Melon Blast

Photo by Peter Newcomb/The New York Times/Redux

High school students at this University of Missouri–Rolla summer camp would be foolish to grow too fond of anything around them, because chances are they will eventually strap it with explosives and send it skyward. The watermelon shown here was only one of the victims in the department of mining and nuclear engineering’s 2007 program. Participants blew up concrete columns, underground caverns, quarry rock faces, a Shrek doll, and a Barbie while learning from experts about recreational pyrotechnics and military explosives. The festivities began with a fireworks display by the teachers and ended with one by the students.

It’s all meant to whet the appetites of potential engineering students. More than half of the teenagers attending the summer camp end up at the university in one program or another, according to Barbara Robertson, the camp coordinator. Interest in the summer course has grown so much in four years—one mom cried on Robertson’s shoulder this year until Robertson let her kid in—that the university plans to increase enrollment from 40 to 60 next year.

For more on the camp, see