I Built A Clock To Spread Awareness. Now It’s Your Turn

I spent an evening building a clock. It’s not about keeping time, or even about the clock. This is about raising awareness that people actually build electronics as a hobby. Promoting wide understanding of this can have a profound effect on our society. On the one hand, it can avoid drama like we’ve seen with the clock incident this week at a school in Texas. The far more important result is to get more people interested in STEM fields.

If you think back to 10-20 years ago, everyone knew that “computer person” who always had interesting technology, spent tons of time on the computer, and was the go-to when people needed help. Fast forward to today and everyone is that computer geek to one extent or another. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops have been universally adopted. We need everyone today to know that “hardware person” who is building electronics in their basement, garage, or hackerspace. I don’t have any illusions that everyone will be bootstrapping a clock in 10 years. But there are enough of us out there already that raising our profile will let everyone discover they already have a hardware hacker in their social circles.

Get started this weekend by building a Clock for Social Good. Grab a non-hacker friend and build a clock with anything you have lying around. Document it on Hackaday.io and send me a message with the link so I can add it to the already-growing list of clock builds.

This will break down the barriers your non-hacker acquaintances have about cracking open the case on something, or about seeing a bunch of loose wires hanging off of a board. Getting our projects out into the community will help people learn that building hardware is a thing, and one that they should get their kids excited about. The more engineers we can create in middle and high school, the better our future outlook becomes.

Now, if you want to know more about my clock, check out the video after the break. I do have a project page started, with plenty more information coming later today as I find carve out some time to update it. I can’t wait to see what you come up with for your own project!

167 thoughts on “I Built A Clock To Spread Awareness. Now It’s Your Turn

  1. i want to do electronic kit stuff…but not alone…and nobody in my real world does…i can’t afford clubs, etc…BUT, yes i want to build a clock in a pencil case…so it’s on my to-do-list…it’s just gotta cost less than $100…way less

    1. The components to build a clock are very inexpensive and easy to find online. Instructables has a ton of how-to’s on this, and you can get a few of the parts for free from Texas Instruments (they give free parts for prototyping.) You’ll want a few simple things like a breadboard and jumper wires – all of which can be purchased from Amazon (keep an eye on those shipping times – China sells a lot of parts there and they can take weeks…or months to arrive.)

      A few parts that come to mind that you may want to use (sans Arduino): 7-segment LEDs, RTC (Real-time-clock) chip, oscillator, shift registers (for the LEDs), appropriate resistors, batteries, connecting wire.

      If you’re interested in electronics, try the book: Getting Started in Electronics by Forrest M Mims

      1. The components are REAL simple – start with a table clock, remove all screws, spread contents around the inside of a briefcase… There, you’ve just ‘invented’ a clock just like Ahmed’s…

    2. $100 will easily get you –
      Arduino like micro-controller as the brains (Nano is about $3.50).
      A high accuracy DS3232 RTC module (accuracy real time clock module about $1.50)
      Any thing you want for input (even a 16×2 LCD display if you want that), quadrature encoded dial knob with switch, perhaps Large 7 Segment digits or neo pixels , maybe an IR remote control.
      Plenty of room left in the budget for a decent battery to make it battery backup. On a budget of $100 you could even make it sync to the radio time signal of GPS systems. I have one two clock builds that use a ring of 60 neo pixels that cost about $25

  2. Oh, we’re all so smart, mocking the ignorant teacher confronted with a device she didn’t understand and, to the untrained eye, looks like a detonator from a Hollywood movie… But, ask your self this:

    If you were at a national monument, a shopping mall, the finish line of a marathon, or sitting on an airplane and you saw someone pull such an assortment of wires and electronic components out of a backpack, would you think – oh, look, a guy (or gal) that likes electronics!’ Or would you, as most non-electronic hobbiests would, for a moment be very concerned?

    It is not unheard of for children to bring knives, guns, and even bombs to school, and it is not unheard of for parents in other countries to strap bomb vests on their children and send them into shopping centers, bars frequented by foreign soldiers, etc.

    It would be great if everyone was able to identify a clock from a detonator, but faced with an unexpected event like this, I’m glad the teacher, administration, and police decided to err on the side of safety when put in a situation like this.

    I wonder how this boy will get his ‘clearly a clock’ through the TSA at the airport…

    1. “If you were at a national monument, a shopping mall, the finish line of a marathon, or sitting on an airplane and you saw someone pull such an assortment of wires and electronic components out of a backpack…” But that’s not what happened or even close to what happened. The kid approached his teacher and showed it to them. Furthermore, there was not a visible “mess of wires”. It was enclosed with a pencil case and the only thing visible was a wall plug and a 7-segment display. It would be pretty silly to have a bomb that you have to plug into a wall al la Naked Gun 33 and 1/3.

      1. The kid showed it to his engineering teacher, who told him to not show it around. After that, the kid had it in class and the alarm of the clock went off (!), and that’s when the other teacher who called the cops discovered it.

        The clock itself was not even a hobby electronics project as such. It was simply the insides of a regular bedside alarm clock pulled out of the covers and screwed into the pencil case – movie prop bomb style. It was being powered by a 9 Volt backup battery that belong to the original clock.

        Imagine yourself a simple english teacher with no electronics background, who discovers a kid with a beeping backback, and finds an object that looks like a bomb detonator. The kid says “It’s a clock” – what do you do?

        Such a clock can be trivially used as an actual detonator btw. The only sensible thing the teacher could do at that point is to escort the kid to the principal’s office and call the cops to assess what the situation is, and what the kid -actually- intends to do with his “clock”.

        1. I’m aware that he did not really “build” a clock. And this isn’t even about the English teacher, it isabout how things continued to escalate afterwards. It should all have ended quickly with the Engineering teacher giving a statement. The police even admitted to “fairly quickly” (cited below) determining that the clock was not a real threat. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/19/us/irving-police-chief-defends-response-to-ahmed-mohameds-clock.html?_r=0

          1. How things escalated afterwards had more to do with his publicity-seeking dad than what the kid did.

            Which is probably what the whole clock was built to achieve in the first place.

          2. Dax, you think the Dad escalated it, and not the police? Do you have kids? If the police arrested your kid, in handcuffs, in front of the rest of the school and questioned him without notifying you, you’d just take it without complaint?

            I’d be mad as hell and wouldn’t be afraid to let people know how I felt.

          3. well the police are not the ones who called in every bit of media they could find now are they. so yes it was the father. this whole thing stinks and is making me not want to come back to had because it has just gotten to political. post hacks not this shock political BS!

        2. The question is not if the english-teacher did not have an electronics background. The question is that he should have had an educational background. And since when are teachers simple?

          Besides, if it really WAS a bomb, taking the kid to the principal’s office WITH the bomb, is about the dumbest thing you can do.

          Nobody is that dumb. The teacher clearly meant to teach the boy a lesson. What lesson did the boy learn? That you shouldn’t do anything out of the ordinary, or the authorities will give you so much trouble that you wish you didn’t get out of bed that morning.

          There’s a Dutch expression: het kind met het badwater weggooien. Throwing the kid away with the bath-water. Roughly translated as “the cure is worse than the ailment”.

          All the boy learned was that he should never be proud of the things he does. To hide his accomplishments as good as he can. What use will that be to society?

          1. You don’t get it, we have Zero Tolerance policies in our schools. Anything that looks dangerous can get you a visit to the principals office and suspended.

            Kids have been suspended for eating a pastry into the shape of a gun.

            Anything that looks like a bomb, considering the number of deranged students who have called in bomb threats in our schools will get you a visit from the police.

            Ahmed was treated with kid gloves and made off quite well. A visit with Obama, Zuckerberg, offers of internships, etc.

            All because he took a clock apart to scare people.

        3. “Imagine yourself a simple english teacher with no electronics background, who discovers a kid with a beeping backback, and finds an object that looks like a bomb detonator.”

          I am starting to think that the kid did indeed imagine that, with glee. The teacher was set-up, but the kid;s mind games backfired until daddy pull a few political favours.

        4. “Such a clock can be trivially used as an actual detonator btw. The only sensible thing the teacher could do at that point is to escort the kid to the principal’s office and call the cops to assess what the situation is, and what the kid -actually- intends to do with his “clock”.

          This. This is the fine line. The English teacher though it could be a bomb, and it very easily could have been. A student brought in a battery powered electronic device designed to to close a circuit at a specific time as programmed by the operator. Pretty sure that accurately describes a timed detonator circuit. A simple model rocket igniter could replace the speaker, or even a simple, much more subtle nichrome wire. The English teacher followed proper protocol. She does not deserve to be chastised for her ignorance of electronics, she should be respected for reporting a device that could be used to make a bomb.

          The actions of the principal and the police however, were nothing shy of criminal. They should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, either way they perceived the device:

          If they don’t believe it is a bomb, they contact the child’s parents immediately. If they are unable to contact the parents, then they may take the student to a secure location within the school, and detain him until they are able to contact a legal guardian, and upon the guardian’s arrival, question the student. Interrogating a student with out an advocate present constitutes endangering the welfare of a child. It was a tactic designed to coerce an action or behavior, from a minor, out of fear or terror.

          If they did believe it was a bomb, then they should have followed standard protocol. Whether that be go to lock down and search the building for additional devices, or evacuate the school prior to performing the search. From the coverage I’ve seen, they did neither. That endangered the life of everyone in the school.

          1. I think dax is a troll, and he might not even be consciously actively trolling in all his comments but his mind is so adapted to trolling that he can’t do anything else anymore.

          2. If the child called in a bomb threat, the school would call the police.

            In this case, they (effectively) think the child was hoping to scare someone with a fake bomb, an item clearly not allowed on campus.

          3. A “fake bomb” would at least have some cardboard tubes painted red, and curly wires sticking out of it. A timer minus explosives isn’t a bomb, it’s a clock.

        5. I’d think it was just a clock. Admittedly I live in a country where children can’t get hold of explosives. But if I was going to blow up a school (and I’m not, so don’t waste your time, spooks), I’d probably HIDE my bomb. I also probably wouldn’t give it a display. The display on bomb timers is there to add tension to Hollywood films. So James Bond can stop it right on 00:00:01, or even better on 00:00:00. IRL a bomb is not meant to have a user-interface beyond the blowwy-uppy one.

          But no, kid is a Muslim, teacher is American, so naturally they’re expecting the kid to detonate at any second, every moment of his education. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so awful. Although that said it’s still quite funny. The USA really needs to sort out it’s media. Then it’s politics, then it’s people.

          I hadn’t read elsewhere that the lazy little fucker just disassembled an existing clock though. In what sense is that work? I’d expel him just for that. That’s not science, it’s just screwdriving.

          1. Oh, also on Octopussy-related business, I read somewhere (no practical experience, soz) that nuclear bombs are actually quite easy to disarm. The idea behind them being that, used in anger, the parts aren’t actually accessible as they’re flying through the air at warp speed. If you have a bomb in front of you to tinker with, it’s probably one of yours. So disarming them is easy just in case of an accident at the arsenal.

            Although again the only use for a timer-detonated nuke would be terrorism, the “legit” ones are dropped out of planes or, nowadays, fired on missiles. They’re detonated when they know they’re in the right location.

    2. This is exactly the kind of hysterical extrapolation that’s threatening innovation. It’s one thing to be ignorant of what the device actually was, it’s another thing entirely to conjure up scenarios that didn’t happen to justify an overreaction.

        1. The biggest differences between a clock and a IED is that a clock doesn’t contain any explosive material and is not intended to detonate. Even a person completely ignorant of electronics can understand that a bomb requires *some* amount of volatile solid or liquid material…which this device was completely and obviously lacking.

          1. What’s in the pouch on the right in the briefcase? A battery? Some explosives? Erring on the side of caution was reasonable for teacher and admin, police properly assessed situation very quickly.

            His dad, an imam at a local mosque just *maybe* had a political axe to grind and is busy fanning the flames of this otherwise minor event.

            Anyone else remember the MIT student that had a breadboard circuit and wires with flashing LEDs on it that was ‘shocked’ she was stopped by airport security several years ago?

          2. The pouch on the right of the “briefcase” is a thumb-sized packet of silica gel, a dessicant that’s packaged in with various consumer items to keep them dry. It probably came with the pencil case.

          3. Ken, “Just maybe” FFS, like that’s likely. You’d be amazed how often the average American Muslim, or any Muslim, bombs something. It’s really rare. Most of the bombings in the USA were done by Christians. The school shootings were done by Christians, or maybe agnostics. Because of peer pressure and the awful microcosm of society in American schools.

            It’s visible all over the Internet, Americans really think that a billion of the world’s people all want to blow them up, because (wait for it…) “they hate freedom”. I suppose somebody had to vote in GW Bush after all so I shouldn’t be as shocked as I am. I already had a pretty low opinion of humanity, this sort of thing should be par for the course.

            It’s just bizarre and stupid to assume ANYONE would bring a bomb to school. As far as things go, it’s never reasonable to assume it. The chaos caused vs the infinitessimal chance of it happening makes it an assumption a reasonable person never makes.

            But speaking as the last reasonable man on Earth, I realise that’s not what tends to happen.

          4. I can’t believe I have to repeat this yet again, but the willfull ignorance on this simple point is amazing. No one thought it was a bomb, the child wasn’t taken to the principals office because the teacher thought it was a bomb, the principal didn’t call the police because he thought it was a bomb, the police didn’t take in for interrogation because they thought it was a bomb… The teacher, the principal, and the police suspected he planned to use this prop to try and scare some one, that he hoped to pass his ‘clock’ off as a “fake bomb” on campus.

            The student was suspended, for reasons I’m not sure we’re ever made public – he was charged with no crime, his greatest inconvienience was being escorted off campus in handcuffs which, I believe, is SOP when transporting a suspect in a police cruiser.

            The teacher, the principal, and the police all had reason to believe they thwarted a possible ‘bomb scare’, and the boy’s explanation that he wanted to show his ‘invention’ to his teachers is, quite simply, non-sensical.

        2. Dax, by your logic, every kid in the school who has a cell phone should have been detained, questioned, and led off in handcuffs too. Cell phones are well known to be used to trigger bombs remotely. Just connect the buzzer motor wires to a detonator.

      1. but nothing about this had anything to do with innovation — the kid disassembled his alarm clock into a mess of wires and put it in a pencil box. These days kids get arrested for bringing a butter knife to school or chewing there sandwitch into the shape of a gun. The only reason this made the national news is that the kid is a muslim.

        1. More likely, because his dad is the Imam at the local mosque, and he’s miffed that the local gov’t would let him set up a sharia law court to adjudicate issues within his religious community.

          This boy is STILL insisting he ‘invented’ that clock!

          1. “Mosque”, scaaary word! They should call them “churches for light-brown people”, that’d calm things down.

            If the locals want to follow Sharia law voluntarily, why not? Jews are allowed a taboo on perfectly legal and edible food. Catholics have their bizarre punitive mumbling. As long as he’s not breaking any actual laws, people can voluntarily punish themselves all they like. It’s their religious freedom!

          2. Obviously they won’t be allowed to break any actual laws. If the guy asked for laws to be suspended just for him and his community, obviously he’s not going to get that. But making people do stupid things in the name of gods is three-quarters of religion.

          3. As a mental exercise, assume the claims made here about the Sharia Court Ahmed’s father, the imam of the local mosque, wanted to operate was purely voluntary, non-binding, and any decision was unenforceable – assume all of that is true… If that’s the case, why did he need to get permission from the local government? On what basis could the the local government block it? If it were as described here, it was nothing more than a forum for advice.

    3. The act of reporting exposes innocent people to risk that over-zealous and inadequately trained clerks and law enforcement officers will harm them. This risk needs to be balanced against the vanishingly small likelihood that what you say will prevent a crime. The vast majority of people are not terrorists or criminals, even the ones who look suspicious to you.

      1. Because no student ever took a bomb to school? It has happened before.

        What if he had a pressure cooker in his backpack and wanted to show his teacher how he ‘improved’ it, and it has loose wires and bits all around it? Would a teacher be over-reacting to a student that’s walking down the crowded hall with a modified pressure cooker?

        1. However, once they quickly discerned that it wasn’t a bomb, would they be over-reacting to continue to interrogate said student, confiscate his belongings, search him, threaten to press charges, etc.. etc..

          You do realize the school suspended him (and is sticking to that suspension) even after the police “quickly recognized that it was simply a hobby project”, right?

          The initial response is probably justifiable as an abundance of caution… the continued response? Not so much.

    4. I’ve brought a carry-on full of electronic components(looking quite a bit like ahmed’s clock) and a large package of marzipan through TSA…
      of course I’m a middle-aged white dude, so they listened to me when I explained that they were hobby supplies. This was only 3 years after 9/11

      1. Actually, there is. A detonator is the small charge required to make most explosives explode and can be set off thermally, think fuse on movie/cartoon dynamite, or electrically by simply closing a switch – classic movie/cartoon plunger. A clock would be one form of timer connected to the detonator ignition source, burning cigarette in a pack of matches also works well for a short timer on a chemical detonator. Oh, and some detonators can make a pretty good bang all by themselves.

          1. I forget which movie it was, but I saw one movie where two characters that knew nothing about explosives laid out their dynamite, inserted the detonator, ran the wire to the ‘plunger’ and connected it to the terminals. Then, to get ready to explode the dynamite, pulled the plunger up quickly.

            The dynamite exploded.

            The ‘plunger’ generates a charge when the handle moves, up OR down, and it’s the current that triggers the explosion.

            That’s why radio transmissions are prohibited near site where explosives are used – the long wire from the detonator to the charge could act as an antenna and pick up enough RF energy to trigger the explosion.

    5. I do this all the time I am a ham radio operator and I set up remote QRP HF radio stations at locations like that. If people are so uneducated and ignorant that they set off the ZOMG TERRORIST BOMB reaction, then they are simply indicating how horribly uneducated they are.

      As humans we need to ridicule the uneducated and scared and lift up the smart and curious.

  3. I’m surprised no one is ragging on the guild for not “legitimately” building a clock. He took the innards out clock purchased from a store and put it in a different enclosure. We all have to start somewhere though.

    1. That, sadly, passes for ‘engineering’ in most public school STEM programs where they build Lego robots and use jumper wires on 150 in 1 electronics kits, with each step carefully described in the instructions…

    2. The kid was supposed to be an electronics genius of some sort who already knew his way around circuits. Why would he simply re-assemble a clock? Why would he then go showing it to teachers to “impress” them when he must have known he didn’t actually do anything special.

          1. I never claimed to have ‘invented’ anything, but I read numerous books on electronics, built a multitude of RadionShack project box kits, and had several years experience working the console and doing maint. work at a summer camp am carrier current radio station. While in middle school I took a sideband CB radio, modified it to work on HF channels (above the 23 legal channels) built a vertical dipole from wire and an SO-239 connector and shot skip across the country from my home in CA to PA. While in high school I went from taking computer programming classes to teaching classes on TRS-80 basic. Others I know did much more, but at 14, after his self-declared five years ‘tinkering’ he should advanced beyond believing that simply removing the case is a technical accomplishment worthy of praise from his teachers.

          2. Oh my, I completely spaced! When I was in the 9th grade, the grade as Ahmed, I sat down at a TRS-80, and drew up specifications, including inputs and output format, for a program to keep and track the baseball team statistics on the computer. Having spec’ the code, I wrote it, debugged it, and used it for two seasons. It was nothing more than a hard-coded spreadsheet, but it was considered impressive enough for the school to get it written up in the local paper, The Trenton Times. As I recall, the President at the time, Ronald Reagan, did not invite me to the White House to encourage STEM studies among high school students.

          3. I did better shit than that. Admittedly mostly software, and nothing great by adult standards. But taking a clock to bits is crap. What’s it prove? He can work a screwdriver. Although from what I hear that counts as an accomplishment nowadays, when most people would take an appliance back to the shop if the plug fuse blew.

          4. @errwax at 12, as part of our music class we had to make a musical instrument. While most of our class made things like drums, or stretched a string across a resonating box, I made a simple electronic organ. It was only 1 octave, and just used a basic two-transistor astable multivibrator driving a little speaker. A bunch of momentary pushbutton switches formed the “keys”, and it had a string of resistors selected to give approximately the correct frequencies for the tones. I made up a little plywood case to hold it all, which I painted up, and used rub-on letters to label things. It was very simple stuff, but a darned sight more involved than disassembling an off-the-shelf alarm clock.

      1. It’s also called “cheating” at one time schools didn’t allow cheating. Now I guess it’s acceptable to take others work and claim it as your own.

        It’s worse since MIT, Zuckerberg and Obama are impressed with the boy’s imaginary engineering skills.

    3. He didn’t break it in the process.. (I suspect the police made it messy whilst looking for timer-related nefariousness)

      At work, fixing retail electronics (the registers, not the merchandise) rarely am I asked to reinvent their device, just take parts of the innards out .. usually a sub-assembly, Put a working one back in the enclosure. use all the brackets and screws in the right places and report ‘fully functional’.

      Now, what happens to those ‘broken’ (or just obsolete) parts is the fun part.

      1. Sounds like a preference to me. Do you prefer thinking in terms of numbers or parts of a circle? Do you know arctan 0?

        I bet the young 18+ “boy” would be able to discern time from an analog clock if necessary.

        1. Hmm, no, he didn´t. I discovered it because I couldn´t see the wall clock from where I was, and asked him to look at it. He simply stated that he couldn´t read that kind of clock.

    1. I don’t think it’s a result of what schools teach. All the clocks kids grow up with are digital so the concept of ‘a quarter to 12’ is replaced with 11 , 45. Digital is a different concept otherwise the digital representation for ‘a quarter to 12’ would be 12:-15

    2. We learned to read an analogue clock in primary school, about age 8. There were worksheets and textbooks and things, even a recorded TV show. We were tested on it. In an ordinary British school.

      That said it’s not a skill I like to use, much happier now technology has provided a clock where time, a numeric quantity, is readable as actual numbers. Wouldn’t use an analogue watch (or set one on my phone).

      If you can’t read a clock, you’re an idiot, simply. Or less intelligent than my class of 8 year olds. There are analogue clocks on buildings in every town, it’s a useful skill. Find a stick somewhere and you’ve got a sundial.

        1. Oh so now the teacher’s smart? Smart, maybe (actually, no). Racist yes. Muslim + timer with big red digits = IT’S A BOMB!

          If teacher had any brains and wasn’t racist there’d be no need to equivocate. Sure white kids have killed fellow students, but they were actual weapons, not clocks.

          Also can’t help noticing… bomb timers, the ones in films, count DOWN. A clock displays the current time.

          1. How are you so sure the teacher was racist? You are imagining motivations and assigning them to the teacher.

            86% of MacArthur High School are minorities, why would a racist teacher stay in a school full of children she dislikes?

            The teacher never thought what she was looking at was a bomb, if she did she wouldn’t have picked it up and walked down the school corridors with it, she would have evacuated her classroom and advised the office over the phone.

            When confronted with a disruption in class, the teacher’s job isn’t to stop everything and humor the student causing the distraction – it is to end the distraction and get back on task.

            When Ahmed’s clock ‘beeped’ during class, was the case open or closed? Was the clock plugged into the wall, and if so why? I think Ahmed sat in the back of his class, opened his pencil box, plugged in his clock, and when it beeped he decided to tell the teacher he wanted to show it to her.

            Personally I think he wanted to crelate a scene for whatever reason, kids his age often do stupid things to get attention.

          2. Ken, you really have an axe to grind on this one. It seems like you have some *undeclared* personal involvement.

            I offered my opinion with the bias of a parent. ie I believe the systems at work have resulted in abuse of the kid. That’s because I believe that is more important than any technical assessment of what he ‘invented’, it’s a parent thing and others don’t feel the same way – I get that.

            Others offer their opinion as Engineers ie – it’s not an ‘invention’, but I still think it’s a healthy activity for a 14 yo – or do we prefer they all go out painting graffiti all day?

            Anyway back to you Ken as I know you will post again. I however feel that this thread has gone way of topic so I will cancel the email notifications.

  4. A similar thing happened to me when I visited the empire state building a few years ago. I had built one of those Altoids chargers and because it was my first real build, the insides were pretty messy with wires and hot glue sticking out everywhere. I accidentally left it in my backpack and almost got detained had it not been for the fact that I was in a school group and one of the guards had a kid who was also into hobby electronics. He actually looked excited by my Altoids charger and was asking how I built it, which was pretty cool compared to being arrested.

    I think the difference between the guard and that teacher is that the guard asked. He didn’t jump to conclusions. He made the effort to see what it was I was doing and to learn my story. As much as I’d love to see stem promoted amongst the younger generation, we first need to learn to ask before we jump to conclusions, otherwise we’ll still be just as afraid as before when the younger generation rises up with their electronic components and homemade gadgets, Terminator style.

      1. I guess it’s pretty normal procedure in your world do drag unruly kids away in hand-cuffs any harmless infraction. I guess that teaches them to shut up and stay put to avoid being shot by cops later in their life.

        1. The boy uncased a store-bought clock and dragged it around school to get attention from his teachers. He got the attention he sought.

          The only real problem I see is that his father has convinced him he’s the next Steve Wozniak, and that white people are racist.

          His ‘accomplishment’ was removing 4-6 screws from a clock case and not breaking the clock, I’m more concerned about a society that views what he did to the table clock as an accomplishment.

          1. Agreed. It´s a young boy. He thought making something that looked like a Hollywood bomb would be a fun prank. Then teachers somehow overreacted ( but he was advised by his science teacher to not show it around, so he should have shut the thing down. He knew how. ) , then his father found a nice opportunity for fame and all the media circus started.

            At first, reading the first headline, I was also outraged. Then later, seeing that the boy didn´t “build a clock” ( think a lot of wires, perfboard, etc, or a bunch of gears ) but instead built something that looked like as a bomb from a MI movie, things changed to simple student mischief, that in our modern times warrants a much stronger response than in old times ( but in old times the school would have called the father, who then would ensure the boy received a well sized punition. Today his father just wants to capitalize in the news frenzy of the moment )

          2. no how the police and the school reacted is what convinced him that white people are racist.
            The school and the police department should be ASHAMED of how they reacted. instead the Cops pat themselves on the back for it.

          3. I’m not surprised Ahmed’s father is a bit pissed off. Wouldn’t you be? And I doubt he had to call journalists to his front door. The media is making a meal of this. While President Obama shouldn’t be impressed by a disassembled clock, I think the shit that the kid’s gone through is certainly a sign of major problems in the USA. That’s certainly an issue politicians need to address.

            I only hope Ahmed’s dad has a clear American accent and no major disfigurements, or else he’ll come across like a ranting Bond villain to the geniuses watching at home.

          1. Illegally interrogated a minor? Are you serious? Do you honestly think this administration, under this President, would miss an opportunity to sic the full force of the Dept. of Justice on the Irving Police department for illegally interrogating a minor in such a high-profile case, or, perhaps, your understanding of what actually happened isn’t really accurate?

            And, for the umpteenth time, he was ‘taken downtown’ for a bomb HOAX, which is a crime just like calling in a bomb threat despite neither involves an actual bomb.

            The school in question is 86% minority students, do you really want to go down that unsubstantiated path?

            The basic problem this kid had was his claimed reason for bringing the dis-emboweled remains of a clock to school made no sense – would anyone outside his family be impressed that he took a clock apart without breaking it?

  5. What is there to build? Putting together modules isn’t building a clock. But assembling a circuit using transistors, diodes, Resistors, and capacitors, like we did years ago, now that is where the real education came in. Using components and displays, and electronics math to design a circuit from scratch is where the true knowledge and education comes from. Buying a clock chip and a 7 segment display and hooking it up to a battery is boring.

    1. When I was in grade school, I hooked up a battery, a switch, some motors, and make propellers from tin cut from a can and mounted it in a cigar box. I brought it in for show and tell, despite knowing nearly nothing about electricity and it objectively being not really very interesting. But I got a lot of kudos, and the teacher obtained a bin of electrical parts that one of the older grades used for an unit on electricity and let me play with it during class. And now here I am a degreed electrical engineer.

      Everyone starts somewhere, and one of the most vital ingredients to growth is encouragement. I’m glad you weren’t my teacher.

      1. When I was about 16 my young sister told everyone at school that her brother had invented a robot dog. So after me cobbling together some old Robotix construction toy, and taping an old LED calculator and some wires and batteries, she did! Actually walked (though that’s a function of the Robotix, great toy! Kids need construction toys like that) with a wired remote backwards and forwards. Impressed the hell out of some 6-year-olds!

        Even wiring up a light bulb to a battery provides the basic principles of electrical flow, the fact you need 2 wires to complete a circuit, etc. Later you do serial and parallel light bulbs, then switches.

  6. No one ever thought it was a bomb, if they had thought it really was a bomb they would have evacuated the school and had the bombsquad take look at it. Now they took it with them into a room packed with people, took it with them in the police car and into the police station. What would YOU do when you saw something that you thought was a bomb?!

    1. This is what I imagine happened:

      Teacher saw something she didn’t understand, so she sent him to the office.

      Office saw something they didn’t understand, so they called police. (The school didn’t declare it a bomb, hence no bomb squad rolled to school, school not evacuated, etc.)

      Police came and determined it was not a bomb, but a clock.

      Police, as is their custom wanted to interrogate the child, for the report.

      Police have a rule, when suspects ride in the back, they wear handcuffs – squad car isn’t a taxi.

      Police have anothe rule, they videotape interrogations with juveniles.

      So they put him in the cruiser and take him to the station for a videotaped interrogation.

      Dad shows up, insists it’s racially motivated, calls local TV stations and newspapers to discuss how his brown ‘Steve Wozniak’ is being mistreated.

      Electronics hobbyists ignore the triviality of his ‘hack’, mock everyone for not knowing what a digital table clock looks like out of it’s case.

          1. It happened BECAUSE the kid was a Muslim. Or at least it’s highly likely. In a case of a white kid, it would still be bad. But I doubt the ensuing arrest and interrogation, suspension, and the like, would have happened to a kid who wasn’t a member of a natural-born race of frothing terrorists.

        1. The police were not called for a bomb, they were called for a possible bomb hoax, that is why they took him in for questioning.

          If you read between the lines, local reports imply that this kid has been an on-going discipline problem, but the district says they can’t talk about it unless the parents sign a release.

          1. _they were called for a possible bomb hoax_
            Still, they could have simply informed the people of the school that it was just an ordinary wallmart clock put into another case and be done with it. We wouldn’t be discussing it now, would we?

            Yes, the world is overeacting, because of the overeacting of the people at the school and the police.
            If the kid has diciplinary problems, aren’t teachers the ones to deal with that? Teachers should have learned how to handle problem-kids, it is part of their job.

      1. Police are suppose to follow laws and not make up their own.
        The main issue is that the cowards are willing to drop the ideals this country was founded on as soon as even a possibility of a risk to them exists. Others have gone into harms way and died to protect those very ideas but these people can’t even follow them off of a battlefield.
        By the way, the Woz admitted to hacking the phone system as a kid, so he did knowingly break the law (petty, yes) but this kid did not. If they determined it was safe then why take him to the station?

        1. I’ll tell you the story of a local shopkeeper. A customer was being abusive, it continued outside the shop, almost a fight, right opposite the local police station. Literally directly opposite.

          AFTER the shopkeeper had dealt with the problem, and the customer left, a window opened and a copper shouted out “You ok, that was a bit of trouble there!”.

          Yeah, thanks mate. Right when it’s over.

          Lazy, lazy fuckers. And convinced you’re guilty, whether you are or not, whether they’ve reason to suspect it or not. For all the use the police have been when I and my family have been victims of crime, vs the hassle and arrests when we’ve (mostly me) actually done nothing wrong, I’d be better off without them.

          We probably all would. Most people follow the law out of innate morality. Criminals break the law regardless. For all the use they are we’d be better off paying the police to stay at home, out of harm’s way.

        2. He was taken to the police station to explain why he did the non-sensual thing of removing a clock from it’s case, putting it in a tiny briefcase, taking it to school, and showing it to teachers.

          His explanation makes no sense – does he really think he ‘invented’ something? Does he really think his teachers will be impressed with his ‘project’? Given the family’s history in the community (father wanted to establish a sharia court in town, sister got in trouble with the school district, and I suspect this child also has a history of run-ins with the school administration (based on comments from the spokesperson for the district)), the police weren’t willing to just assume this was a simple-minded student that truly believed he’d accomplished something praise-worthy by removing the case from a radio shack clock…

  7. /b/ says: “He obviously did it deliberately for the lulz and now he-s going to be set up for life because of the politically correct crowd trying to show us all how tolerant and multicultural they are”

    and i agree

    1. There’s a difference between conspicuous political correctness, and “All Muslims are terrorists, just waiting for the day”. That’s sortof the point.

      I wonder if people who have so much of a problem with political correctness would prefer things the way they were before. Usually they’re dumb teenagers too young to actually remember, or crotchety old fuckers who liked the bigotry. The fact you now can’t assault, abuse, or refuse to employ someone just because of their colour, gender, or sexual preference, I actually consider a great gain for society.

  8. Here is one I actually use, it will run on any hardware that can run Linux. Trigger it in any way that suits your needs, I use a cron job that runs every 15 minutes so I don’t need any circuitry to interface with it.

    espeak -v mb-en1 -a 80 -p 80 -s 120 –stdout “The time is now, `date ‘+%H hours %M minutes and %S seconds’` ” | aplay –quiet &

  9. Everyone with a passionate position on this clock, be sure you know what you know and what you are assuming:

    Did the kid ‘invent’ or disassemble a commercial clock?

    Do you know his intentions or what he claims they were?

    Do you know how he acted when the teacher saw his ‘invention’?

    Do you know his discipline history or are you assuming this is the first time he’s disrupted class?

    Do you know what he told the teacher, principal, police when questioned, or what he claims he did?

    Do you know how he reacted when police showed up, or are you taking his word for it?

    Do you know what the student was suspended for, or are you assuming it was for being different?

    This kid took a radio shack clock apart for some reason, put it in his briefcase, and took it to school for some reason… To impress his teachers seems like a very dubious cover story after he was frog-marched down to the office.

    1. > This kid took a radio shack clock apart for some reason, put it in his briefcase, and took it to school for some reason…

      It is truly a sad day when the reaction to a student being so passionate about learning on their own and showing their work to teachers is immediately met with suspicion and discouragement.

      1. He learned ‘Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey’ – all he did was remove a 70’s digital clock from it’s plastic case and try to pass it off as an ‘invention’.

        If I take the case off my iPhone, can I claim I ‘invented’ a smartphone?

        He has a history in the district, and his folks are switching schools – good luck, any school he wants to transfer to gets to review his record, including past discipline actions.

        I hear he got an invite from MIT and intern offers from ‘tech’ companies that imagine the kid knows something about electronics…

  10. To all those “these und du cat es teacher” comments:
    “I said: it’s sad they thought that kid had a bomb.
    She said: they didn’t think he had a bomb.
    I said: yes, they thought he made a bomb and even called the police.
    She said: They just wanted to humiliate a little Muslim, African boy. They didn’t think he had a bomb.
    I said: Don’t be a conspiracist. They might be a little prejudiced, but I’m sure they thought he had a bomb.
    She said: Ok.
    But they didn’t evacuate the school, like you do when there’s a bomb.
    They didn’t call a bomb squad – like you do when there’s a bomb
    They didn’t get as far away from him as possible – like you do when there’s a bomb.
    Then they put him and the clock in an office- not like you do when there’s a bomb
    Then they waited with him for the police to arrive.
    Then they put the clock in the same car as the police.
    Then they took pictures of it.
    I said: Damn

    They never thought he had a bomb”

    ~Andy Illes

    1. even in article here was mentioned: ” one of his teachers immediately leapt to the conclusion that this electronic project was a “hoax bomb” of some sort”

      so no, they didn’t thing he had an actual bomb

    2. The police were called for a “bomb hoax”, not a “bomb”.

      Child was taken into custody for a “bomb hoax”, not a “bomb”.

      He was suspended for a “bomb hoax”, not a “bomb”.

      See the difference? You are letting the father’s side of the story shape your view of this case… The school and police are limited in what they can say because it involves a minor.

      1. By the polices own admission the device didn’t look like a bomb so how could it be a bomb hoax. Creating a bomb hoax is a criminal offence and police have dropped all charges to they obviously don’t think there was any bomb hoax. As for stating ‘no comment’ because there is a minor well this is a common excuse or cop out when things start to smell.

        1. I’m sorry, it’s only a bomb hoax if you have a real bomb?

          If I call the school and say there is a bomb in the school, that’s a crime.

          He intentionally created something that could reasonably provoke a panicked reaction under certain conditions.

          Couldn’t it be, isn’t it just possible, that the police and prosecutor looked at the actual evidence, saw the father standing in front of reporters talking about ‘racial profiling’ and ‘religious persecution’ and decided not to prosecute?

          The school suspended him for 3 days – they felt they had sufficient grounds for their actions.

          1. Well there is “possible” which seems to be your test of proof.
            Then there is “probable” which is the test of proof in civil law.
            Then there is “beyond reasonable doubt” which is the test of proof in criminal law and just like any other citizen or adult this school boy is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven otherwise “beyond reasonable doubt”.

        2. For a bomb hoax, someone has to actually claim there’s a bomb. And be serious about it.

          Nothing “looks like” a bomb. The days of anarchists throwing big black spherical doobreys with sparks coming from the fuse are long over. A bomb can be hidden in anything. That’s why people don’t spot them.

          It might look like a Hollywood depiction of a bomb, but who’s utterly stupid enough to confuse that with reality? Certainly nobody I’d want in a position of intellectual responsibility. Teaching children, for example.

  11. Almost everyone commenting here completely missed the point of this post. If you want to talk about Ahmed Mohamed’s situation, it would be more productive to do so in the comments for the post about that. This post is about building and showing off clocks ourselves, to raise the profile of electronics as a hobby. I myself am currently sitting at my local hackerspace and planning to build a basic Arduino clock tonight.

    1. Come again?

      The reason to build a clock was to draw attention to the plight of the school boy “arrested for bringing a clock to school”, to stake out a position in support of him, and to encourage others to follow in his foot steps and invent something (like a clock).

      The entire event is one national news story away from blowing up in the face of the school boy and his father.

      He is not an electronics ‘wunder kid’.

      He did not invent anything.

      His motives were, at best, dubious.

      And the press reports apparently ignored the fact that the police were called to the school, and the boy was subsequently taken into custody, for a possible bomb hoax.

      While the police lacked sufficient evidence to charge the boy, the school has a much lower legal threshold to cross, and the “clock maker” finds him self suspended for attempting a bomb hoax at school.

      Go ahead, show your support for this boy if you like, but don’t try and ignore everything he did because it gives you an excuse to encourage children take up electronics as a hobby – there are much better role models to follow to inspire children to invent… Like, say, Steve Wozniac.

      1. Reading comprehension grade: F. You are still missing the point, even after I pointed it out. THIS IS NOT ABOUT HIM. This is about us. Him being in the news for a supposedly bomb-like clock was just the inspiration. This post is about all of us educating the rest of the public about our hobby so that the same thing doesn’t happen to anyone else. The better people understand technology, they less they fear it.

        1. I’m not sure making clocks would actually help much. There’s already clocks. Most people already know what one looks like. The problem is when a Muslim is carrying one. There’s the issue.

    1. I’d be surprised if many people here didn’t spot a commercial clock out of it’s housing right from the start. I suspect like a lot of people I didn’t see the point in cyber brow-beating a 14 year old who thinks he has a secret process to make power from magnets. At 14 I’d ripped apart a lot of clocks, I’d wired a 9v battery to a big inductor and tricked people to press the button in the playground and still had the idea that the right combination of Seebeck pairs in circuit would generate free power. I don’t see such a difference. 14 is not fully cooked. I think the real tragedy here is that the media attention has generated a public expectation he cannot possibly live up to.

      1. “I’d be surprised if many people here didn’t spot a commercial clock out of it’s housing right from the start.”

        It is a real-life case of the “emperor wearing no clothes” with the sympathetic press and opportunistic politicians (I know, that’s redundant) that held this boy up as an oppressed wunder-kid, the next Wozniack despite the glaring truth that he did nothing that provoked many in to pushing back, despite being called racists and bigots.

        “I suspect like a lot of people I didn’t see the point in cyber brow-beating a 14 year old who thinks he has a secret process to make power from magnets.”

        There is a group of people, seemingly incensed at the teacher that marched young Ahmed down to the school office, that are now sending her hundreds and hundreds of death threats… These would be the peace-loving supporters that #StandWithAhmed, not the racist, bigoted, xenophobic knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers that are simply pointing at the disemboweled table clock and saying ‘You Didn’t Build That!’

        1. Whether he built the clock or (obviously) didn’t isn’t really the key issue in this.

          The fact he’s being hyped as the next child genius is a separate problem. But that’s just the media and the utter, woeful, horrible state of education in the North-West of the globe. Science REALLY needs some good PR. Perhaps getting some PR experts in, rather than scientists, who aready know how great it is, would help.

          There’s no even middle-weight science shows on the TV anymore, there used to be. Now the most we get is deifying Steve Fucking Jobs for the miracle of Iphone, which is very much a marketing advance and nothing more. The man was a master of bullshit, and on a personal level, manipulation and deception.

          Problem is science-types already know why science is great. Perhaps our brains are wired differently, even besides the obvious difference in intelligence. If we need the mass of dumbasses to appreciate it, it needs putting in a way they’ll like. Although that may simply not be possible. Liposomes in shampoo and “I’m lovin’ it”, “Haters gonna hate” is about the level the bar has sunk to.

          People weren’t always so proud of being conspicuously ignorant. What changed? I’ve a feeling consumerism, and those who profit from it, are to blame somehow, that stupid consumers are better consumers. Thinking is denigrated in the media and real life. There’s no shame in saying “Oh that’s too complicated for me, I’m dumb”. There IS shame in being enough of a show-off to display that you DO actually understand things beyond their immediate utility in your life.

          I’m sure that wasn’t the case in, say, the 1950s. What happened, and how do we fix it? And who’s working against us? There’s a big interest in keeping the masses docile while they’re exploited. On a simple commercial level as well as anything more sinister.

  12. Ken, you’ve replied 28 times to this thread. Did you think that a bit of your reasoning wasn’t covered by your first 27 replies? You are damn invested in having everyone adopt your viewpoint. You are like a dog that has to sniff around and piss on everything that another dog has pissed on to prove you are superior. Well, it doesn’t. Sheesh already.

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