Camp focuses on science’s role in solving crimes

Camp focuses on science's role in solving crimes
"When you have a crime, it's important that you keep the integrity of the scene intact," Sergeant Dallas Schnack of the Clay County Sheriff's Department told his students Tuesday afternoon. "You need to know everyone who came into that room, because when you go to lift prints, you will likely find fingerprints of everyone who has ever been in that room; some of them may even be up to a year old."

Schnack wasn't speaking to a group of cadets in the midst of training before launching careers in law enforcement.

He spoke about the value of fingerprints in solving crime to a group of middle school-aged kids Tuesday afternoon on The University of South Dakota campus.


This week, USD was host to the sixth annual Lawrence Brothers Science Camp. The event wrapped up today, Friday, July 13.

The theme of this year's camp is "CSI: Learning the Science Behind Catching and Convicting the Bad Guys!"

The camp provided participants an opportunity to learn facets of physical science, chemical science, life science, mathematics and health sciences.

"The purpose of the camp is to engage young people in the excitement of interdisciplinary topics in science and mathematics through hands-on, minds-on discovery," said Barb Goodman, Ph.D., professor of physiology at USD and director of the Lawrence Brothers Science Camp. "The students chosen this year participated in these types of activities during the entire week."

Fingerprinting was one of several topics introduced to the students.

They also learned about blood types, and the role hair and bones play in a criminal investigation.

On Wednesday and Thursday, they were taught about DNA, retinal scanning and accident reconstruction.

Activities scheduled shortly before the camp's conclusion included challenging students to solve a crime after being given information about its forensic details. The Lawrence Brothers Science Camp was initiated in 2002 by a designated gift from the John and Amy Bowles Lawrence Foundation to The University of South Dakota Foundation.

The camp is also supported by a designated gift from Battelle, a global science and technology enterprise that develops and commercializes technology and manages laboratories for customers, The University of South Dakota and additional gifts, including a $250 scholarship that was provided by Dave Cooper Creative of Vermillion.

The week-long event attracted 37 young people to the USD campus this week, from cities all over South Dakota, and from nearby communities in Iowa and Nebraska.

Vermillion Middle School science teacher Sally Stoll, who serves as coordinator of the week-long camp, began planning the various activities in June.

"We do have structure going in, and I've done the camp before, so that all helps," she said. "It didn't take too long to get it worked out."

Past camps have dealt with light and vision in science, and the role of science in sports.

The CSI theme of this year's camp may be result of students' recommendations first made three years ago.

"This is an very interesting topic for anybody in science," Stoll said. "It is so diverse."

The last events on the camp's schedule are closing presentations by the students to their parents at the W.H. Over Museum Friday morning.

"They are going to present their stories about the crime," Stoll said. "We're going to introduce a crime scenario to them on Thursday, and they're going to have to decide what happened, based on the evidence that is gathered, and how they analyze it."

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