SOURCE Lesson Plans Detail

Blood Splatter: The Point of Origin

Topic -Forensic Science -
Program Brown Science Prep
Developed by Joseph Paliotti
Developer Type Teachers

Overview / Purpose / Essential Questions

  • How can physics and image analysis tools be used to solve crimes?
  • Can the physical properties of a fluid be used to track where it came from? 

Performance / Lesson Objective(s)

The goal of these two laboratory lessons is to learn how knowledge of mathematics, physics, and image analysis software can be used in combination to investigate evidence at a crime scene, like blood splatter. By the end of this activity, students will be able to:

  • 1.       Determine the direction of blood flow based on the shape of the droplet splatter.
  • 2.       Calculate the angle of impact for individual drops of blood spatter.
  • 3.       Use lines of convergence to help determine the position of the victim when the wound was inflicted.
  • 4.       Use the Law of Tangents to calculate the height above floor level where the wound was inflicted.

Lesson Materials

  •  Activity Sheet for Activity 7-6
  • 1 metric ruler
  • 1 colored pencil or marker
  • 1 pencil
  • calculator with tangent function
  • tangent tables (optional)

Lesson Motivation

Using only blood-spatter analysis, you may be able to recognize the events leading up to the crime. Although crime scene investigators may arrive at the crime scene after the victim and witnesses are no longer present, they still need to determine what happened. Often several witnesses give different accounts of the crime. Which witness is providing an accurate description of what really happened?

During the investigation, the crime-scene investigators need to determine if the evidence, in this case the blood spatter, matches the description given by the witnesses, the suspect(s), and the victim(s). In domestic abuse cases, the victim of domestic abuse may tell a false story to try to protect the abusing partner. A victim may state that a head injury occurred as a result of falling down stairs. However, if the blood-spatter patterns are inconsistent with this type of injury, then what type of injury did cause the blood spatter? What actually happened? Is a witness lying? Further investigation is required when the blood-spatter evidence tells a different story than the witness’s account of the incident.

Lesson Activities

In this activity, students analyze blood spatter in three dimensions. By noting the shape of the droplet of blood, the direction in which the blood was moving can be determined. The size of the blood spatter will provide some indication of the velocity of the blood when it hit a surface. By examining at least two drops of blood spatter, the location of the injured person can be determined so long as the injury occurred in two dimensions (lines of convergence). The distance from the area of convergence to the drop of blood can easily be measured. To determine the point of origin, or height from the impact surface, further calculations are necessary. By measuring the width and length of a single drop of blood, the angle of impact can be assessed. By using the Law of Tangents, the height from which the blood fell, or the point of origin for the blood, can be calculated.


Math Review: A right triangle

•        Contains one 90-degree angle.

•        The hypotenuse is the longest side of a triangle, opposite the 90-degree angle (right angle).

•        The opposite side to an angle is the side directly opposite the angle of interest.

•        The adjacent side to an angle is the side closest to the angle that is not the hypotenuse.

Laboratory exercise 1: Examine the relationship between height and velocity as well as height and blood drop diameter for falling blood drops, both vertically and at an angle.

Procedure Using a dropper, allow a single drop of blood to drop from five different heights: 5 cm, 25 cm, 50 cm, 75 cm, and 100 cm onto a sheet of paper.  Record the following information in the data table below:

1.       Sketch of the drop.

2.       Time it takes from releasing the drop to impact the ground.

3.       Final velocity of the drop.

a.       Use the equation vf = vi+at, where vf is final velocity, vi is initial velocity (0 m/s), 

b.      a is acceleration (9.8 m/s2), and t is the time it took the drop to fall.

4.       Use Image-J to determine the diameter of the drop.

See the attached document here

Wrap up / Conclusion

Ask students whether this forensic evidence is compelling and conclusive.

Ask students what disciplines (e.g., biology, math, physics, computer science, etc.) are used to properly assess blood splatter.

Follow up

See the attached document here

Supporting Web Information

See the attached document here


See the attached document here

Pre Assessment Plan

Ask how the shape of a blood droplet can be used to determine where it came from.

What scientific disciplines would be useful for analyzing blood splatter?

Post Assessment Plan

Repeat questions of pre-assessment plan

Ask how this same approach could be used for analyzing splatter paths in three dimensions

Alignment Info

Audience(s) High school students
STEM Area(s) Biology
Physical Sciences (RI GSE) PS1.9-11.4a
Students demonstrate an understanding of the structure of matter by … comparing the three subatomic particles of atoms (protons, electrons, neutrons) and their location within an atom, their relative mass, and their charge.
Activity Type(s) Hands-on
Grade Level(s) High School
Version 1
Created 08/22/2017 03:38 PM
Updated 08/22/2017 03:54 PM