Kiera Wilmot was a typical 16-year-old honour student at Bartow Senior High School. She’s never been in trouble, has a reputation for being nice to everyone, gets straight As, and loves science.
What’s not typical is what went down after one of these “science experiments” went all so slightly wrong on school grounds.
At 7 am on Monday April 30, Wilmot and a yet-to-be-named friend mixed aluminium foil and toilet bowl cleaner in a small water bottle, and after about 30 seconds, the reaction created pressure inside the bottle, blowing the cap off with a pop that according to witnesses sounded like firecrackers going off.
(Instructions to make this explosion, called a “works bomb” are freely available online.)
The reaction created a small amount of smoke. Her friend walked away and the Assistant Principal Dan Durham walked over.
The aluminium in the foil reacts with sodium hydroxide in the cleaner. The reaction produces hydrogen gas, which quickly builds the pressure inside the closed bottle until the plastic can’t take it any more and explodes outwards.
No one was hurt by the “explosion,” but later that day Wilmot was handcuffed, arrested, and expelled from school. According to the police report, she has been charged with two felonies: “possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds” and “discharging a destructive device.”
A call to the Polk County Attourney’s office yeilded no additional information, because the case is still being investigated, they won’t comment on it or even tell us the charges being brought against Wilmot.
She was also expelled for violating the school’s conduct code, which requires immediate expulsion for any “student in possession of a bomb (or) explosive device… while at a school (or) a school-sponsored activity… unless the material or device is being used as part of a legitimate school-related activity or science project conducted under the supervision of an instructor.”
The school told Riptide blog that Wilmot can challenge her expulsion. There has been no comment from the Wilmot family, and when I called the phone number of a Marie Wilmot, who lives at 1370 N Wilson Ave, Apt 505, the address reported by The Ledger, there was no answer and the voice mailbox was full.
Reporters that have approached the Wilmot home have been told by the family that they have no comment.
The aluminium foil and drain cleaner reaction is a go-to science experiment. The problem seems to be that she wasn’t doing the experiment under controlled safety conditions, like in class or with her teachers, though in the police report she claimed it was in preparation for the science fair, but supposedly the science teachers said there was no upcoming science fair, according to ABC Action News. And because it was on school grounds (it was outdoors).
If Wilmot had performed the reaction in her own backyard, there would never have been an issue. Sadly, The Ledger reports that Wilmot lives in an apartment, so she probably didn’t have access to any private outdoor areas.
Scientists around the world are showing support for the high schooler by tweeting about the explosions, fires, and general disruption they’ve caused as kids (and adults in some cases).
There’s also a petition to get the police to drop the charges.
Here’s a video of a similar reaction:
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