STEAM Careers in Pasadena: Forensic Specialists Fighting Crime with Science

On Wednesday, August 2nd, we had some special visitors at the library. Two forensic specialists from the Pasadena Police Department, Noel Herrera and Alex Padilla, came to meet kids between the ages of 7 and 12 and share what they do and how it incorporates science and technology!

Noel and Alex started by explaining what their work is like, and how different it is from what we see on television shows! One of their primary tasks is to capture every possible angle of a crime scene with their cameras, and find evidence to put bad guys away. It’s not as automatic as it looks on TV. For example, if they think they have found a match to a suspect’s fingerprints, they seal it and send it to two other fingerprint experts who have to arrive at the same independent conclusion before it’s declared to be a match. This sort of peer review helps to keep innocent people safe from going to jail for something they didn’t do!

Noel and Alex showed us some of the tools of their trade–flashlights, lasers, special chemicals like “fluorescene” which they spray to find blood or bodily fluids, and UV lights which help to illuminate it. They had me touch an object and then they dusted for my prints using a special powder. Turns out I have a “loop” kind of fingerprint!

 

Noel and Alex also demonstrated how they are able to take photos of a bullet’s trajectory by using a laser and fog spray to help the laser show up better. Kids loved the laser!

We brought in some tables and our forensic specialists set up a range of different smooth objects such as aluminum shaving cans and glassware, and kids were invited to touch the object and then dust for their own fingerprints. It took time to get to everyone, but they had a blast doing it. Kids got to use several different kinds of fingerprint dust and lift the fingerprints using special tape. Then they transferred the tape to a card so that they could take their fingerprints home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I really can’t thank Noel and Alex enough for the great program they presented for our kids. We had a big crowd, too–39 people in total! Noel and Alex were so friendly and good with the kids. We all learned a lot and had a great time!

Throughout this year, we hope to host other programs inviting special guests from the City of Pasadena to share what they do and how it incorporates STEAM. There are lots of ways people in our city apply science concepts to benefit society, and Pasadena Public Library is going to highlight them!

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