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Ahmed Mohamed, His Clock, and the Curious Turn of Events 662

New submitter poity writes: After the news first broke of the 9th grader getting cuffed for scaring school officials with what turned out to be a digital clock, Ahmed Mohamed has experienced a surge of popular support — hailed as a genius and a hero, with college scholarships, internship offers, and even an invitation to the White House by President Obama himself. Now, amid rumors of possible racial discrimination lawsuits against the school and local police, some people have begun to more deeply scrutinize the details of the case, especially on the tech side with regard to the homemade clock in question. Recently, a writer at the creative site Artvoice posted a remarkable analysis of Ahmed's clock project, which raises new questions about the case and the manner in which people and the media alike have reacted. The linked analysis posits that Ahmed's clock started out as another clock, rather than a box of parts, and Ahmed can be said to have repackaged rather than "invented" a wholly new clock, but acknowledges that "none of us were there and knows what happened."
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Ahmed Mohamed, His Clock, and the Curious Turn of Events

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  • by The Real Dr John ( 716876 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @06:49PM (#50552579) Homepage

    Child invents Islamophobia detector.

    • by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:09PM (#50552687)

      It seems to me the kid simply used the term "invented" in the incorrect or loose manner. Had he said "creation" instead of "invention" there would be no problem. He created something "new" with parts from two different things. If anything patent law is filled with "inventions" of this type.

      • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:52PM (#50553007) Homepage

        He also said in an interview he only spent about 20 minutes on it, and it was anything but one of his best "inventions" (something that a number of other people in interviews have mentioned).

        The kid is 14. And here we have someone at Artvoice who put great effort into writing an article criticizing him for not silk-screening his own circuit boards. I mean, seriously? What sort of person did he think he was writing for? Someone who looked at the clock picture and automatically assumed, "I bet a 14-year-old made that circuitboard"?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18, 2015 @08:13PM (#50553149)

          And here we have someone at Artvoice who put great effort into writing an article criticizing him for not silk-screening his own circuit boards. I mean, seriously? What sort of person did he think he was writing for?

          He was probably writing for someone with reading comprehension. He doesn't criticize the kid at a for silk-screening or not, but simply points out that most hobbyists do not silkscreen their boards, especially hand drawn ones (as opposed to cheap boardhouses that deal with only electronic formats now). It is just a big hint that the board is not a hobbyist's, d.i.y. board.

          Plenty of people learned electronics as a young teenager or even younger, and were making their own boards. I remember getting the supplies to do so for $10 from Radioshack decades ago, and it is even easier and cheaper online, with far more instructions and tutorials available. If I hear a teenager say they made an electronic clock, I would assume they did make their own boards, because it is a common project to do...

        • by is as us Infinite ( 920305 ) on Saturday September 19, 2015 @02:46AM (#50554491)

          I'll be honest, my reading is that he's writing it to deflate the groundswell of support for Ahmed. He straw-man's Ahmed's statement that he invented it, as you describe, and then goes on to talk about how the teachers actually weren't responding absurdly. It's an article intended to give points of support to those who want to argue against the commonly expressed opinion that Ahmed was targeted absurdly and unfairly. It does this partly by whittling away at Ahmed's 'credibility' as a young inventor.

          It's definitely contrary to my viewpoint, but I think that's what's going on here.

      • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @08:35PM (#50553281)

        He did exactly what most of us slashdotters did as kids; take stuff apart to see how they work and put them back together in different ways. Of course it wasn't an invention, he said it only took him a few moments.

        • by x0ra ( 1249540 )
          and I once brought a metal firecracker revolver at school (in Europe), openly playing with it during recess. Would it be wise to do it today ? Probably not.
    • by Daniel Matthews ( 4112743 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:21PM (#50552769)
      From what I can see there is nothing special about him or what he did, he is just some cheeky kid who used a very naive way of getting attention and it got out of hand. All this talk of discrimination etc. seems like a beat-up and the poor kid will pay the price in the long run for all the manipulating adults have done to politically capitalise on his prank. Now he has the entire world watching him and expecting to live up to their expectations when there is no solid evidence he is gifted at all.

      How is he going to have a normal and healthy adolescence with that weight on his shoulders? How many children pushed into the limelight crashed and burned as young adults when reality came along and burst their artificially inflated egos? How is messing with children like that in any way ethical regardless of the cause you think it is in aid of?
      • Goddamn; remarkably astute and well-said.
      • by Beeftopia ( 1846720 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @09:00PM (#50553379)

        From what I can see there is nothing special about him or what he did, he is just some cheeky kid who used a very naive way of getting attention and it got out of hand. All this talk of discrimination etc. seems like a beat-up and the poor kid will pay the price in the long run for all the manipulating adults have done to politically capitalise on his prank.

        I didn't get the impression that the boy is cheeky or that this was a prank.

        It just seems like he's a precocious kid interested in how things work and he wanted to show one of his teachers. Unfortunately, teachers' detectors are up for school violence (remember the child who was penalized for chewing his Pop Tart in the shape of a gun? [wjla.com]) and the rise of radical Islam (Islamic gunmen attack the "Draw The Prophet" 40 minutes away in Garland Texas) resulted in this situation.

        It's a tricky situation. However, calling the cops seems slightly absurd. They didn't think it was a bomb by the fact they didn't evacuate the premises and bring a bomb robot to blow it up. If the authorities find a credible threat, they bring in a bomb robot and blow up whatever the threat is. That didn't happen.

        As far as taking things apart and putting them back together, Henry Ford did that sort of thing. [nytimes.com] This might have been simpler, but the boy correctly put it together in a different way.

      • ...How is messing with children like that in any way ethical regardless of the cause you think it is in aid of?

        Messing with? I guess we've somehow overlooked where this child would be at today if they would have just stayed the course with this paranoia-based interrogation.

        Had we the masses not been alerted to this event, had the POTUS himself not intervened, I can promise you that this kids arrest record would have stuck with him for quite a long time, along with the fact he would likely be sitting on the Federal No Fly list by now, for the same non-reasons he was interrogated.

        Go ahead. Tell me again how I'm exa

      • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Saturday September 19, 2015 @08:10AM (#50555083)
        Well, a little research discovers that the primary adult person doing the manipulating is this boy's father, which suggests that this whole thing may have been a set-up.
    • by huckamania ( 533052 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @09:43PM (#50553563) Journal

      And the Danish cartoons and the cartoons drawn in Garland.

      You can call me Islamaphobic, but that doesn't mean there aren't muslims willing to kill me over a cartoon.

      • Liking Charle Hebdo, Danish cartoons and Garland, does not make you islamaphobic. But assuming a brown kid with some wires and circuit is holding a bomb (and you decide not to evacuate, but still charge the kid with making a hoax bomb, force him to write a statement with the threat of expulsion, and deprive him of access to his parents while in your custody) does however.

  • Genius or not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dorianny ( 1847922 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @06:53PM (#50552601) Journal
    He is being hailed as a symbol against prejudice and suspicion. Whether he is a genius or not makes absolutely no difference in this case.
    • Re:Genius or not (Score:4, Insightful)

      by x0ra ( 1249540 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:11PM (#50552705)
      Yes, it does. Because the clock isn't his invention. There is no honor in undeserved glory.
      • by bangular ( 736791 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:20PM (#50552755)
        While I generally support him, the media has been TERRIBLE at reporting this story. The LA Times had a very popular article that kept comparing him to Steve Jobs. JOBS!??! Don't they mean Woz?! The police also release misleading photos making it look like it was the size of a suitcase (it was waaaay smaller than that). I guess once the mass media gets their hands on something their only concern is ad clicks...
        • Yep. Keep that in mind no matter what the story is.
        • by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Friday September 18, 2015 @08:25PM (#50553233) Homepage Journal

          the woz comparison is better than you know:

          "TIL Steve Wozniak put a fake bomb in a locker during high school and spent the night in a juvenile detention center where he taught prisoners how to disconnect the ceiling fan wires and connect them to bars so it would shock people on touch"

          https://www.reddit.com/r/today... [reddit.com]

          including this tidbit:

          The principal had been summoned when the device was found, bravely ran onto the football field clutching it to his chest, and pulled the wires off.

          woz made an actual fake bomb intended to frighten. in today's day and age he would be locked up for life

          ps: the comparison to jobs, even though less valid than woz, still has the slightly valuable point that jobs was an arab:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

          Jobs's biological father, Abdulfattah "John" Jandali (b. 1931), was born into a Muslim household and grew up in Homs, Syria.[9]

          the added poignancy right now being the way syrian refugees are being treated by racists and bigots in europe right now

    • Re:Genius or not (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thakalas ( 1617795 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:13PM (#50552709)

      Whether he is a genius or not makes absolutely no difference in this case.

      Actually it does. If all he did was rip the guts out of a working clock and stuff it in a box, he was probably trying to provoke exactly this reaction. Considering some of the other information (the cop saying he thought that's who it was) it's likely that this is the dad trying to start crap. Sounds like small town infighting in a rather large town.

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

        the cop saying he thought that's who it was

        One of the reports I say indicated the cop who said that had never seen Ahmed before. So how did he know who it was going to be, if he never met him? Is the entire department briefed on "that Mooslim kid"?

      • The whole incident would have been over had the school, without calling the cops, just said "this is an inappropriate toy, some people think it looks bomb like, I'll keep it in the desk and you can pick it up after school". Once the cops were called, the incident would have been over had the cops said "why are you wasting our time on this?"

        It *should* have been a non-story. But people wanted to send a message to this kid ("don't mess with Texas punk"). What happened is that a different message got out.

    • Re:Genius or not (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:40PM (#50552917)

      I am not sure where this this kid is a Genius came from. He does have interest in technology and figuring out how things work.
      When I was in 4th or 5th grade I had a cheap Atari/Sega/Amstrad PC joystick that broke. So I took it apart and I realized it was a simple design, so I played with making contacts with the wires and I saw what happened, then I made a cardboard Game pad that didn't work well. Then I went to Radio shack got some push buttons and drilled holes in some spare Plexiglas and made a game pad, actually the joystick supported one button, and the game pad supported two buttons by seeing what the other wire that wasn't used did.
      Now I am not trying to brag, taking part a clock and finding how to trigger the same functionality takes the same amount of skill. It isn't Genius stuff, but it takes curiosity on how things work and try to get things working again.

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:00PM (#50552625) Homepage
    It doesn't matter if he bought the clock and broke it, rather than 'made it'.

    He's a 13 year old kid, not an engineer.

    This story is about a huge over-reaction by fools that can't tell the difference between "Should be questioned/looked into" and "Should be arrested, suspended, and punished".

    We have to start holding government employees to a HIGHER standard than they hold non-employees. We should never punish regular citizens, let alone children for appearing to have committed a crime - just for actually doing it. But at the same time we need to start punishing police, principals, and similar people for APPEARING to have committed crimes. That's the only way to stop government over-reach.

  • My view of this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by poity ( 465672 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:00PM (#50552627)

    Submitter here. Since partisan accusations were quickly thrown when I mentioned this elsewhere, I'd like to just clarify my own view regarding this case: I think Ahmed didn't deserve to be handcuffed, he very clearly wasn't a danger to anyone. I also think he didn't deserve to be glorified and cast as a heroic genius with all this acclaim in the media, as the new evidence suggests.

    My takeaway? Reality is complex (in this case perplexingly so), and the media doesn't do well with complexities.

    • Re:My view of this (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ConfusedVorlon ( 657247 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:11PM (#50552697) Homepage

      Clearly he didn't 'invent' the clock - but I don't think anyone really thought he did.

      After all - we already have clocks.

      He likes to tinker, and he calls the result his 'inventions'. Not the most nuanced use of language - but he is 13.

      Whether he just took apart and repackaged an existing clock, or did something more technically challenging, your implied charge of misleading us over his 'invention' seems rather ungenerous in spirit.

      • Re:My view of this (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @08:06PM (#50553109)
        The issue isn't whether he invented anything. The question is whether he intentionally made a device that looked like a bomb in order to get a reaction from people. The reaction he got (intentionally or otherwise) was that the police considered charging him with making a "hoax bomb".
        • Re:My view of this (Score:4, Informative)

          by Uberbah ( 647458 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @11:03PM (#50553887)

          The question is whether he intentionally made a device that looked like a bomb in order to get a reaction from people.

          If that were the case, the teacher, principal, superintendent and chief of police would be screaming from the rooftops that Ahmed had joked about making a bomb, or otherwise led people to believe a bunch of wires and circuits was a bomb.

          They're not. Which means you don't have a question, you have a non-sequitur.

      • Re:My view of this (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mtrachtenberg ( 67780 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @08:15PM (#50553155) Homepage

        Sorry submitter, not buying. Have you read the news articles about the city council and mayor of Irving, Texas? You can start with this one: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/ahmed-mohamed-beth-van-duyne-sharia

        So, basically, a kid is hauled off in handcuffs and some clown goes to substantial efforts to demonstrate that he started with a Radio Shack clock.

        We *need* kids tinkering around with stuff.

        We even need kids who get maybe a teensy bit cheeky with their stupidest teachers.

        And when the cheeky kid happens to be "not quite white" in a community with stupid bigots in charge, and they get hauled off in handcuffs, and the school leaves him suspended, we don't need some clever jackass backward-engineering his little toy to demonstrate media overreaction. We need people looking into how bigots ended up in leadership positions in Irving, Texas. Then, instead of investigating its overreaction, maybe the mainstream media could investigate why it hasn't been plain-old-reacting to this bigotry for the last fourteen years, or to the stupidity we've been witnessing for 14,000.

      • by poity ( 465672 )

        I'd like to highlight a part of the article that I thought made some good points:

        [...]Teachers are taught to be suspicious and vigilant. Ahmed wasn’t accused of making a bomb – he was accused of making a look-alike, a hoax. And be honest with yourself, a big red digital display with a bunch of loose wires in a brief-case looking box is awful like a Hollywood-style representation of a bomb. Everyone jumped to play the race and religion cards and try and paint the teachers and police as idiots and bigots, but in my mind, they were probably acting responsibly and erring on the side of caution to protect the rest of their students, just in case. “This wouldn’t have happened if Ahmed were white,” they say. We’re supposed to be sensitive to school violence, but apparently religious and racial sensitivity trumps that. At least we have another clue about how the sensitivity and moral outrage pecking order lies.

        Because, is it possible, that maybe, just maybe, this was actually a hoax bomb? A silly prank that was taken the wrong way? That the media then ran with, and everyone else got carried away? Maybe there wasn’t even any racial or religious bias on the parts of the teachers and police.

        I don’t know any of these things. But I’m intellectually mature enough to admit I don’t know, and to also be OK with that. I don’t feel a need to take the first exist to conclusionville. But I do like to find facts where I can, and prefer to let them lead me to conclusions, rather than a knee jerk judgement based on a headline or sound bite.

    • The media ignores complexities that don't go with the narrative they want to push. Complexities that match their narrative are eaten up.


    • Wasn't there, don't know he people involved, so who knows what the situation was. What I don't like is the fact that Ahmed Mohamed didn't accomplish anything worth of presidential attention, yet he was invited to the White House. There are children who do far more interesting things. Let's not forget David Hahn. [harpers.org] I think it can be said Hahn set the bar quite high for teenage science projects.
      • Re:My view of this (Score:5, Insightful)

        by FranTaylor ( 164577 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:28PM (#50552841)

        What I don't like is the fact that Ahmed Mohamed didn't accomplish anything worth of presidential attention

        that's completely irrelevant, the point is to show the country that we should cherish the experimenter spirit.

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        Right, because he was invited to the Whitehouse because it was the most awesome invention ever? Is that the takeaway that you got out of this?

        Hahn had indeed an inventive spirit - although his accomplishments were rather overplayed in the media. Also, he was 17 when he did what he did, not 14, which is a fairly big difference in terms of education and time to gain experience tinkering. But still, Hahn is an interesting case, and his dedication to learning and experimenting was commendable (the lying and s

      • Ahmed didn't accomplish anything worthy of presidential attention. The authorities surrounding him did. Since the president cannot call them does on national TV, he does the same thing by inviting Ahmed to the White House.

        It's the PR equivalent to owing a house in an area that [insert billionaire] wants to turn into his complex. You get a lot of reward for being in the right place at the right time.

    • Re:My view of this (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mars Saxman ( 1745 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:40PM (#50552913) Homepage

      There's no new evidence here - it was obvious the instant we saw the photo of his project that he'd repackaged the guts of some old AC clock! Good for you that you figured out exactly which one it was, but really, so what? I worked on similar projects when I was his age. You have to start somewhere, and casemodding a piece of old garage-sale junk is a totally reasonable project for a 14-year-old newbie.

      We aren't making a fuss over him because he's an extraordinary genius; rather, we're making a fuss over him because he's just an ordinary kid who *ought* to have been treated with ordinary respect, and we're trying to make up for the unforgivably shitty dumbass bullshit he's been subjected to.

      And really, it's less about him than it is about all the other kids like him: the message is "don't let those fucknuts in Texas scare you, smart young Muslim inventor kids; America at large thinks you're cool".

      • by LordKronos ( 470910 ) on Saturday September 19, 2015 @10:00AM (#50555465)

        we're making a fuss over him because he's just an ordinary kid who *ought* to have been treated with ordinary respect, and we're trying to make up for the unforgivably shitty dumbass bullshit he's been subjected to.

        It's not just that. If we hadn't made such a big deal about it, this innocent kid would probably have a criminal record. Even after the media got involved the cops were STILL deciding whether to press charges. Luckily, now that Obama has got involved in the story, I'm pretty sure nobody's gonna be dumb enough to pursue this further.

  • by Benjamin Kamath ( 4205793 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:04PM (#50552659)
    Nobody got mad because his "invention" was being discredited, or even really cared if a 14 year old claimed he invented something he merely assembled. The reaction to show encouragement and support was to counteract the fact that this young boy might think the whole country would consider him a terrorist suspect for showing interest in electronics. I absolutely don't care if he is a boy wonder or not, lets not treat kids as terrorists because they are brown and like engineering.
    • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

      Even if he simply transplanted a clock into a pencil case, he shows more knowledge of electronics than the vast majority of adults.

      Geek cred: I was reading Getting Started in Electronics by Forrest Mimms in 5th grade, and wiring stuff to the user port of my C64 in middle school.

  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwater.gmail@com> on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:08PM (#50552675) Homepage

    Gotta love the passive agressive accusations in the second article - "I don't mean to accuse him of being a terrorist, but wasn't he acting suspicious, isn't all this a little funny, isn't it kinda like he was a terrorist?".

  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:09PM (#50552681)

    ... and go with what happened.

    They didn't evacuate the school, or even the room. They didn't call the bomb squad. They did everything *but* treat the purported "possible bomb" as a bomb.

    It wasn't about whether it was a bomb or not, it was about humiliating the brown kid.

    If it was a bomb, and it did explode and take out the administration office, Uncle Chuck Darwin would have been smiling. But it wasn't, so it's not even close to a Darwin Award, but rather a damn good example of straight-out racism.

    --
    BMO

    • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:21PM (#50552765)

      TL;DR: No one ever thought it was an actual bomb.

      Long version:

      Since no one ever actually thought it was a bomb, the fact that the school and police took no action as if it were a bomb does not somehow "prove" it's racism and/or Islamophobia. That isn't to say one or more of the people involved had something in that vein in their minds, but their lack of treating it as a bomb doesn't demonstrate it, since numerous accounts of this story indicate the school and police never thought it was an actual bomb.

      Some people thought it "looked like" a bomb, and wondered why he would bring it to school, because they don't understand why kids who like things like science and electronics do what they do.

      And there are laws dealing with what are called "hoax devices". Many people have gotten into trouble for such things before. Hoax device statutes have been around for many, many years, long before 9/11.

      Here is the Texas statute:

      http://www.statutes.legis.stat... [state.tx.us]

      The only thing that matters in the hoax device statute is intent â" a feature that is not unique. For example, intent matters when someone is killed. Was it an accident? Was it negligence? Was it premeditated? That is the difference between someone having done nothing wrong, and murder. And it is interviews and investigations and evidence that determine intent.

      Even in the original Dallas Morning News article that broke this story â" before it went viral and Ahmed got invited to the White House, JPL, MIT, got scholarships, and become the hero of Silicon Valley â" the only thing the police officials said was that they knew it wasn't a bomb, that Ahmed never claimed it was anything but a clock, and that they were trying to determine WHY he built and AND brought it to school. Once it was determined there was no intent to alarm, scare, or deceive, it was further determined there was no wrongdoing.

      Steve Wozniak got in trouble for using a hoax device (with intent to scare), and was arrested and spent a night in jail. I got in trouble with authority figures â" school, police â" for things similar to what Ahmed did several times, when doing nothing wrong. Maybe a little borderline, maybe a little, "What on earth are you doing?" but not illegal. And frankly, some of those came down only to intent as well.

      So this little trope misunderstands what happened. Could racism or Islamophobia been an element in anyone's mind? There is no way to know, as much as people desperately want to come to that conclusion. When people say, "What white kid would have gotten in trouble for doing nothing wrong?"

      Plenty. Ignore the title, read the article (for those who haven't already):

      https://reason.com/blog/2015/0... [reason.com]

      His English teacher overreacted by getting the principal's office involved. The school overreacted by calling the police. The school bears almost all of the responsibility here â" not "post-9/11 America", racism, or police. If the police had not been called, none of this would ever have happened â" and Ahmed wouldn't be a celebrity, either.

      When police are called for a situation where any of the parties involved are not in perfect agreement, and there is no controversy, even if nothing illegal occurred, I would submit that there are not many times that results in a more positive outcome. The police are there, in part, to investigate and to determine if there was any wrongdoing, which they did. I wish they would have simply handled it at the school, but what I really wish is that the school would not have called the police in the first place.

    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:24PM (#50552805) Journal
      Steve Wozniak actively tried to build a fake bomb at school [businessinsider.com]. When the principal found it ticking, he ran with it to the football field and ripped the wires off. Wozniak started laughing when he heard it, but they sent him to juvy. While there, he taught the other prisoners how to "disconnect the wires leading to the ceiling fans and connect them to the bars so people got shocked when touching them."

      The principal in Woz's case deserves real credit for risking his life to save kids from a bomb. Principal today? Not so much.
  • I'm gonna be bold, but he didn't invent shit. At best, from the picture, the "clock" seems more to be a commercial product hacked up in a different case. Why would he add 2 source of power (9V battery + main) ? Why do this on 2 different boards linked up by ribbon cables ?
    • I'm gonna be bold, but he didn't invent shit.

      you can be as bold as you want about stuff that is irrelevant

    • by dpidcoe ( 2606549 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:36PM (#50552881)

      At best, from the picture, the "clock" seems more to be a commercial product hacked up in a different case. Why would he add 2 source of power (9V battery + main) ? Why do this on 2 different boards linked up by ribbon cables ?

      You answered your own question with your first sentence. According to analysis in TFA, he took apart an LED clock (a Micronta 63756 to be exact) and transplanted it into a pencil case. I had an old LED alarm clock (since replaced by my phone) that plugged into a 120V source, but also took 2 AA batteries as a backup source so that you wouldn't lose your alarm if the power went out. The oddities of the design are due to whatever engineer came up with it in the 70s.

  • by twasserman ( 878174 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:10PM (#50552693)
    As noted elsewhere, the authorities in Irving, Texas, didn't act in a way that was consistent with a potential bomb threat. If they found a mysterious unattended package on the street, they would have cleared the area, brought in the bomb squad, and destroyed the contents of the package. But neither Ahmed's school, nor the cops that they called, did any of those things. Either they didn't act to protect the students and teachers in the school (on the assumption that it might be a bomb) or they knew from the outset that the clock wasn't a bomb, in which case it was Islamophobia in action.
  • From one of TFA's:

    and even that dirty garbage-picked black and white TV my parents dragged home that they knew I’d have a blast playing with

    I hope I'm not shattering the illusion of a pleasant childhood but if his either of his parents were at all technically inclined, then there's only one reason to provide a kid with a used TV to take apart... and while there probably won't be a blast, I'd certainly expect a loud spark and possibly the smell of burning flesh... :p

  • by Magnus Pym ( 237274 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:19PM (#50552749)

    So... a 14 year old did not actually build electronic integrated circuits with his own 2 hands. He either assembled or repackaged something commercially available. How is that even relevant? That changes this situation how exactly?

    And how does this in any way excuse or even mitigate the behavior of the teachers, administrators & police involved in the situation?

    Why don't you come out and admit your reasons... you have too much invested emotionally in the hard right narrative and cannot bear the thought that your side fucked up, and you are now doubling down and rolling around in the mud trying to save face. The though of offering up a simple apology would never occur to your lot.

  • by rhysweatherley ( 193588 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:38PM (#50552899)
    My first computer program was little more than 10 PRINT "HELLO WORLD", but young me was damn proud at the time of making a computer do something ... anything ... and would have loved to share that enthusiasm with others.

    It doesn't matter whether Ahmed built the clock from scratch after forging his own components from rocks in a furnace or disassembled something else and made a small change. Who cares. We all had to start somewhere and a little encouragement goes a long way.

    Don't let the know-nothings get you down Ahmed. Keep at it.
  • My 2 cents (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TsuruchiBrian ( 2731979 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @07:57PM (#50553051)

    If we stop and think – was it really such a ridiculous reaction from the teacher and the police in the first place?

    Yes.

    How many school shootings and incidents of violence have we had, where we hear afterwards “this could have been prevented, if only we paid more attention to the signs!”

    Well there are actually not that many school shootings period, as tragic as the ones that do occur are. Furthermore, people generally have a better idea of what a gun looks like than what a bomb looks like.

    Teachers are taught to be suspicious and vigilant.

    They are also apprently very stupid in that not only do they not know what a bomb looks like, they also don't know that they don't know what a bomb looks like. If we are going to call the cops every time a kid has something that *could* be a bomb, we are going to arrest every kid with a possible cell phone IED detonator, and blow up every backpack with a bomb squad robot. It seems the suspicion and vigilance teachers actually have is very selective and misguided.

    Ahmed wasn’t accused of making a bomb – he was accused of making a look-alike, a hoax.

    I didn't realize the police were required to deal with known hoaxes. IT seems pretty obvious that the accusation was switched to that of a hoax after it was discovered that it wasn't a real bomb.

    And be honest with yourself, a big red digital display with a bunch of loose wires in a brief-case looking box is awful like a Hollywood-style representation of a bomb.

    There are a bunch of kids we could probably arrest for being hackers because they match the Hollywood-style representation of a hacker. I don't know why adults are not held to the standard of knowing that reality is different than TV.

    Everyone jumped to play the race and religion cards and try and paint the teachers and police as idiots and bigots

    Because many of us are pretty sure we (if not muslim looking) could have (and did) bring/make similar looking things to school without issue.

    , but in my mind, they were probably acting responsibly and erring on the side of caution to protect the rest of their students, just in case.

    I don't think it's reasonable or responsible to assume that a bunch of electronics is a bomb, any more than it is reasonable or responsible to assume that a cell phone is an IED detonator.

    “This wouldn’t have happened if Ahmed were white,” they say.

    I agree

    We’re supposed to be sensitive to school violence, but apparently religious and racial sensitivity trumps that.

    You can and should be sensitive to school violence. You should also know your own limitations in discerning the credibility of potential threats. And if your sensitivity to potential bombs is heavily affected by the way the the kid holding the bomb looks or what his name is, then you are probably a bigot. Just like if your sensitivity to gang violence causes you to only suspect blacks and mexicans, you are still a racist even if you hide your racism behind the pretense of violence mitigation.

    At least we have another clue about how the sensitivity and moral outrage pecking order lies.

    When non-muslim looking/named kids start being suspected of making bombs simply for being interested in electronics, then maybe the conversation will be different.

    Kudos for figuring out that the clock was actually just an existing clock taken out of it's original housing. But to me this illustrates even more how ridiculous it is to overreact to this "bomb". Maybe we need the teachers to be trained on "what the insides of common things look like", so they don't need to freak out that something is a bomb just because it's not in it's original housing.

    I don't want to fault people for being cautious in dealing with a potential bomb. I am criticizing people for being incompetent and racist in their method of determining which potential bombs are credible.

  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @08:19PM (#50553183) Homepage

    The fine article contains some speculation as to whether it was really intended to be a clock, because it's a poor design for a clock:

    It's awful hard to see the clock with the case closed. On the other hand, with the case open, it's awful dangerous to have an exposed power transformer sitting near the snooze button

    Well, that makes me wonder if the kid who made the clock mounted the display to be viewed with the case open, or if he cut a hole in the side of the pencil box and mounted the display to be viewed the other way.

    Someone familiar with how LED clock displays look from the front and from the back: can you tell which way the clock display was mounted? Was it in fact mounted such that you can't read the time without opening the case?

    If you really can't read the clock without opening the case, then it really is an odd design for a clock. If form follows function, then what indeed was the intended function?

    I'm wondering how often the kid brought other projects to school, and what the other projects were. I can well imagine a kid that age making a fake bomb to troll everyone, but I can also imagine someone who is just a hobbyist, so I am not going to draw any conclusions here at all.

  • by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @08:31PM (#50553255)

    ... realized yet that his father is an activist? Ran twice for president of Sudan (from the US!)? Debated that FL pastor who burned a koran?

    I knew this was too "perfect" the first whiff of it I got, and the more details come out, the more right I was.

  • by ArylAkamov ( 4036877 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @09:48PM (#50553587)

    Get ready for a wall of text. All of this happened in a small town in Washington state, for reference.

    I've had similar things happen to me for dicking about with electronics and I'm as white as you can get.

    I had my desk and backpack searched in grade school because "some kids" reported me to the principal talking about fireworks (It was July) and told him I was looking up bombs on the computers (Electromagnets are apparently bombs). Of course I had random PCBs from shit I took apart in my backpack and that was damning enough evidence to call my parents and suspend me for a week (For "Disrupting the learning environment, a copout term when you piss off school administration but technically didn't break any rules). Cops were threatened but weren't called.

    I was also (Without my parents knowledge) placed into a "special" class, consisting mostly of the "slow" kids where we got to talk about our feelings (By pointing to an expression on a plush cube). This was run by the school counselor.

    According to her it was wrong to enjoy the things I enjoyed at the time (Average kid stuff for the most part. Drawing guns, playing video games, playing with soldering irons). I learned a few years ago after talking with my parents that she literally told them that I would be the next "Columbine kid" if they didn't put me on drugs to "fix" me (They didn't).

    Same thing in middle school, again was looking up AVR tutorials in the library and a number of kids would come up behind me and yell out "IS THAT A BOMB!?" and variations of that. Again, all of my stuff searched, escorted by security, etc. Suspended for a few days for "abusing school computer privileges" because "School computers are not for learning whatever you want, your activities must relate to classwork".

    In highschool I finally got a break, amazing teacher who had a back room lined with soldering irons and breadboards. We even started a F.I.R.S.T. robotics team before I graduated.

    So please, don't give me bullshit about this only happening because of the color of his skin. Blame the school's lack of understanding and zero tolerance policies. Blame the culture of fear in this country, don't buy into this stereotypical "LOOK! LOOK! AMERICANS ARE RACIST" crap.

    If anything, I would bet the only reason this story has taken off is because he was brown and race politics are all the rage these days.

    There are a lot more victims of "Zero tolerance" policies than what you see in the news, stories like this and the poptart gun kid are more common than most people think.

    • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

      I had my desk and backpack searched in grade school because "some kids" reported me to the principal talking about fireworks (It was July) and told him I was looking up bombs on the computers (Electromagnets are apparently bombs). Of course I had random PCBs from shit I took apart in my backpack and that was damning enough evidence to call my parents and suspend me for a week (For "Disrupting the learning environment, a copout term when you piss off school administration but technically didn't break any rul

  • by cohomology ( 111648 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @10:30PM (#50553769)

    I'm surprised by comments that Ahmed "just" took things apart and put them together. Do you remember getting your first chemistry set, or bicycle, or learning how switches work? I'll bet that you tried things out, many times.

    If you played basketball, I bet you went out to shoot baskets, just because you could.

    If you took shop class, did you invent wood, or drills, or nails? I bet you did things that somebody showed you.

    If you played a musical instrument, I bet you played the same practice pieces over and over.

    Those activities are "play" and most mammals do that. They practice their skills, even if they are not immediately needed to survive. That is a developmentally appropriate thing to do! There are parts of your brain that are not wired up to the rational, language using parts, and those parts need to develop.

    I don't care if all Ahmed did was take something apart and put it together again. That was encouraged in me, and I hope it will be encouraged in others.

  • by Quantam ( 870027 ) on Saturday September 19, 2015 @05:24AM (#50554765) Homepage
    The article makes some good points and some not so good points. Here's the TL;DR version of this whole affair as best anyone can tell from the evidence so far:
    - Ahmed brought disassembled clock to school for show and tell
    - Ahmed never claimed it was a bomb
    - Neither the school nor police actually thought it was a bomb (if they had, the entire event would have gone down much more dramatically)
    - Given that, it's entirely possible the whole affair was racially motivated (or some idiotic zero-tolerance thing where they thought scaring him would teach him a lesson)
    - Ahmed did not build the clock in question, he merely disassembled a store bought clock
    - Ahmed is a fledgling tinkerer and may have a productive career in engineering when he grows up...if he doesn't crack from the pressure of being a world-renowned boy genius and shining jewel of Muslim-Americans
    - Disassembling a clock at 13 does not a boy genius make. Even building a clock from a microcontroller at 13, while nothing to sneeze at, would fall short of the title of "genius".
    - Obama's presidency will be ending soon, but the memories (and pictures/videos) of him inviting a kid that disassembled a clock to the White House are forever

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake

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