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CSI: Red Wing

Red Wing police officer Tom Rikli shows the girls how fingerprint dust works. They also learned about DNA matching and ink chromatography.

There were counterfeit money investigations, fingerprint dusting and laboratory testing. The only things missing were a theme song by The Who and actor David Caruso's sunglasses.

But the "CSI: Brave New Girls" conference at Twin Bluff Middle School Tuesday afternoon had something the CBS show doesn't offer: a first-hand, interactive opportunity for girls to get interested in science.

The Red Wing chapter of the American Association of University Women teamed up with Red Wing Police Department, Pierce County Sheriff's Office, Youth Outreach, 3M, Red Wing Family YMCA, Red Wing Community Education, Girls on the Run of Bluff Country, Remedy and Twin Bluff Middle School to hold the conference.

"(Women) haven't reached equity in science," said 3M chemist and AAUW member Sandy Wollschlager. "At this age group, if you can get them interested in science ... by 10th, 11th, 12 grade, you've already lost them."

About 50 middle school girls participated in the conference, organizer and AAUW member Marilyn Meinke said. The girls rotated through different forensics-themed stations. They could dust objects for fingerprints, match DNA, spot minute differences in money to detect counterfeits and conduct ink chromatograph tests to link a pen to a perpetrator.

"It's things you look for in a crime scene," Wollschlager said.

Personal safety

This year's theme was chosen based on the popularity of the crime drama, Wollschlager said. But it also allowed for the discussion of personal safety.

Pierce County Sheriff Nancy Hove led a workshop on how girls can be aware of their surroundings and look for ways to prevent danger.

"(It's about) how to keep an eye out and know what's happening around you," Hove said. "It's important for everyone, but especially girls."

Tuesday's conference also focused on virtual safety.

"Every single girl in the sessions uses the internet," Kjurstin Langer of Youth Outreach said.

Langer talked to the girls about the potential dangers of posting too much information on social media websites that girls may not be aware could be dangerous - things like birthdates and what school they go to.

"Our goal is to make them aware of ways to let them use all this technology, (but) open their eyes to what is safe to share and what puts them at risk," Langer said.

Role models

Yet, underneath the fingerprint dust and safety recommendations, there was one other benefit: the conference was an opportunity for the girls to see role models, Meinke said.

The girls were encouraged to talk to Wollschlager - a woman in a male-dominated field - and Hove - Wisconsin's only female sheriff - and other women like them about their careers.

"Connecting the girls up to those types of people was a big success this year," Meinke said.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.