Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old clock maker from Irving, Texas. Image source: DailyMail.com

“Cool clock, Ahmed, want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.” That tweet from US President Barack Obama is how the story of an American Muslim kid making a digital clock for a school project ended – but what led to Ahmed Mohamed’s exposure to the President and indeed the world is, unfortunately, not as cheerful – but in its way a very positive lesson.

In recent days, the story of a 14-year-old kid named Ahmed Mohamed (whose parents are originally from Sudan), from Irving, Texas, has been spread around the world: Ahmed – a science lover and all around “fixer of stuff” – was hoping to impress his teacher at MacArthur High School with a clock that he made at home… actually ended up in handcuffs later that day when he brought his creation into his school to show it to a science teacher and fellow schoolmates.

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As CNN quotes Ahmed, “I built a clock to impress my teacher but when I showed it to her, she thought it was a threat to her. It was really sad that she took the wrong impression of it. (…) They arrested me and they told me that I committed the crime of a hoax bomb, a fake bomb,” the freshman later explained to WFAA after authorities released him.

And while police have decided not to file “hoax bomb” charges against Ahmed, social networks were and still are seething with outrage over the egregious treatment of a person of color simply wanting to participate in technology. Its part of a larger issue where serious social issues like school violence and terrorism are being weighed against social profiling and civil rights.


Ahmed Mohamed’s clock. Image source: makezine.com

What you see above is Ahmed’s clock, as pictured by the Irving Police, and further explanations added by makezine.com. The case appears to be a simple child’s pencil box – note the power plug on the right side as the “banana for scale”; so it really isn’t a briefcase as many have mistakenly reported.

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The electronics appear to be the re-arranged guts of a standard digital alarm clock, linked to a big, seven-segment display. There’s a transformer for stepping down the line voltage, a 9-volt connector for power-outage battery backup, plus the control board with buttons to set the clock – and last but not least, the main board that connects all the pieces together, attached to the display by a wide ribbon cable.

I think we can all agree that Ahmed should be proud of his project. On a personal note, when I was fourteen, I was really good at taking things apart, but never could put them back together even remotely as successfully (or at all) as Ahmed managed to do here – and so it is no wonder he was proud of his creation and wanted to present it to his teachers.


Unfortunately, according to many critics of the situation, none of his teachers were even remotely competent enough to see a creative 14-year old child through the culture of fear and apprehension that has struck many of the educational institutions around America. With that said details seem to confirm that the teachers could tell that it was not at all a real bomb and later only accused the 14 year old of bringing a “hoax” bomb to class even though there does not seem to be evidence that Ahmed made gestures or statements to that effect.

As noted, although no charges will be filed, social media networks are still abuzz with supportive posts, messages, and tweets with thousands collected at the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed – coming equally from the sympathetic masses, as well as industry- and world leaders. Of course the situation looks very poorly for the police and school system authorities given that public sentiment will inevitably continue to draw allusions to racial profiling and a now deeply ingrained fear of terrorism and the threat of terrorism.

Invitations from the likes of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying “Ahmed, if you ever want to come by Facebook, I’d love to meet you. Keep building.” and Google Science Fair noting “Hey Ahmed- we’re saving a seat for you at this weekend’s Google Science Fair…want to come? Bring your clock! #IStandwithAhmed.”


Ahmed has called the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) his “dream school,” and, in a quite amazing turn of events during an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Wednesday, the 14-year-old was introduced to a surprise guest: MIT astrophysicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein.

The scientist, who works in the university’s top-ranked Department of Physics and the California-based Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, told Ahmed that he was exactly the “kind of student we want at places like MIT and Harvard.”

Last but definitely not least, as mentioned above, Ahmed also received a personal tweet from the President of the United States, as Barack Obama invited him to the White House.

What we feel is most relevant about this story is the simply curious nature of viewing and measuring time. A simple clock, while perhaps ordinary and common, is still something we find to fascinating. There is something truly innate among even the most educated and curious about “having time” on your side. The passage of time is perhaps the most constant force in the universe and it is interesting to see young curious minds as well as enthusiasts such as mechanical watch lovers rallying around the exact same concepts even though their tactics for doing so vary. It isn’t always an easy world to be curious and excited, but at least in the end it seems that the public has genuine support for true passion.

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