News about 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed spread quickly throughout SparkFun and our community this morning. Many employees and customers have reached out wondering how they could help or get involved. So far, we know that there's a hashtag on Twitter, a petition & a form to send encouragement to Ahmed (the email address has also been set up for messages of support). This is likely not the first time a student has been punished for ingenuity, creativity and passion; nor will it be the last. We proudly stand with Ahmed, and anyone else who has experienced similarly unfair treatment. We hope Ahmed continues to pursue his passions. Never stop tinkering!

UPDATE - The charges were dropped and Ahmed appeared yesterday to discuss the events.

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photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Comments 35 comments

  • sgrace / about 8 years ago / 10

    I do want to make a comment in regards to what people should do and not turn this into a witch hunt.

    1. If you're concerned that this might happen with your family/friends with a school, please have a discussion at the next Parent-Teacher Conference. This conference is there as a benefit to both the school and parents. In most cases, teachers do not know as much as the parent/student when it comes to making/tinkering.
    2. Encourage teachers to buy books and attend summits/conferences in which teach the teachers how to use electronics. What Sparkfun has done in the past with the tour is a great example and should be encouraged everywhere.
    3. Encourage students to be open about their tinkering and making. These young minds will solve the problems of the world that we cannot even comprehend today. Who knows, it might help them get a job for the summer doing what they do!
    4. Do not harass the police/district/teacher(s) that were involved with this incident. At the time they didn't know what exactly to do (this is because the lack of knowledge of what students can do outside of school). Look at this as a teaching moment for those that do not know.

    Every moment of every day can be a teaching/learning moment to everyone. The only way we can overcome petty things like this is to come together and have an open dialog from all points and come to a common ground. It will take time, and it will be tough, but it can be done.

    • SolderSmoker / about 8 years ago / 2

      I am interested in what Nate has to say about all of this.

  • davemody / about 8 years ago / 3

    I for one would be willing to make a donation towards a Redboard Inventors Kit for this young guy.

  • ME heat o nator / about 8 years ago / 3

    I have been stopped and questioned in an airport in the a Middle-Eastern country for having do-it-yourself components...I even had my SIK. I am a tall blond guy. They took my passport. It is a scary and unnerving thing. I hope makers are not hindered by this kind of assumption.

  • Beto Arango / about 8 years ago / 3

    sooo sad!! This is not the problem.. it is just the reflection of the problem. Tinker away Ahmed!!!

  • i support ahmed, but that clock he's got isn't exactly homemade. it's clearly a digital clock he has removed from its chassis and placed inside a different case (one that looks like a small suitcase). the controller is clearly purpose-built for connecting to that particular four-digit LED display. i would have been more impressed had ahmed used an arduino or some similar microcontroller. that said, when i was his age, i used to take devices out of their cases and install them in boxes of my own making. that is also part of the fun of tinkering. I've made an annotated diagram of ahmed's clock here: (please note, the reference to an "explosive charge" is in jest):

  • max2grand / about 8 years ago / 2

    I built a rocket launcher using PVC, a light switch, toothpaste cylinder as a battery holder and a modified model rocket when I was 11. I never shot it at anyone, I just wanted to see if I could do it. I grew up to be a productive member of society. I can't imagine what they would have done to me if I had tried that in today's political climate of nonsense and shenanigans.

    • DemolishManta / about 8 years ago / 1

      Mine was made out of a cigar box. The platform was a coffee can with a metal rod (might have been welding rod). I used tinfoil to connect the batteries and probably wood to push things together inside. Wires and automotive switch. Definitely home made. Oh and BTW, you can make an altimeter switch using 2 plates, coffee can, and balloon... Ummm... should not have said that.

  • ic / about 8 years ago / 2

    I would advise caution when commenting on this matter, as at this early stage we don't have much reliable information.

    I have managed to find only one picture of the device in question, (e.g. which was released by Irving PD. To me it appears to be the gutted internals of a commercially produced clock installed into a small aluminium framed case.

    • XLT_Frank / about 8 years ago / 2

      I am sorry, but his little experiment looked very sketchy. Picture is here: The teacher or staff raising concern is valid. Law enforcements judgement may not be because of the comments about his dad. The boy is not his dad. I think Sparkfun's early stance in the matter though is ill placed until the facts are released.

  • Tim Starling / about 8 years ago / 2

    A teacher is telling me on Facebook that she honestly can't tell the difference between a bomb and any piece of DIY electronics. I'd love to see an article which explains the difference, if anyone has a link or would like to write one.

    • FSJ Guy / about 8 years ago / 4

      People don't necessarily need to know the difference between a "fake bomb" and DIY components, (Really, how WOULD you tell the difference???) but instead shouldn't jump to conclusions simply based on someone's appearance or name.

      Another issue is the apparent story that the teacher he first showed it to told him NOT to show it to any other teachers. If the first teacher had concerns, why not TELL everyone else that it was NOT a dangerous device?

      It is also claimed that one of the responding officers commented on Ahmed's appearance and said that he expected it to be someone of his race/color, etc.

      There are many things wrong with how this incident was handled. Hopefully it will open up some of the narrow minds that were involved. And maybe they'll even learn something about micro controllers and LEDs. : D

    • CrowDojo / about 8 years ago / 2

      The only real difference is going to be the presence or lack of explosives. Anything could potentially act as a detonator. I know that probably doesn't help all that much. However a general knowledge of electronics would certainly go a long way to at least being able to quickly determine if anything appears significantly out of place.

      For me when the picture of the clock first showed up on threads from twitter there where three things that where immediately apparent to me. The first and most important in regards to it being a bomb or not was the lack of anything that even remotely resembled an explosive. Tho for someone completely unfamiliar with electronics the transformer might have seemed threatening. The second was that it appeared to be a run of the mill off the shelf LCD clock that had been removed from its housing and crammed into a pencil case. The final and most concerning part for me was there was little if anything to secure the board with the mains plug from coming into contact with the the metallic exterior of the case which immediately flagged it in my mind as a potential electrocution/fire hazard.

      Having said that I would never advise examining anything suspicious as the act of examining an actual explosive device would likely be sufficient to set it off. Which is why bomb squads frequently detonate suspicious items in place. I'm going to make the assumption that one of the first things the kid did was open it to show off what he'd done which pretty much removed any potential danger in examining its inner workings.

      • DemolishManta / about 8 years ago / 1

        My initial thought was that the LCD looked like it could be a plastics explosive. I take apart a lot of things and first glance that was my impression. So yeah....

    • because I thought he had been “targeted” in any way, but because our society has gotten

      this makes sense because most teachers are not electronics nor explosives experts

    • Karl Bielefeldt / about 8 years ago / 1

      That question is sort of like asking what's the difference between a soldier's camo and civilian camo. There IS no significant visual difference, but it doesn't matter, because that's not the dangerous part. Real bombs also require explosive material and some sort of detonator to kick the explosion off.

      That's why context is key. By all means if you find something like that abandoned in an empty school hallway, take every possible precaution. If a kid is showing it to you, clearly calling it his homemade clock, don't freak out.

    • ME heat o nator / about 8 years ago / 1

      I like the idea of teachers knowing the kids. It seems to me from other articles that one teacher advised him to not show people, but a cop made a dumb comment based on his appearance. I think Mr. Rogers said "Who are the people in your neighborhood?"

    • Since this was a fake bomb, the proper procedure is to throw it out the window, at which time it should immediately detonate and provide an entertaining fake explosion.

  • Member #503317 / about 8 years ago / 1

    I agree mostly with the comment of SGrace, yet I am also conscious of how people could perceive my tinkering efforts as potentially threatening. I have also made clocks (the Adafruit Ice Tube Clock) which I was quite proud of building since it was rather difficult, but I wouldn't bring it somewhere unannounced to show it (a picture or video is a better idea). The metal case also strikes me as a bad idea. As a budding inventor the skill of presentation of your masterpiece is vitally important to your success. I have travelled frequently with some of my development boards and worry that I might arise these kind of suspicions but I try not to overdo it. It's easy to jump to conclusions but I hope enthnicity didn't play a major role in this incident. The teen did appear to me to be sincere and he was not charged after all. I think this should be a learning opportunity for all those involved and all in the maker community.

  • DJmatic / about 8 years ago / 1

    This is a good kid who mistakenly mounted his clock in a briefcase. Why not set up a donation page to send him an inventor's kit, or just send him a Sparkfun gift card. From the looks of the pics, he needs the tools :)

  • its obvious to anyone that this kids purposely took apart the housing of a clock and then mounted it into a suitcase to make it look like a bomb. A la Counter strike. He was trolling or trying to incite fear. This isnt what the media is trying to make it out to be, a innocent kid trying to learn engineering. This is prankster laughing at the fear of others. Also shame of sparkfun for trying to morally signal how non racist they are, its pathetic.

    • Beto Arango / about 8 years ago / 11

      So you opened an account today so you could post this? Guess not agreeing with you is really going to hurt Sparkfun bad...

    • suitable1 / about 8 years ago / 9

      This, class, is what a troll looks like.

    • Thus proclaims the Wit of a Nit.

      • whats its like to be a fool? i called it last week.

        if you were real engineers you would have spotted it too.

        • A fool? Like someone who believes "bombs" have AC line cords? ;) Its obvious its salvaged parts, I never said it wasn't. What it is is a kid tinkering with what parts he had available (as I and countless millions have done at that age) to redesign, improve, alter and "make" a clock. Feel free to show me where at anytime he tried to intimate it was anything other than that.

          • 172pilot / about 8 years ago / 2

            Apparently, news now is that the "clock" actually was a countdown timer, and that the family has a grudge with the school, because his sister apparently was suspended or expelled three years ago for having made threats of blowing up the school. Additionally, during an interview, the boy couldn't explain what he had done to build the "clock" and his sister was heard whispering answers to him while he was on the phone being interviewed.

            I was an earlier supporter of his, not because I thought he had been "targeted" in any way, but because our society has gotten to the point that nobody can do anything "creative" that looks out of the norm without someone thinking you're trying to hurt someone, regardless of your religion or color of your skin (google pop-tart gun...).. A co-worker of mine who is just a little older than I am speaks of bringing home-made gunpowder to school to show off to his chemistry teacher for some project, and how he got an "A" for the project. I myself, in the '80s played with "explosives" and modified model rockets and R/C controlled launch systems, and it was all healthy and mostly safe, educational fun. These days, that is less and less possible, which is a bad thing, but if this kid, either under the direction of his dad/sister or not, was trying to create a scene or incite fear, that is BAD, and we shouldn't be giving this kid his 15 minutes of fame, let alone a sparkfun SIK...

            • DemolishManta / about 8 years ago / 1

              Or, it could be she was victimized previously?

              Sounds like there are some interesting opinions in that school district. 3 days suspension for supposed bomb threat sounds like a weak response to a bomb threat to me.

              • if she is calling in a bomb threat , how is it that she is the victim?

                • DemolishManta / about 8 years ago / 1

                  Where did you read something about someone calling in? According to the article another girl claimed that Eyman made threats. There was no call. All we have to go on is what people involved had to say.

              • 172pilot / about 8 years ago / 1

                Fair enough.. but that's just more evidence that we don't have the whole story, and probably never will.. Not ready to jump to any conclusions either way here.. I'd love nothing more than for this kid to be the real thing, and grow up to start the next SparkFun, but I'm just not sure.

                • we have the whole story, this was a planned operation for rent seeking purposes.

                  here ill show you how it works, 1. take apart clock you bought from store. 2. put in case , make it look like hollywood bomb 3. knowing the muslim terrorist stereotype ( see 9/11, 7/7, boston bombing etc etc ) 4. bring hoax bomb to school and show teachers (lie that you built it) 5. if teachers dont flip out from potential bomb threat, set clock to go off doing english class. ( what do english teachers know about electronics ? they will surely think its a bomb unlike the other teachers he showed) 6. when sent to principles office, the principle then calls the police to confirm , if bomb. 7. police confirm not a bomb, release troll, but not before his sister (who has a history of making false bomb snaps a pic and posts on twitter to generate sympathy from white liberals who want to status signal to everyone they aren't racist. 8. generate a media shit storm get suckers to sympathize with your cause claim " racist whites and police" tried to oppress me from learning. 9. everyone falls for it hook line and sinker, even the president and Hilary. 10. profit off of suckers.


                  • Just as a friendly reminder before this gets out of hand, no flame wars in the comments. We will banhammer if needed.

                    Please review the comment guidelines.

                    • Member #723832 / about 8 years ago / 1

                      I mean yeah sure, people need to follow comment guidelines.

                      But Sparkfun, don't forget, you invite this by consistently making politicized blog posts on a commerce site. It's as though sparkfun hates its own customers.

                      Could sparkfun please, please stop doing this!! I come to this site to look for parts and for ideas and it's like I am constantly lectured to. Especially these past few years, it's as though sparkfun is actively trying to drive away a significant portion of its customer base. I come here (or to the sparkfun youtube page) and I'm lectured all about feminism, feminism's role in tech, how there's a lack of women in tech, how we need to increase diversity in tech - Sparkfun, stop bringing identity politics into tech! Stop with politics!! Just stop!

                      If you need to make a blog post, why not put more effort into making it a project post? This gives you an opportunity to showcase your products and it gives us customers ideas for projects of our own. This would benefit all of us. Or use the blog to keep us updated on what Sparkfun has planned (such as avc for example) without degenerating into the identity politics.

                      Sparkfun you have very bad karma about you right now, if you keep it up you're going to lose business :(

                      • neurdy / about 8 years ago / 3

                        SparkFun operates on the premise of community. While we are certainly a business that caters to customers, we are also hackers, tinkerers, engineers, hobbyists & all other flavors of mad scientists you might imagine. We are a building full of humans (with the occasional badass robot) dreaming up, designing, building, shipping and supporting products. We have personalities and opinions, and we decided from the very beginning that we would participate in this community. While you perceive things like 'feminism' as identity politics, we view them as a part of operating in the world. We want to see half the world's population represented in all fields, and tech is certainly lacking. We view it as a responsibility to encourage discussion. We are not preaching or lecturing, we're simply sharing our opinions and opening the comment section up for discussion. However, we have guidelines in place to ensure that this is a safe space for everyone to participate. We don't take kindly to bullies of any kind. We don't expect all of our customers to read the blog or participate in discussions. We certainly don't expect that all of our customers share our opinions. We accept those risks for the benefit of being a part of a community where people like to share ideas and opinions as well as support each other.

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