Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and others pledge support for student arrested over homemade clock

teen becomes internationally famous after his homemade clock is mistaken for a bomb posingdig
The Dallas Morning News
School’s meant to be a place of ingenuity. Learning by doing. But as 14-year-old Irving, Texas high schooler Ahmed Mohamed discovered on Monday morning, post-9/11 sensitivities, fueled by a growing caliphate abroad and a culture of violence at home, frequently lead fear to trump common sense.

The Dallas Morning News reports that Ahmed, a teenager with an intense interest in radios and robotics who aspires to an engineer, built a digital clock Sunday night and brought it to MacArthur High, the school he attends, on Monday, September 14. Ahmed demonstrated the device – a pencil case containing a simple circuit board, power supply, digital display, and alarm buzzer – to his engineering adviser, who advised him not to show it to other teachers.

Ahmed stowed the clock in his backpack before heading to class, but was forced to show it to his English teacher after it began beeping during a lesson. She confiscated the clock and, believing it to be an explosive, contacted the school administrator, who subsequently notified local law enforcement.

A police officer pulled Ahmed out of sixth period and escorted him to the principal’s office, where he was interrogated and his belongings searched by five law enforcement officials. Ahmed recalled that one officer asked him why he was trying to make “a movie bomb,” and the principal threatened the teenager with suspension if he didn’t make a written statement. “[Ahmed] kept maintaining [the device] was a clock, but there was no explanation,” Irving Police Department spokesman James McLellan later said.

Officers escorted Ahmed from the school in handcuffs, fingerprinted him at a juvenile detention center, and released him to his parents. MacArthur High’s principal, Dan Cummings, suspended Ahmed for three days and documented the incident in a letter to parents on Tuesday. “The Irving County Police Department responded to a suspicious-looking item on campus,” it reads. “The item … did not pose a threat to your child’s safety.”

The clock, McLellan said, “could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car,” and Police Chief Larry Boyd called it “suspicious in nature” at a press conference Wednesday. The police report cites three MacArthur High teachers as complainants against Ahmed for building a “hoax bomb.”

The North Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is investigating Ahmed’s arrest as ethnically motivated. “This all raises a red flag for us,” Director Alia Salem told The Dallas Morning News. Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, Ahmed’s father, believes unequivocally that his son was the victim of profiling. “Because his name is Mohamed and because of September 11th, I think [Ahmed] got mistreated,” he told the morning news. Ahmed’s story has generated international headlines and an outpouring of support on social media. On Twitter, the hashtags #IStandWithAhmed and #engineersforahmed have accumulated hundreds of thousands of collective tweets and were trending worldwide as of Wednesday. President Barack Obama tweeted an invitation to the White House’s Astronomy Night, an annual gathering of scientists, engineers, students, and teachers from astronomy and the space industry.

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton followed suit with words of encouragement, as did U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg urged the teenager to visit the social network’s campus in California. “Ahmed, if you ever want to come by Facebook, I’d love to meet you. Keep building,” he wrote. “Having the skill and ambition to build something cool should lead to applause, not arrest. The future belongs to people like Ahmed.”

In a Facebook post, Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne defended the actions of MacArthur school officials and the police, but encouraged Ahmed and students like him to “use their creativity, develop innovations, and explore their interests in a manner that fosters higher learning.”

“Hopefully,” she wrote, “we can all learn from this week’s events and the student, who has obvious gifts, will not feel at all discouraged from pursuing his talent in electronics and engineering.”

The "hoax bomb," pictured.
The “hoax bomb,” pictured. The Dallas Morning News

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Irving police announced the teenager would not be charged with possession of a hoax bomb. “The follow-up investigation revealed the device apparently was a homemade experiment, and there’s no evidence to support the perception he intended to create alarm,” said Boyd.

Denying accusations of Islamaphobia, Boyd said the reaction “would have been the same” regardless of the color of the student’s skin. “We live in an age where you can’t take things like that to school … We have to err on the side of caution.”

Ahmed remains suspended from school until Thursday.

At a press conference late Wednesday afternoon, Ahmed addressed a crowd of supporters in a brief appearance. The teenager, who said that he intends to transfer to another school and to take the President up on his offer to visit the White House, told the crowd in attendance that he plans help students in situations similar to his. “Don’t let people change who you are, even if there are consequences for it” he said.

Mobile

Midrange phones can’t do A.I., but MediaTek’s P90 chip aims to change that

MediaTek has announced the Helio P90 mobile processor, which it says will bring the best A.I. features we see on high-end smartphones, to the mid-range. We spoke to the company about the chip.
Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.
Smart Home

Alexa’s latest skill helps patients manage high blood pressure

People who need some help managing their high blood pressure are getting some help via a new Alexa skill developed in partnership with Omron Healthcare that will work directly with the manufacturer's monitors.
Product Review

The Black Shark gaming phone takes a big bite out of your free time, but the software sinks it

The world is being treated to an ever-increasing number of high-powered gaming phones. With so many great options already out, is there room for another? The Black Shark thinks so. But is it any good? We find out.
Social Media

This event topped Facebook’s biggest moments of the year — again

As the year comes to a close, Facebook is looking back on what users discussed most over the last year. For two years in a row, International Women's Day topped the list. So what else is on the list?
Social Media

This band owns Twitter, according to list of top accounts and tweets for 2018

What was the biggest buzz on Twitter in 2018? Twitter's 2018 Year in Review highlights the biggest tweets, accounts, and hashtags. The most-tweeted celebrities, movies, TV shows, athletes, politicians and more in Twitter's 2018 trends.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.
Home Theater

It took Tom Cruise to raise awareness of this troublesome TV setting

Tom Cruise, in an unexpected PSA tweet, asks you to turn off motion interpolation on your TV, but stops short of how to do it. Here's more on the topic, along with links to a guide on how to rid your TV of the dreaded "soap opera effect."
Computing

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.
Business

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Social Media

Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Digging into Snapchat's code suggests a handful of upcoming camera features, including a portrait mode. The feature appears to use facial recognition A.I. to blur the background. The code also suggests an updated camera interface.
Computing

Google+ continues to sink with a second massive data breach. Abandon ship now

Google+ was scheduled to shut its doors in August 2019, but the second security breach in only a few months has caused the company to move its plan forward a few months. It might be a good idea to delete your account sooner than later.
Social Media

Walkie-talkie voice messaging finally comes to Instagram

In its latest grab from messaging apps, Instagram now lets you send walkie-talkie style voice messages. Apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and iMessage have offered the feature for some time.
Social Media

‘YouTube Rewind 2018’ is about to become its most disliked video ever

YouTube is about to achieve a record it really doesn't want — that of "most-disliked video." Yes, its annual recap of featuring popular YouTubers has gone down really badly this year.