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Georgia Tech students burned in explosion

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Two Georgia Tech students, including one from Columbia County, suffered severe burns Wednesday morning from a chemical explosion behind an Atlanta fraternity house.

Paul Lawrence Grzybowski: Junior materials science major at Georgia Tech from Appling is being treated for burns after a chemical explosion Wednesday.   Special
Special
Paul Lawrence Grzybowski: Junior materials science major at Georgia Tech from Appling is being treated for burns after a chemical explosion Wednesday.

Paul Grzybowski, a junior materials science major from Appling, and Tommy Keen, a sophomore aerospace engineering major from Peachtree City, Ga., were injured when they tried to mix aluminum powder with rust powder, officials said.

Such a mixture might produce thermite, a combustible compound, said Kati Smallwood, who was Grzybowski's chemistry teacher at Greenbrier High School.

"It's not something we would ever work with in a high school chemistry lab, so I'm not real knowledgeable about it," Smallwood said. "I just remember him (Grzybowski) talking about it when he came back into town."

Grzybowski visited his former high school, where he was an honors graduate and AP Scholar, during his winter break from Georgia Tech.

"He came back to let us know how his science classes in high school got him excited about science classes in college," Smallwood said. "A lot of students wouldn't think to do that: Come back to the teachers and say, 'You really got me into this and I appreciate it.'

"He was very thoughtful, and really into science and learning."

Grzybowski ran for Greenbrier's cross country team and held a black belt in Chun Kuk Do, an American martial art founded by Chuck Norris, according to a newsletter from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Retired Employees Association.

The newsletter also noted that Grzybowski played trombone in the Greenbrier High School Jazz Band.

Smallwood's husband, Tom, once served as Grzybowski's band director at Greenbrier. He is now principal of Grovetown Middle School.

"Paul was a great kid and a great musician," Tom Smallwood said. "He got along with everybody, but he wasn't laid back. He was very excitable, but in a good way. He was just an all-around great kid when he was in my band."

A phone message left at the Appling home of Grzybowski's parents was not immediately returned.

Grzybowski and Keen were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta for treatment of burns to their upper bodies.

A Grady spokeswoman said Wednesday that it is against hospital policy to release the condition of patients to the media, but the Associated Press previously reported that both men were in critical condition.

"It's really sad this has happened," Kati Smallwood said. "I hope he's OK."

Comments (23) Add comment
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Rolling Eyes
247
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Rolling Eyes 06/02/10 - 07:23 am
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Daaaaang! I've never heard

Daaaaang! I've never heard of using those two components to create an explosive mixture. For what purpose were they doing this? Were they just curious or were they planning to blow something up other than themselves?

pointstoponder
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pointstoponder 06/02/10 - 08:03 am
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Mixed in the right ratio and

Mixed in the right ratio and under the right conditions, it will result in a thermite reaction producing molten iron as one of the byproducts.

balceroregontr
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balceroregontr 06/02/10 - 08:57 am
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Praying for their recovery.

Praying for their recovery.

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 06/02/10 - 12:51 pm
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All of us pyros in chemistry

All of us pyros in chemistry have to try to ignite aluminum and iron oxide.
The burn, if contained, produces a most impressive explosion. A tiny amount makes a big boom. Not contained, it generates tremendous heat. I'm sorry these adventurers were burned.

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 06/02/10 - 12:57 pm
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duplicate post

duplicate post

iletuknow
8
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iletuknow 06/02/10 - 03:22 pm
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The next Timothy Mcvay?

The next Timothy Mcvay?

jamie8706
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jamie8706 06/02/10 - 04:00 pm
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Why would he try and mix

Why would he try and mix those to compounds together what was he thinking

mable8
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mable8 06/02/10 - 05:13 pm
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They knew better--otherwise,

They knew better--otherwise, the mixing of the chemicals would not have occurred behind the frat house. Here's hoping they recover; I'm sure it's a lesson they won't soon forget!

bettyboop
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bettyboop 06/02/10 - 06:44 pm
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Prayers for these two young

Prayers for these two young men......

dodo1234
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dodo1234 06/02/10 - 07:30 pm
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Tuesday night on the Nat geo

Tuesday night on the Nat geo channel, they had a show about the world trade center conspiracies and in one part it was talking about thermite explosives being used to bring down the wtc. these guys were most likely reproducing what they saw on tv. Now being as "smart" as they are supposed to be, why would they pull such a stunt? i think the FBI needs to get involved and see that they may have been making explosives. Experimenting or not, this is a serious offense.

dougk
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dougk 06/02/10 - 08:40 pm
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Yes, dodo, calll in the FBI
Unpublished

Yes, dodo, calll in the FBI and the entire Homeland Security forces. These kids could be terrorists..on the verge of taking over our entire country.
Who knows what evil plans they held or what connections they may have with Muslim extremists??
Seriously, I pray for their well-being....my thoughts are with their families.

KSL
144075
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KSL 06/02/10 - 08:50 pm
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Exactly, dougk. Curious

Exactly, dougk. Curious college students with a bit less common sense than one would hope they would have.

KSL
144075
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KSL 06/02/10 - 08:56 pm
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iletyuknow, you aren't

iletyuknow, you aren't qualified to let us know anything. Did you go to GT?

Rolling Eyes
247
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Rolling Eyes 06/02/10 - 09:21 pm
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I see that the article has

I see that the article has been updated. It sounds like they are just kids being kids and the their curiosity got the better of them. I pray for their recovery.

KSL
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KSL 06/02/10 - 09:35 pm
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My former GT frat member

My former GT frat member husband can explain it ad infinitum. He spent 10 minutes tonight explaining their mind set to me.

Don't get me wrong. He doesn't condone their lack of key thinking in their attempt to carry out this "experiment." He just understands how it could happen. It wouldn't have ever happened to him, ever, but he saw plenty of people it could happen to who were enrolled there, including some of the brightest and best.

roflcopterawaaaay
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roflcopterawaaaay 06/02/10 - 10:49 pm
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For those of you even

For those of you even suggesting that Paul would make a bomb or try to blow up a building, you obviously do not know him. Paul is a very bright and very ingenuitive guy. Clearly, he did not think his experiment through, but that does not make him the "next Timothy McVeigh." Be ignorant somewhere else.

ghsfrshmn
2
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ghsfrshmn 06/03/10 - 02:07 am
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i'm with roflcopter (love the

i'm with roflcopter (love the user name by the way), i went to high school with paul, and I'm positive he was just experimenting and it went wrong. things called mistakes happen, but that doesn't mean bad intentions were involved.

Techfan
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Techfan 06/03/10 - 05:56 am
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Heck, in high school, we

Heck, in high school, we started our homecoming bonfire with potassium and water. I hope they'll both be ok.

teachingthemasses
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teachingthemasses 06/03/10 - 10:09 am
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For those who truly care

For those who truly care about Paul, his parents say they appreciate everyones prayers and concerns for Paul's complete recovery. He is doing well and will have surgery later today for skin grafts. This is one of the nicest and most compassionate families you will ever meet, so if you don't know them, keep your comments to yourself. Paul is a bright, curious kid who just made a mistake. We all make mistakes. Both boys are expected to make a full recovery.

coolette
10
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coolette 06/03/10 - 10:52 am
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Thank you teachingthemasses

Thank you teachingthemasses for the update! I know plenty of my son's high school friends that are good kids,but sometimes make dumb decisions. I am glad to hear they are expected to make a full recovery. Our prayers are with this family.

alumna
10
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alumna 06/03/10 - 01:11 pm
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I'm so sorry to hear about

I'm so sorry to hear about this happening. I hope these students and their families receive the best care possible and recover fully. As a Georgia Tech graduate and community advisor in the dorms, I can tell you from experience that the professors sometimes get carried away in class talking about "things you shouldn't try at home". I had a group of residents in my dorm, all aerospace engineering students, who launched a can of Creamora powdered coffee creamer in the dorm's exterior concrete stairwell, using notebook paper that they poked through the bottom of the plastic can as the wick. I think the burn mark on the floors and ceiling of that concrete stairwell are still visible today.

angeleyes
0
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angeleyes 06/03/10 - 06:52 pm
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so sad. praying for there

so sad. praying for there recovery

corgimom
38500
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corgimom 06/03/10 - 07:54 pm
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While I'm sorry that this

While I'm sorry that this happened, they did this to themselves.

teachingthemasses
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teachingthemasses 06/04/10 - 08:57 am
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Paul came out of surgery

Paul came out of surgery around 11:30 last night. He is expected to be on the breathing tubes for four or five days, but he is doing well. His Mom asks that you please remember them all in your prayers, as prayers are what make the difference.

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