnsstemscholars.org.