This is an abbreviated version of an activity that I use in our upper-level inorganic chemistry course. It touches on several different learning objectives, but I use it in support of a lab activity in a junior/senior-level course. I developed this activity to use some time in lab that would otherwise be wasted waiting for a contact explosive to dry. Certainly, the activity can be done independently of the lab exercise and shortened accordingly. The students also compare the energy given off by a gram of an explosive material to the kinetic energy of a bullet. Several questions in the activity have the students discuss lab safety.
I find that the students need much more review of general chemistry principles than I would care to provide in class, so having them work a "simple" bond enthalpy calculation (and associated thermochemistry) helps catch typical processing errors. For example, a bond enthalpy calculation is not products minus reactants if the Table of Bond Enthalpy consulted uses positive values, representing heat needed to break a bond. Unfortunately many students have memorized the wrong algorithm for this scenario.
The reaction they are investigating involves the breaking of a N-I bond. Many tables of bond enthalpies lack a value for this bond, hence my suggestion that they use a "reasonable assumption." This allows them to decide what estimated value that they would accept as reasonable, usually by extrapolation from the values that are provided.
Most of the students in my course were recently in a physics course and remember that kinetic energy calculations for an object are best done with mass expressed in kilograms. Some students may have forgotten though.
Before the lab, I sternly warn the students of the consequences for inappropriate use of chemical reagents. I also relate some relevant experiences from graduate school.
In advance of the lab meeting, the students are given a 2007 perspectives article by Karl O. Christe on some high energy density materials. Although it is a short article, they are slow to process it, so I do not ask many questions about it. This article has pictures showing the significant damage to a fume hood in his lab caused by a small amount of material detonating. I am very fond of the figure showing hood damage in a research laboratory so I kept this part in the short version. However, this portion of the activity could also be omitted or used with the much longer version of the activity posted as a literature discussion.