High school students study forensics

by Andy Skemp

Wednesday was a bloody day at the University.
About 30 students from metro and international high schools learned how forensic science uses mathematical equations to determine blood spatter at a crime scene.
The event was part of a five-and-a-half-week summer math, science and engineering camp offered through the University’s Institute of Technology.
The students’ daily schedule at camp consists of four hours of math in the morning followed by various projects and labs, including a geology dig and solar car experiments, in the afternoon.
Barton Epstein, an adjunct professor at St. Cloud State University, taught a two-hour session Wednesday explaining how forensic scientists apply math to locate the source of blood spatter in a crime scene.
Epstein spent 32 years working at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s forensic lab in St. Paul.
During the sessions, students were put into groups of three and were given a large piece of cardboard containing dry blood.
The young experimenters used protractors, strings and a ring stand to determine where the blood came from.
“It’s a good, grabbing one for high schoolers,” said Epstein. “And it works; they’ll really get an answer during this lab.”
One particular lab group was composed of a student from Manila in the Philippines, one from St. Croix in the Virgin Islands and another from Benson, Minnesota.
Though they came from different locations, all three shared a common enthusiasm for their field of interest.
“I came here because mathematics is what I’m interested in,” said Ana Ramcharan of St. Croix.
“Our program helps the participants to see that other students like to do this too,” said Andrea Olson, associate director of the Institute of Technology Center for Education Programs.
“We provide opportunity for them to learn more about what scientists and engineers actually do,” Olson said.
The Summer Exploration in Science, Engineering and Mathematics program, now in its third year, was the brainchild of Ted Davis, the dean of the Institute of Technology, and Olson, who is the program’s current director, as well as other faculty.
Olson said more than 100 applications came in for this year’s session. She and two other IT faculty screened the candidates and chose the 30 students in the program.
Those accepted to the program paid a $3000 registration fee for classes, room and board. They live in Argyle House, where four University students act as live-in mentors.
Melissa Everson, a senior in mathematics and a mentor in the program, said her job is a good experience. Everson wants to become a teacher.
“We want to get the students interested and show them that math is fun,” she said.