Exploding chips - not fun
Been there, done that, though fortunately not taking out any other equipment.
Again as an electronics undergrad, I was building a relay drive circuit using ULN2803 Darlington drivers. Due to a wiring fault one output had been shorted to the supply rail instead of via the relay. When that output was energised the driver exploded, and a small lump of the IC plastic hit me just under the eye! Yes, I counted myself very lucky that it didn't hit about 5mm higher and take out my eye, but it did narrow the fault down to between one or two pins.
Blowing things up - it's the only way to really learn.