9th Grader Arrested, Searched For Building A Clock

A 14-year-old in Dallas, Texas has been arrested for bringing a clock to his school. [Ahmed Mohamed] could be any one of us. He’s a tinkerer, pulling apart scrap appliances and building projects from the parts. He was a member of the his middle school robotics team. The clock was built from a standard four digit seven segment display and a circuit board. [Ahmed] built the circuit inside a Vaultz hard pencil case like this one. He then did what every other experimenter, inventor, hacker, or maker before him has done: He showed off his creation.

Unfortunately for [Ahmed] one of his teachers immediately leapt to the conclusion that this electronic project was a “hoax bomb” of some sort. The police were called, [Ahmed] was pulled out of class and arrested. He was then brought to a detention center where he and his possessions were searched. [Ahmed] is now serving a three-day suspension from school. His clock is considered evidence to be used in a possible criminal case against him.

If this situation doesn’t get your blood boiling, then we don’t know what does. Not only is there a glaring racial issue here, but also an issue of allowing kids to bring their projects to school. We hope you’ll join us in expressing outrage at this whole debacle, as well as supporting [Ahmed] in any way you can. Let’s join together as a community to make sure a few small-minded individuals don’t break the spirit of this budding hardware hacker.

For anyone out there who would like to support [Ahmed]’s education even when his school won’t, [Anil Dash] is will be in contact with the family later today. We’re offering a gift card for the hackaday store and we would assume other contributions would also be welcome. -Ed.

493 thoughts on “9th Grader Arrested, Searched For Building A Clock

  1. @Adam Fabio, Not trying to flame here, but… tl:dr much!?
    This was a manipulation the kid used effectively and it worked. He’s famous.
    You want the masses to let the hackers be, and yet he just crapped on you. Even better, you’re trying to get him a gift card. His EE teacher said to leave it in his bag, but instead he set the alarm to go off during the next class. It was all brilliantly planned!!
    …Racism/profiling is a stupid Ad Huminem attack that gets too much airtime. Ironically as such, this is the story that will get the most responses of the day. Good job schmuck; profit on hacking the human naturez.

    1. Isn’t great that this event has unfolded and been spotlighted as it has, so that we can all hang our biases and grudges on it?

      It sure was easier and more fun to be a 14-year-old in my day. No one viewed my youthful deeds/misdeeds through the lens of international politics.

    2. Don’t think the manipulation was part of the plan. It’s clearly no scratch-built clock. It looks like a disassembled store-bought alarm clock re-installed in a metal suitcase. If I had to guess, he was going for that aesthetic when he built the thing, and then youthful antics ensued… 14-year-olds don’t need malice to make poor decisions…. speaking from experience.

    1. Excuse me, but when I had a home-made test meter (for measuring currents and voltages) on the elementary school bus, I got thoroughly grilled about it and told that neither it, nor any of my other “little creations” had better be seen on the bus or at school ever again. In high school, I had a made-from-scratch radio receiver, complete with vacuum tubes, that was a physics project. It was seen in my locker by a hall monitor teacher who promptly informed me that he would let me off with a warning this time if it left the school that day and I never brought anything like that in again, regardless of what it was.

      This is simply a case of “fear of the unknown”. Just like in my case, teachers and bus drivers couldn’t figure out how on earth to duplicate what he, or I, had done, so there *must* be something scary and sinister going on, so punish the geek, plain and simple.

      Now for the other issue: I am a *white*, *male*, *Christian* electronics tinkerer. Take your bigotry about “scared white people in power” elsewhere – bigot.

  2. Any kid that has any electronic knowledge or computer kit knowledge should be put into this category.
    and should be locked up for there being a chance of them being a terrorist.
    And then they should ban all electronic courses in all schools.
    I think that that should take care of everything.
    And it does not matter what color or race or What your parents are.


    OH and don’t forget about the teachers as well.

    And of course everyone that is / was or had ever logged onto HACKADAY….

    By the way which is a great sight.

  3. This is pathetic. I can see the English teacher questioning the device and taking it away since it beeped and disrupted her tenuous concentration, but the principal should have had the sense to resolve this without calling the police, and there’s no excuse for suspending this child.

    How about a scholarship fund to get the kid into one of the few private non-religious high schools in the DFW area? Tuition looks like about $12,000 per year there.

  4. Has anyone considered the possibility that the kid got exactly the overreaction that was expected and intended. He seemed to have his civil rights violated, and probably has a nice lawsuit that will pay far more than a clock will ever get on kickstarter.
    Maybe he was trolling, and they took the bait hook line & sinker.

      1. He’s probably brighter than you think. He probably knew they would overreact, and the internet & CNN & everyone else would in turn react to the injustice. Now he’s probably going to college for free, he’s gonna sue the school district, the cops, etc. Genius…..

      1. This is actually incorrect. His father is a multiple business owner (in Texas, the place everyone seems to hate, but people who actually want to accomplish things and be successful seem to congregate – shortly followed by the leeches) that ran for president of Sudan multiple times. This looks like an attention grab more and more….

  5. No one sees the irony? An English teacher sees electronics and thinks it’s a bomb. Want to bet she is a member of PETA and has a real leather hand bag?

    I’ll put up with ignorant people on the street but ignorant teachers, regardless of their teaching specialty, are inexcusable.

  6. Welcome to America in the 21st Century.

    I don’t have an issue with the kid getting questioned. I have an issue with suspension and potential charges based on him showing off a project.

    Should this school (and others around the country) use this to institute procedures to allow for exceptional kids to bring projects to school to show to mentor teachers? Absolutely! The kid would use social media (skype etc) to show the teacher the project and device. They would get approval that would e-mail to interested parties to know that the device is expected and then have a location where the device is stored that is secure and away from other students. (if we want to go to the worst case scenario). The mentor teacher meets the kid, verifies that the item is indeed the one that was seen in the Skype interview, then they lock it up in the agreed location to be examined for design and grades at the appropriate time.

    If we allow everything without oversight, we invite misunderstandings such as what has happened to this student. If we put in place procedures to allow for growth in education we prevent misunderstanding, and allow good kids to show their stuff!

    A determined individual will cause havoc no matter what we put in front of them. To punish kids in a place where their skills need to be encouraged is short-sighted at best.

  7. An unprotected lithium cell plus one low value power resistor and a switch can make an incendiary bomb out of perfectly legal parts.
    Those people don’t realize there are hundreds of ways one can build bombs or weapons; arresting that kid only shows the extension of their stupidity. That kid should get a call from MIT and the people involved with the arrest (teachers, cops, etc) should be all fired.

  8. I see the racial bias part, all you have to do is stop terrorists from being terrorists and that bias will go away.
    I also see the need to be conservative and cautious and take no risks when it comes to children’s safety.
    I also see a kid who is probably too smart to go to that school.
    I also see a kid who got some fame and probably a free gift card to Hackaday.
    I also see more news sensationalism, mole hills to mountains conversion. Boring! Report on something interesting.

  9. I experienced something similar – i built an NTP clock using an atmega32 and a wiznet module back in college, i did not get arrested but it did gave the security guard a shocked look when he first saw the LCD showing numbers inside a shoe box hehehe

  10. I would like to help him, or at least mentor him. This is a horrible situation that he must endure because of ignorance and prejudice, I want to turn it around and show him that there are people here that support his talents.
    That video clip nearly put me to tears. Way to much that he should have to endure.

  11. Hollywood stands to take some of the blame here. They are responsible for many misconceptions due to their own ignorance and laziness when it comes to props.

    Race might have played some role in the overreaction, but I have a feeling that those idiots would have done something no matter what race the kid was given recent events and general paranoia combined with teachers who are no smarter than babysitters.

  12. This is ludicrous! Absolutely mind blowing! When I was in an electronics class in my sophomore year (2003?) I made a “stun gun” from a disposable camera at home, I told my teacher about it and he said he wanted to see it in class! A teacher asked me to bring a stun gun to school! Stupid stupid me actually did it, and stupid stupid me actually used it on the teacher (with his permission and the addition of a current limiting resistor). Nothing came of it, but this should really be an indicator here! I made a weapon, took it to school and used it on a teacher, but this kid can’t take a digital clock to school!

    Ahmed, I support you 100%!

  13. Isn’t this the same as calling the cops when minorities or people with older vehicles drive or walk through your new-development neighborhood?

    Just trying to decipher the logic around the finger pointing..

  14. I work in an airport and some years ago I built a head tracking system for a colleague who wanted to use it with freetrack while playing flight simulators.
    Obviously I brought it with me to work when I had to hand it to my colleague;
    I had a fun discussion with airport security about the “thingy”, and after being checked for explosives they let it through.
    Pretty sure things would have gone much differently were I to have a different ethnic background.

    1. America would be great if you couldn’t graduate high school or college without knowing calculus and algebra..

      This whole story is only highlighted because of racial profiling. It has nothing to do with a war on engineering and education.. That happened a long time ago in America and nobody cared..

  15. Had this kid done this exact same thing 15 years ago, built something like this using commonly available electronic parts of that day, the teacher would have been far more likely to be curious about the thing then fearful of it and or the kid. It’s only because we’ve had 10+ years of the federal governments fear campaign that everyone is so tightly wound up that they are afraid of everything and anything even remotely resembling Muslims or Islam. You can say that what this teacher di was racial profiling but it’s only because they’ve been conditioned by the propaganda to see every person of middle east like decent as a possible Islamic terrorist.

      1. Whether it’s a personal bias, or the result of bureaucratic paranoia, racism is racism. Or is there another word for it when there’s government policy behind it?

        I don’t disagree with bluecollarcritic… I think it likely that good-intentioned people were forced by current policies to behave in this way. That’s much much worse of a problem than if just one biased person behaved badly, isn’t it?

        1. Your second paragraph is essentially what I’ve been saying this whole time. Thats what I mean by “what to you expect?” and for whatever reason people just want to call racism and Texas is teh dumbz! Its a system we’ve all helped create and everyone here is part of it no matter how far they tilt their noses back or stuff their heads down into the sand.

        1. The entire post used to get held pending moderation if it contained two links or more, but single links used to work. Now a single link to a White House facebook post gets removed from my post (even IF temporarily) with no notice to me. More confusing the new way.

  16. Perhaps this kid will continue his experimentation and get really good at it, perhaps he will grow up and remember this “incident”. Perhaps he will one day go to another country and teach America a lesson, can you say Gerald Bull? (Saddam’s super gun) The police could have made there lives a lot easier “as they so often do” by planting drugs and guns on the kid and accusing him of being a pedophile. Michio Kaku makes a good point when he says America is running out of scientists, I agree, but at least we are not running out of cops. Since cannabis will soon be legal in the US the cops will have to be in practice to bust a whole new generation of innocent youths.

  17. This is really disgusting of people these days.

    My dad bought my first soldering iron when I was 6 years old and helped me take apart an OLD CLOCK of all things (mechanical, flip face even) and cut some of the wires so we could resolder them and make it work again. All because I was fascinated by the robots of star wars and electronic toys.

    I used to take a shoe box full parts of various things I took apart to school as a kid because we would sometimes have indoor recess if it was raining or snowing or too cold outside and build various little electric cars or robots or blinkies and my teachers would fully support it. Especially when I’d teach other kids about batteries or how to wire up a little light bulb or something. I’d go on to TA in science class in jr. high and high school. I now work in electronics for a living making good money.

    Now a kid, just because of his religious upbringing and the color of his skin is being arrested….

    That was me, just a different time, place and race…

  18. Hackaday should really band together with up a bunch of hardware sites/producers in the diy/maker community and send Ahmen a boatload of stuff to counter the discouragement the police has given him and help keep his interest in engineering alive. Invite the kid to the next Hackaday event too.

  19. In 4th grade I got suspended for bringing empty shell casings to school and lining them up on my desk. I probably deserved it although they were harmless. This was pre-Columbine so I never really thought it might get me into trouble. Now you go to jail for bringing a clock.

    1. A case with a lot of room, for say explosives? sure a sandwich or snack as well that one could eat when the alarm goes off, or even more practical store some diabetic meds, or meds in general. The problem I have with all of this is: “supposedly” this was not the first bomb triggering device this kid as brought to school, but one teacher finally spoke up wtf is that. Let’s see what happens to anyone who takes that same thing through airport security and I’m sure the other parents in the school once they find out this is not the first suspicious device this kid has brought to school will be glad he goes elsewhere. I stand with the school and the security of our kids not the stupid and potentially life threatening actions of anyone who belongs to a race that is currently blowing up all kinds of stuff all over the world. aw the poor little troll got handcuffed, his parents should be paying fines till they are broke. not collecting money from a CAIR lawsuit and CAIR is as bad as the westboro church. Muslims do this kind of thing a lot, and this case was actually nonviolent. But many times muslims have videoed or photographed the actions of those trying to defend themselves from muslims being the violent instigators. Anyone who wants to be blind to this is just as sad and those who are blind to the current US administration being controlled by socialist and muslims, just go through the POTUS roster of his aids.

  20. Would it be possible to hold off on the outrage until some more facts are in? I suspect that this is another case of zero tolerance gone wild, maybe even racism. But I don’t know for sure. The boy’s father is an Imam, and none of us know very much about how the boy interacted with his classmates and teachers. That should not make a difference, but it does. Sometimes people with an attitude can turn a small incident into a large one. Also- the clock looks to me like a manufactured item rebuilt without it’s case. Can anyone shed light on that? I am just curious.

  21. People….
    First, there is not necessarily a racial issue here. None of you /know/ what went through that teachers head when he/she decided it was a bomb. Am I saying that it’s not possible? Second, relating the boy to his father(by police) is not racist, it’s simply a matter of association, and background(partially cultural, but mostly behavioral), like be gets like(most of the time). Third, you all(those doing so) need to stop bashing cops, if don’t know, don’t speak. Fourth, I think we’re all intelligent enough to know that news station are not exactly reliable, they are good for extremely general information, but the rest of it is mostly assumptions, opinions, and quotes that are often taken out of context. Next needs to be considered is fact that although Islam itself is not violent in true interpretation, that there are sects, followings and radical Muslims that have misrepresented Islam, and have subsequently given it a bad face.

    Finally, it should be kept in mind the number of school killings that have been carried out(and attempted) as of late, by students. Though I can’t say with any certainty that the teacher didn’t have eastern heritage on his/her mind when he/she came to the decision that the boy had a bomb, I say child caused school killings probably were at the forefront.

    Discussion welcome, but please be logical and civil. (This isn’t youtube. xD)

    1. I think the allegation of racism or ethnic bias is mainly with the police handling of this, not necessarily the teacher who made the call.

      Islam || brown = be suspicious

      …is prejudice, whether it’s based on policy, 9/11 or whatever.

  22. I live a stones-throw from Dallas myself.

    No, they do not hire intelligent officers. Sadly, this young hacker should be thankful he’s a juvenile and didn’t end up in Lew Sterritt (Dallas County Jail), which is repeatedly ranked near the worst places to be detained in the US.

    I’ve been there, it’s bad.

    Ignorant teacher, stupid cops, “muslim-sounding” name. Recipe for disaster in this bigotry-infested city.

    I’ve heard indigent folks in the Dallas area tell horror stories about the police robbing them of their only possessions, then beating them. I know it’s heresay, but pretty believable after nearly a decade here.

    My heart goes out to this young man and his family.

  23. >Kid gets arrested for building clock
    >Arrest is blamed on SJWs in the comments
    wow now I really have seen all the depths of idiocy the internet has to offer.

    Keep us posted HaD, I hope the kid gets acquitted and the idiots responsible suffer reprimands.

  24. As the power of electronics grows in society it will become more and more controlled. Consider how chemistry was in the 1800s, and how it is now because of “explosifs and drugz omg”.

  25. Strangely enough, what he did was basically gut an alarm clock, and place the internals inside of another casing, and then brought it to school! Not to be harsh, but he didn’t really build *anything*, and yet he got in trouble?!

    Because of this, I will now build a clock out of a GPS, arduino and some sweet looking 70s style 7-segs, and I will power it by a USB battery, and carry it with me. Stupid stupid stupid people for arresting this poor guy. Keep on hacking little dude!

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