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A 14-year-old Texas student was arrested at school for building a clock

A 14-year-old Texas student was arrested at school for building a clock
IndiaSmallbusiness3 min read

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Not Ahmed's clock.

A ninth grader was arrested on Sept. 14 just outside Dallas, when he brought a homemade clock to school that teachers and authorities said looked like a bomb.

In the past, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed of Irving, Texas had built his own radio and been heavily involved in the robotics club in middle school, according to the Dallas Morning News.

When he started high school this year, he wanted to show off his technical prowess by bringing in a simple digital clock he built at home in about 20 minutes. It involved "a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display, all strapped inside a case with a tiger hologram on the front," wrote Avi Selk, in the Morning News.

But a teacher decided that the wires and circuits could only mean one thing.

"She was like, it looks like a bomb," Ahmed told the Morning News.

After the school called authorities, Ahmed was led off in handcuffs to juvenile detention under suspicion of creating a "hoax bomb."

"It looks like a movie bomb to me," Ahmed said one of the officers told him, even though all accounts say he never presented it as such. As a police spokesman told the Morning News: "We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb ... He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation."

Anil Dash, a well-known technologist and entrepreneur, tweeted what appears to be a picture of Ahmed being arrested at school wearing a NASA shirt:

Many people who grow up to be inventors and problem-solvers are tinkerers as kids. "If any of our early geek experiments had gotten the most terrifying response possible from teachers & police, would we have kept doing it?" Dash, who said he "used to take circuit boards & electronics to school," asked on Twitter.

Importantly, a homemade clock is not even remotely close to a bomb. There are tons of DIY projects out there that teach you how to assemble a simple clock in just a few minutes, like this video below. A bomb would require much more research and dangerous materials - not just some wires and a tiny circuit.

As Wired put it in a guide to making "your own clock that isn't a bomb": "Maybe if enough young people make clocks, teachers and police will at least learn what a clock looks like, even on the inside."

Ahmed is suspended for now, and the investigation is ongoing. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is conducting its own investigation as to whether this is a case of Islamophobia.

"I think this wouldn't even be a question if his name wasn't Ahmed Mohamed," Alia Salem, the director of the North Texas chapter of CAIR told the local ABC affiliate.

Irving, a city where about a third of the population is foreign-born, has come under fire before for alleged Islamophobia. In March, the town's mayor sought the passage of a bill allegedly designed to protect against the "threat" of Shariah law, though it did not mention Muslims specifically.

As for Ahmed: "He just wants to invent good things for mankind," his father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, who immigrated from Sudan, told the Dallas Morning News. "But because his name is Mohamed and because of Sept. 11, I think my son got mistreated."

Here's a video of Ahmed in his own words, also from the Morning News.