Student not afraid to blow it at camp
Missouri summer camp aims to harness kids' explosive tendencies
A Hawaii high-school junior who aspires to become a rocket scientist will have a blast -- literally -- at a unique explosives camp this summer.
Punahou student Erik Horn, who hopes to fly in space someday, is among 40 aspiring engineers from 12 states and Egypt who will blow up rocks, trees and dead chickens at the University of Missouri at Rolla, west of St. Louis.
Explosives Camp 2007 will cover underground and open-air explosions, blast-driven power generators, stage fireworks and ordnance disposal.
Forty high school students, including one from Oahu, will learn how to blow up rocks, chickens, trees and concrete pillars as part of Explosives Camp 2007 over the next two weeks.
Erik Horn, a junior at Punahou School, is the first student from Hawaii to attend explosives camp at the University of Missouri-Rolla's campus, believed to be the only explosives camp in the nation.
"It's something different from your average summer camp, where you say, 'We're off to build a robot or solar car,'" Horn said.
Horn, who dreams of flying through space on civilian flights, believes explosives are a key component to his dream.
"All aerospace engineering would not be possible without explosives, because that's where humans derive all their source of (power)," he said.
Paul Worsey, a UMR professor and director of the camp, said, "There's nothing like it anywhere in the world."
The camp, in its fourth year, gives students the opportunity to explore explosives safely and teaches them about careers in mining engineering.
Worsey, an explosives expert, said the camp started as a way to recruit more students to UMR's mining engineering program, which also offers the nation's only minor in explosives engineering, according to Barbara Robertson, administrative assistant of the mining and nuclear engineering department. The explosives minor began in 2005.
Forty students from 12 states and Egypt were selected from more than 100 applicants. The camp is split into two six-day sessions of 20 students each.
The application process includes an essay, which helps narrow the selection to the most willing, Robertson said.
Horn, a three-sport athlete who also has experience rock collecting, "just impressed us with his essay. He was very passionate," she said.
During the camp, students will watch an explosion in a metals mine 1,000 feet underground, use explosives to create a 150-foot water spout, and prime dynamite to explode it in the school's underground mine. "It really makes their pant legs float back," Worsey said.
They will also hear lectures about explosive-driven power generators, stage fireworks and explosive ordnance disposal.
Worsey explodes a dead chicken for the students to show the destructive potential to a human hand.
He says another benefit of the camp is keeping teens who love explosives on the right path, rather than harming others or breaking laws.
"Some of them are already experimenting, so it pushes them in the right direction," he said. "What we try to do is to show them, if you want to do this, there's some way you can learn to do things in a responsible manner and make a living doing it as well."
With 6 billion pounds of explosives used annually in the United States, mostly in mining, the need for explosives experts will remain strong, Worsey said.
For Horn, the camp will also give him a chance to explore a medium-sized campus and a university he may one day attend.
"I'll learn a whole plethora of things, useful knowledge that I will find fulfilling to myself," he said. "Things that I wondered about."