Forensic science lends itself to a variety of classroom projects, especially if the focus is on fingerprinting. Explore the gamut of different fingerprint science projects, such as testing how genetics affects fingerprint patterns, developing classification systems that contribute to law enforcement efforts, comparing fingerprint and toe print patterns and determining whether race or gender has any effect on fingerprint patterns. Use the scientific method to develop your project and carefully record your results.
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Narrow the project down to a specific project. Brainstorm with your friends or run ideas by your teacher. Make a list of possible projects and then determine which ones you are most interested in, which are the most feasible to perform and which ones are most likely to be manageable in the time and space you have to work with.
Develop a hypothesis. Take what you know about fingerprints based on your observations, prior reading and past experience and use it to form a hypothesis about what your experiment will show. For example, if your project aims to find a better way to collect fingerprints from a damp environment, make a statement about which materials and techniques you think will prove to be most effective.
Gather information on fingerprints. Conduct research so that you can set up your experiment in the most effective way. Read about other similar experiments that have been conducted and what information those experiments found. Collect this information and make notes about what you could use to set up your experiment.
Gather materials. Make a list of the materials that you will need to complete your project. Be sure you include research subjects, if necessary. For example, if you are comparing fingerprints of people born within a 10-mile radius, list how many people you need to properly test your hypothesis and then make sure you have access to those people.
Set up an experiment with a control group. Conduct the experiment using everything you have gathered. Make sure that you have a control group so you can compare results according to standard scientific protocol. Be sure you have identified the variable so that you can draw accurate conclusions.
For example, if you are comparing how two different chemicals affect the collecting of fingerprints, have three groups of fingerprints. One group will use the first chemical, one will use the second chemical, and one will not use a chemical. If you are doing a survey involving people with different groupings of fingerprints, your control group will consist of people who have not been presorted according to your hypothesis.
Repeat the experiment. An experiment must be repeatable for the results to be valid. Conduct each experiment the same way and be meticulous in recording the data.
Analyse the data. Compile all the data you've collected including surveys, measurements and observations. Determine whether the results of the experiment confirmed your original hypothesis or whether you discovered something else through the experiments. Remember that disproving your hypothesis is as scientifically valid as proving it. Include in your analysis whether additional questions were raised from the experiment and how you might conduct the experiment differently if you were to repeat it.
Present your findings creatively. Write a report about what you discovered, but then illustrate the results of your project by using an electronic presentation, a display or a poster board. Where possible, show blown-up images of fingerprints and give explanations of what you discovered about them, such as labelling similar patterns or showing how one image is sharper than another.
Tips and warnings
- If you're looking for something unusual, consider conducting a science project on animal fingerprints or paw prints.
- Use appropriate protective gear when working with chemicals to collect fingerprints.
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