Fourth-grader’s experiment involving cocaine earns science award
When fourth-grader Emma Bartelt wanted to wow the judges at her elementary school’s science fair, she knew she had to do something unexpected.
All she needed was a box, a jar, three dogs … and an ounce of cocaine.
These days, vinegar and baking soda is so passé.
In what Miami-Dade school district officials are calling a first, Emma tapped her connections with Miami-Dade police to show how a dog’s sense of smell helps it find narcotics.
“The student’s science project involved a very unusual set of circumstances, including having a parent who is a well-respected police detective with experience in training dogs that sniff for illegal substances,” school district spokesman John Schuster said in statement.
Earlier this month, Miami-Dade police Det. Douglas Bartelt and his colleagues let Emma sit in while they put three drug sniffing canines through a search exercise at their narcotics training facility. There was Roger, a springer spaniel; Levi, a golden retriever; and Franky, a retired chocolate Labrador.
The dogs were individually timed as they searched for 28 grams of cocaine -- worth an estimated $1,300 on the street -- locked in a metal canister, hidden in a box somewhere in a single room. The exercise was then repeated in a second room.
In the end, Franky came out first, sniffing out the cocaine in 43 seconds. At no time did Emma handle the drugs or the dogs, a Police Department spokeswoman said.
Cocaine is not specifically banned from use in district science fair rules, the Miami Herald reported.
The project earned Emma first prize at her school, Coral Gables Preparatory Academy, and a chance to participate in the county science fair at Miami Dade College on Jan. 26. She received an honorable mention there, district officials said.
Emma explained “the purpose of this scientific investigation was to find which dog would find the cocaine fastest using its sense of smell,” according to the Herald.