Bartow Bomb Case: Kiera Wilmot speaks out

6:35 PM, May 17, 2013   |    comments
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Kiera Wilmot
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Bartow, Florida -- "The last couple weeks have been pretty hard on me," says the 16-year-old in a phone interview from her Bartow home.

Kiera Wilmot was arrested last month after bringing household chemicals to school for a proposed science experiment. But when she listened to some other kids, she calls that a "mistake".

"Other people wanted to see the reaction and peer pressure got to me," Kiera explains. "The lid popped off and smoke came out and they called it a bomb."

No one was hurt, but Kiera still faced two felony charges. Her story spawned protests at the State Attorney's office and spawned online petitions in her support. What happened caught the attention of people across the country, including former NASA engineer Homer Hickam.

"What I immediately thought was how this sounds like something out of Rocket Boys," Hickam told 10 News in a Skype interview from his home in Alabama.

Hickam's book, Rocket Boys, about his youthful science experiments gone wrong and eventual success, was turned into the Universal Pictures movie October Sky.

Hickam wants to encourage Kiera's scientific curiosity, so he's given her a scholarship to Space Camp in Alabama this summer. He also helped raise money so her twin sister Kayla can also attend.

"We want all kids, whether they want to be rocket scientists or writers or musicians or whatever they are to have a fair chance. They're kids, they do make mistakes. So let's not punish them with these black marks on their record," says Hickam.

Kiera's excited to attend the camp and she will also be helping teach robotics to other kids this summer. Her goal is to go to college and become a robotics engineer.

Kiera's mother Marie is relieved that the State Attorney decided this week to drop the charges. But there are still worries about possible further discipline by the school district. And Marie is hoping this event will not define her daughter.

Marie says, "I hope she can live her life without constantly being reminded of this."

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