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Cocaine, police dogs help 4th-grader win science fair

An ounce of cocaine doesn’t usually come with a blue ribbon, even in Miami.

That didn't stop Emma Bartelt, 10, from winning first prize in the science competition at Coral Gables Preparatory Academy with the help of three drug-sniffing hounds and 28 grams of the illicit white powder, all provided by the Miami-Dade Police Narcotics Bureau, according to the Miami Herald.

She also earned an honorable mention at the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Elementary Science Fair on Saturday, according to the paper.

The Herald reported that the scientific-minded fourth-grader received help on her “Drug Sniffing Dogs” project from her dad, Detective Douglas Bartelt. The three contraband-seeking chows included a springer spaniel named Roger; a chocolate lab, Franky; and a spaniel, Levi, according to the Herald.

A spokesman for the school district told the Herald that science fair rules do not explicitly prohibit use of cocaine in projects. Bartelt’s dad handled all the cocaine for the project, according to the Herald, which involved timing how long it took the dogs to find the cocaine in a room.

“It was kind of my idea, because I wanted to do my dad’s job,” Bartelt said of her award-winning experiment, which took place at police facilities.

In a statement, a school district spokesman told the Herald there was nothing wrong with Bartelt’s experiment – even if the only white powder at science fairs is usually baking soda for papier-mache volcanoes.

“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,” the statement read, according to the Herald. “From our understanding, the parent was the only person involved in working directly with the dogs and the hidden substances, which took place at a police training facility.”