Hold on a second, teacher. It’s a homemade clock, not a bomb
Teenager’s innovative device sparks panic at Texas school, but Obama, Hadfield think it’s pretty cool
Fourteen-year-old Ahmed Mohamed just wanted to get noticed by his teachers. Instead, he got arrested. Now he’s been invited to science fairs at the White House and in Toronto.
In an incident that has raised allegations of racism and made a Texas school district the target of online outrage, the Grade 9 pupil was pulled out of school in handcuffs after a digital clock he built himself was mistaken for a bomb.
On Wednesday, Larry Boyd, the police chief in Irving, Texas, about 20 kilometres northwest of Dallas, said Ahmed would not be charged with any wrongdoing. The boy’s three-day suspension from school ends Thursday.
“We have no evidence to support that there was an intention to create alarm or cause people to be concerned,” Boyd said during a press conference after news of the teen’s arrest prompted national outcry.
U.S. President Barack Obama tweeted: “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.”
Obama invited the 14-year-old high school freshman to attend Astronomy Night at the White House on Oct. 19.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, a supporter of science education, invited Ahmed via Twitter to the Generator science show in Toronto on Oct. 28.
“There’s a ticket waiting for you,” he wrote.
Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder of the social networking giant Facebook, invited Ahmed to visit his company’s headquarters in California. The response also triggered a flood of social media support using the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed.
“It’s clear that at least some of Ahmed’s teachers failed him. That’s too bad, but it’s not too late for all of us to see this as a teachable moment,” the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said. “Pernicious stereotypes can affect even good people.”
Ahmed, a self-assured kid with thick-framed glasses and a serious expression, had just started at MacArthur High School a few weeks ago. He has a talent for tinkering — he constructs his own radios, repairs his own go-kart, and once built a Bluetooth speaker as a gift for a friend — and he wanted to show his new teachers what he could do. So on Sunday night, he quickly put together a homemade digital clock (“just something small,” as he casually put it to the Dallas Morning News: a circuit board and power supply connected to a digital display) and proudly offered it to his engineering teacher the next day. But the teacher looked wary. “He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’ ” Ahmed told the newspaper. “’I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’ ”
During English class, the clock beeped, annoying his teacher. When he brought the device up to her afterward, she told him, “It looks like a bomb,” according to Ahmed.
“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me,’ ” he said.
But the English teacher kept the clock, and during sixth period, Ah- med was pulled out of class by the principal.
“They took me to a room filled with five officers in which they interrogated me and searched through my stuff and took my tablet and my invention,” the teen said. “They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’ I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”
But his questioner responded, “It looks like a movie bomb to me.”
A school district spokeswoman, Lesley Weaver, declined to confirm Ahmed’s suspension, citing privacy laws, but said officials were concerned with student safety and not the boy’s faith.
“We were doing everything with an abundance of caution,” Weaver said.
“He just wants to invent good things for mankind,” Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, told the Morning News. “But because his name is Mohamed and because of Sept. 11 . . . my son got mistreated.”
“Having the skill and ambition to build something cool should lead to applause, not arrest,’’ Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “The future belongs to people like Ahmed.”
Officials at Ahmed Mohamed’s Texas high school called police Monday.
Ahmed Mohamed, 14, has received an invitation to tour Facebook’s headquarters, among other support.