...tells me that it is massively unlikely this was intellectual curiosity. Some kid thought it would be funny to make a huge bang at a place where huge bangs are known to cause massive administrative overreaction.
When I first read this, I thought it was horrible. One of the articles linked in the story here called it a botched experiment. What kind of loony racist throws the book so hard at a kid who messed up a project? Then I went looking for the "experiment" and learned there was pretty much definitely nothing botched about this. Youtube is full of works bombs, which is apparently what these are called. A popular chemistry blog I stumbled into explains these are actually illegal to make. And I really don't see what else you could do with these components.
Now, this kid certainly doesn't deserve to be tried as an adult for multiple felonies just because they made a total dipshit choice that hurt nobody. But what's going on here is just usual-business prosecutorial excess, not racism. Ruining dumb high school kids' lives is practically what these fuckers live for lately, regardless of skin tone.