Teenage chemistry enthusiast won't be charged with felony, will go to space camp

Kiera Wilmot — the Florida 16-year-old who created a small explosion just outside her school before classes started by mixing cleaning solution and tin foil (she was just curious, nobody was harmed) — will not be charged with a felony, after all. Florida State Attorneys dropped the charges against Wilmot yesterday. After her case garnered national attention, she ended up with a lawyer who has defended her mostly for free. There's no word yet on whether she'll be allowed to return to the school that expelled her and pressed charges in the first place.

In the meantime, the Internet has created a nice happy ending here. Homer Hickam — the writer and former NASA engineer whose memoir is the basis of the movie October Sky — started a Crowdtilt campaign to send Wilmot and her twin sister Kayla to the Advanced Space Academy program at the U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala.. The cost of space camp can run upwards of $1200. Hickam paid for Kiera Wilmot to go and the Crowdtilt campaign raised the other $1200 for her sister, plus extra money for their travel expenses. The campaign hit its $2500 goal in just two days and is now up to $2920. Hickam says the extra money is going to the girls' mother.

A second Crowdtilt campaign raised more than $8000 for a Kiera Wilmot Defense Fund. Now that the charges have been dropped, that money will go into a trust, to pay the few legal expenses the family does have and to cover costs associated with Wilmot's education — especially since it's still unclear whether she'll be allowed back into the local public school.

Good job, Internet!


  1. If Homer Hickam is in your corner, that is a big goddamned win.  Period.  Nice work everyone.

    1. Seriously, good job humans, except the original crop of humans who started this debacle.  They should all be sacked, no exceptions.  Sorry, just a zero tolerance policy; I’m sure they’ll understand.

  2. She learned a great lesson: Authority is generally stupid. People are generally good.

      1. Authority is made out of perception.  People have the authority that we, collectively, allow them to have.  No more, and no less.

    1. Everyone was stupid in this; including the girl. These are caustic chemicals that could burn someone’s skin or eyes in the likely event that they get splashed on someone. 

      They can hide behind calling this a “science” experiment and saying it’s an example of bad schools, but the truth is that the only overreaction was trying to place charges against her in court. She deserves the suspension. She deserves the trip the internet bought her to space camp. I wish her well in her science career, and I hope she learned that real science is done in a lab with safety equipment like a wash station and eye protection.

      1. I’d have no problem with a suspension.  That seems perfectly reasonable.

        A suspension was never on the table.  She was summarily expelled, with no particular course of appeal short of the courts.  And that was BEFORE the whole felony thing.

    2. She learned a great lesson: Authority is generally stupid. People are generally good.

      This is why anything but anarchy feels like fascism to me.

  3. This makes me very happy. Kids like this need to be encouraged to pursue their interests and have their curiousity rewarded, and it’s heartening to see so many people feel that way.

    Now it’s up to the school administrators to decide whether or not they want a distinguished future alum, because Wilmot is likely on the path to a bright future. 

    1. Never gonna happen.  The educational bureaucracy is the product of intellectual inbreeding that has grown fundamentally incapable of the creative thinking required to foster fertile minds, much less act in its own self-interest. The great minds of the present and of the future have prospered and will continue to do so in spite of the system.

      1. I have to agree. I’ve known a couple of teachers who threw in the towel because of that. Sometimes you get more enlightened administrators, but the kind who would call the cops in a situation like this are far from that.

        1. It’s sad, but true.  This is especially true of teachers, so many of whom live in extreme frustration with the status quo – and have been in the long years since I was in school. I’ve found that school boards bear a great amount of blame.  Along with them, the educational firmament seem to enjoy stifling any scent of change and will actively smother any actions from within or without to that end. They are politicians at heart, not educators.

          But, like all the other politicians, it’d be nice if a little publicity could force them to set wrongs like this one right.

    2. Probable conversation:

      “Can she help us with any kind of state championship?”
      “Only the academic kind.”
      “Then that’s not the kind of alumni that we can use.”


      1. Yeah, it’s Florida. Sad to say, I can imagine exactly that conversation occurring.

  4. A happy ending!

    BTW – don’t know if this was brought up previously but this whole incident is also about shrieking racism.  The same week that this black girl was charged the same Assistant DA that was wrote up the indictment decided to let a white boy off the hook for blowing his friend’s head off with a rifle.  The latter, you see, was just a tragic accident: no need to blight a white boy’s future for the follies of youth.

    1. I’m not letting sexism off the hook, here.  I’d hazard there’s a heaping pile of both at work in this case.

  5. What?!? The twin sister gets to go too? I didn’t see her blowing anything up. Freeloader.

    1.  Without the twin to keep her in line, she’d blow up space camp.  And we can’t have that.

  6. In a way I’m disappointed.  I was enjoying visions of her blowing her way out of jail with nothing more than sachets of sweet-n-low and toilet tissue.

    No, I’m not an explosives expert.

  7. Huh. For those who don’t know, the kid was making a works bomb. It’s not an experiment, it’s an internet fad–and it is dangerous.

    I propose a real experiment: call up your local bomb squad. Ask them how what percentage of bomb threats/explosions they have to deal with are works bombs. If it’s less than 50% I’ll drink a liter of gravy.

    Just for fun, ask them the sort of injuries they’ve seen result from works bombs.

    I’m sorry, but this case is being mischaracterized. Works bombs don’t explode ‘accidentally’–they require confinement. What the school is reacting to is the problem of students leaving works bombs in bathrooms, teacher’s desks, etc. It was an over-reaction and I’m glad there was a happy ending, but we’re not being told a big part of the story here.

  8. This is such a cool, wonderful ending. Makes me want to go out and do something nice for random strangers. :)

  9. What I find hilarious is the reaction of the blogosphere and the media and many people on this forum.  Objectivity be damned.  Science experiment? C’mon.  The number of articles that cite this as a “science student” in “science class” or in a “science lab” conducting a “science experiment” is shocking.  NOWHERE did it say this yet everyone jumped to this conclusion to support their own biased opinions and outrage.

    Read the police report… unless you are already sure that it was modified to protect the police and school administrators.

    This had nothing to do with science.  It was kids screwing around with something they should have been smart enough to know not to do on school grounds.  No, she did not need to be arrested.  Yes, there should have been the usual school consequences.

    And racism? Yes, there is plenty to go around in this world but without knowing the details of this particular situation crying racism is HUGELY irresponsible.  You trivialize true cases of racism.  It’s possible, although unlikely, we may eventually learn that racism had a part in this but, again, there is NO EVIDENCE to support this.  Stop imagining “facts” that fit your agenda.  You sound like a bunch of Teabaggers whining that the government is “after them”. (wait… bad example.)

    I work in a high school.  I have seen firsthand how the media hovers around schools and then attacks in order to manufacture news.  They literally had to be chased of the school grounds and then stood on the side of the road reporting their moronic, manipulated story.  They will take the smallest incident and blow it out of proportion to create a headline.  In this case, I’m blaming one of the reporters who originally reported the incident.  I can recall her using the term “science experiment gone tragically wrong”, or some similar sensationalist drivel.

    Get real people.  Get mad for the right reasons, not just when it feels good.

    1. “They will take the smallest incident and blow it out of proportion…”

      You mean like a school administrator?

  10. Or another way to think of it is $8000 to run campaigns to remove the people in charge of children who can’t think for themselves and repair the broken stupid rules that caused this travesty in the first place.

    And now we might be lucky, as she could be destined to find that new line of antibiotics that will protect us from the superbugs…

  11. I’m going to make a potentially racist comment here (because I can’t help myself), but did it occur to anyone else when it was revealed that she was a twin, that these two (with the right nurturing/education) could be the “Venus and Serena” of blowing shit up?  (and yes, I know the Williams sisters are not twins)
    Celebrity science twins of explosions!

    1. There aren’t than many famous sets of twins who have done anything other than sue Mark Zuckerberg.

  12. I read this story a few weeks back; I must say I was quite outraged.  I am glad the charges were drop. Now the only thing left to do is to allow her to return to school.

  13. This has been a good week for the internet.  I hope the young ladies have a great time at space camp.   Ideally the school will readmit Kiera, but I’d find another school if I was in her shoes.  

  14. I can’t seem to find any detailed information on this. It sounds like she set off a so-called “works bomb” (I know this name is more extreme than what actually happens) around people, which its dangerous. If this is the case, we may have gone too far in the other direction.

    1. What she did wasn’t an explosion, per se. It generated a bunch of gas in a closed container, causing the container to burst. Shaking up a soda bottle can do this under the right conditions.

      The difference is that if soda splashes on someone, they aren’t likely to be injured. If caustic pool cleaner splashes on someone, they could be burned or maimed for life (blinded, chemical burns, etc). She was stupid to do this in school. I’m pissed that there’s a bunch of mouth breathers trying to blame the school for stealing her curiosity or some such bullshit.She deserves the expulsion or suspension. She doesn’t deserve to be prosecuted.

  15. Well, yes, but that doesn’t change the utter stupidity of it – this is precisely the point where protection from liability for the student’s safety has become an actual threat to student’s safety.  There were lots of ways to cover themselves that didn’t involve wrecking a student’s life to do it.

  16. Good job, Internet!

    : D  : D  : D  : D  : D

    As hideous and disgraceful as certain aspects of the USA (and hence, most of the world at some point) become, giving humanity the intertron will remain something of a get out of jail free card… America, fuck yeah.

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