Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Teen girl arrested for "science project gone bad"

madscientist - 2-5-2013 at 04:33

"She is a good kid," said principal Ron Pritchard. "She has never been in trouble before. Ever."

All of that changed on Monday morning.

The teen is accused of mixing household chemicals in a tiny 8-ounce water bottle, causing the top to pop off, followed by billowing smoke in an small explosion.

I wish they would describe the experiment in more detail.

Do we have any members with formal chemistry credentials in the area (Florida) who would be willing to testify in court on her behalf? Many of those who go before a judge find themselves without an expert witness, not because they don't have the money to make a hire, but because no one will do it. The prosecution wins by default, no matter how stupid or wrong their argument may be, as they have expert witnesses on the payroll.

Someone needs to point out that if a soda bottle is an explosive device, every car and bicycle in the vicinity is as well, and the bomb squad has some work to do. The two to three atmosphere detonation pressure of a 20oz. coke bottle can't exactly compare to the hundreds of thousands of atmospheres of RDX.

The result of this incident should've been an internship in a chemistry lab at a nearby university, not a trip to jail, expulsion, and felony charges. Poor girl. I am seething over this.

Wilmot was arrested Monday morning and charged with possession/discharge of a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device.

The teen was expelled and will now complete her education in an expulsion program.


[Edited on 2-5-2013 by madscientist]

The_Davster - 2-5-2013 at 04:35

From the info given there is the chance that this was mentos and diet coke, or baking soda and vinegar....

gutter_ca - 2-5-2013 at 08:11

Better articles refer to Drano and Al foil. At seven AM, outside.

This wasn't an "experiment," it was a kid screwing around. Felony is ridiculous, but she knew what she was doing.

I wouldn't hire kewls to work in my lab.

killswitch - 2-5-2013 at 08:54

Quote: Originally posted by gutter_ca  
Better articles refer to Drano and Al foil. At seven AM, outside.

This wasn't an "experiment," it was a kid screwing around. Felony is ridiculous, but she knew what she was doing.


Too bad she's black, and in Florida.

The poor girl is fucked.

gutter_ca - 2-5-2013 at 09:07

Quote: Originally posted by killswitch  

The poor girl is fucked.

Yep. :-/

chemcam - 2-5-2013 at 09:35

When I was in high school (2005), for science class the teacher actually did a bottle bomb experiment, 2 to be exact. One was dry ice and water, the other was liquid nitrogen, both left a cloud of white "smoke". I bet the cops who arrested her did some awful stupid things as well back in the day. The whole reason for this is the timing, so many bombings, school shootings, and shit lately.

MrHomeScientist - 2-5-2013 at 09:59

I agree that recent news was almost certainly the cause for this, but this is an extreme overreaction (from what I've read) and it's extremely depressing that this sort of thing happens.

Even if it was just "messing around" with Drano and Al foil, what will this experience teach her? That her curiosity and eagerness for knowledge must be stamped out. She may no longer want to learn or stay in school, because it has been beaten into her that such things outside the approved, sterile curriculum will not be tolerated. Most of us here started in the hobby doing things people would consider dangerous or strange. Myself, I started by lighting off thermite reactions on the apartment complex's community BBQ grill (don't worry, I cleaned it afterwards!). Had I been fined or arrested for my experiments, I very well may have sworn off chemistry for good.

This may have been the start of a promising career in science, but these charges will effectively turn her away from the subject forever (and likely more toward a life of crime, which society seems to expect from her even at such a young age). Hearing this and countless other stories, I can't believe what the world has come to. When I have kids, they'll be immersed in the wonders of science from day 1 and to hell with whatever their teachers think.

Rosco Bodine - 2-5-2013 at 14:03

Beam me up Scotty, there's no intelligent life down here

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textex - 6-5-2013 at 13:44

I wonder how big the periodic table would have been if the old alchemists and chemists lived in todays society.

Ozone - 6-5-2013 at 21:05

My conversation, from elsewhere:

Me: "Back in the day, with Science Fair, so long as no one was seriously maimed or killed, no harm-no foul. There are surprisingly few facts presented, here, however, so it's impossible for me to totally jump in her camp. What was in the bottle? What was the point? Why was it happening in an uncontrolled environment? While it may well be another bone-headed knee-jerk response in an asinine bureaucratically-controlled usual...I'd keep an eye on it before jumping to the obvious conclusion. Still, I hate to hear of anyone being expelled from school over something that hurt no one. The repercussions of these "no-tolerance" policies in schools will resonate negatively for generations."

A friend: "It's the being tried as an adult for felony weapons charges, even with the principal's being on her side in it. For a student with good grades and no prior disciplinary issues, this seems to have skipped a whoooooole lot of intermediate disciplinary stages. While I think an expulsion would likely even be too strong for most explanations I can think of, I could see that as being worlds more reasonable. Without the actual intent to do damage coming to light, I can't think of any reason I'd ever support their reaction...Especially since popping the cap off of the bottle and causing a bit of smoke would be a terrible choice of "weapon" if that was her intent, I just think that's a crazy stretch."

Me: "I agree with all of that. We have now put in place an infernal system that regards the "good kid who had a bad day" in the same light as the "problem child" (who is probably misdiagnosed, overmedicated, and bereft of parental care...or, more likely, all of the above, not necessarily in that order). It's the product of "no-tolerance" policies. No tolerance = no responsibility for disciplinary decisions. Weak. As I said, it should be "no harm-no foul" unless shots are fired. In that case, poor marksmanship should not exempt you from prosecution. I'd really like to get more information on the particulars regarding this case."


[Edited on 7-5-2013 by Ozone]

arkoma - 23-6-2014 at 09:50

Wow--just ran across this.

I'm seething too, although a bit late. Boy how times HAVE changed. I was the main "culprit" here; the idiot that lit and flushed the device. 40 grains of Hercules Bullseye in an empty CO2 cartridge with a piece of waterproof cannon fuse. The older folks here oughta remember an outfit in Wickenburg, AZ that used to mail order it.

Notice the comments by the Sheriff's spokesman in the last three paragraphs. My record was also TRULY sealed; the California Department of Corrections didn't even dredge it up when I was caught in their clutches at 30 years old, and they can find 40 year parking tickets...........

lake weir.png - 1.2MB

DrAldehyde - 23-6-2014 at 15:01

This girl doesn't need an expert witness, she needs an expert lawyer and about $50,000 US. Sadly, the legal system in the US is more about money and politics than justice.

Loptr - 24-6-2014 at 07:50

Since this is being brought back up, I remember her not being charged. I also recall it being toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil that caused the "explosion" that popped the top. Laughable.

It is time to bring back common-sense.

arkoma - 24-6-2014 at 08:08

"diversion" programs are just doublespeak for a plea bargain, m8.

"Based upon the facts and circumstances of the case, the lack of criminal history of the child involved, and the action taken by the Polk County School Board, the State Attorney's Office extended an offer of diversion of prosecution to the child," Hill said in the statement. "The child and her guardian signed the agreement to successfully complete the Department of Juvenile Justice Diversion Program."


If the person is accepted into the pretrial diversion program, then he or she will enter a plea of guilty to the criminal offense. However, the judge will not enter an order adjudicating him or her guilty. A person is not guilty until a judge issues an order finding that person guilty, so at this point the person is in limbo between pleading guilty and being convicted of the crime.

Rather than find the person guilty, the judge withholds adjudication for a certain period of time, and places the defendant under certain restrictions similar to being on probation. If the individual complies with the terms and conditions of the pretrial diversion agreement, then at the end of the time period the charges are dismissed and the person is not convicted of the crime. This enables someone who made a one-time stupid mistake to get another chance at life with a clean record.


[Edited on 6-24-2014 by arkoma]