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“This is Ahmed!” 14-year-old boy detained after bringing homemade clock to school attends Google Science Fair

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IRVINE, Texas — Outside the Google Science Fair, a middle school student bounced up and down, pointing excitedly at someone famous he just spotted.

“This is Ahmed!” he shouted to his friends.

When Ahmed Mohamed went to his high school in Irving, Texas, Monday, September 14, 2015, he was so excited, he wanted to show his teacher the digital clock he'd made from a pencil case. But the 14-year-old's day ended not with praise, but punishment, after the school called police and he was arrested. A photo shows Ahmed, wearing a NASA t-shirt, looking confused and upset as he's being led out of school in handcuffs.

When Ahmed Mohamed went to his high school in Irving, Texas, Monday, September 14, 2015, he was so excited, he wanted to show his teacher the digital clock he’d made from a pencil case. But the 14-year-old’s day ended not with praise, but punishment, after the school called police and he was arrested. A photo shows Ahmed, wearing a NASA t-shirt, looking confused and upset as he’s being led out of school in handcuffs.

To the kids who gathered at Google on Monday, there is probably no bigger celebrity right now than Ahmed Mohamed. The 14-year-old from Irvine, Texas, landed in the spotlight last week after he was detained by police for bringing a homemade clock to school.

The trip to California to visit Google’s Mountain View campus was his first since the incident made him the subject of international news coverage. He received a flood of invitations to visit major tech companies and even President Obama at the White House.

Inside the fair, projects far more complicated than a homemade clock were on display. Twenty finalists from around the world, 9 girls and 11 boys, presented projects primarily focused on the environment and health. There was a water filtration system that used corn cobs, a portable test for Ebola and an open-source satellite.

Singapore’s Zhilin Wang designed a type of zinc air batteries that could make renewable energy more accessible, and, in turn, give kids around the world light for reading at night.

Anela Arifi and Ilda Ismaili devised a system to create and store alternative biofuel made from chicken feathers, something they hope could help their “small but beautiful” homeland of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“It’s been a great honor to be able to meet other people who have as much interest in science as we do,” said Arifi.

Meeting other scientists was the main attraction for the 1,500 kids who came to check out the one-day fair. Most were there on field trips organized by local schools and organizations like Black Girls Code.

“The more they get to see scientists who are their age, who are personable … the more they see themselves as presenters in two to three years,” said Kennan Scott, a teacher at West Oakland Middle School. He brought 42 of his engineering students to the fair.

Standing in front of custom-made displays, the finalists happily fielded questions about their projects, even offering up tips and encouragement to the next generation.

Photo provided by the Irvine, Texas, Police Department of the digital clock that 14-year-old Ahmed Mohammed made from a pencil case.

Photo provided by the Irvine, Texas, Police Department of the digital clock that 14-year-old Ahmed Mohammed made from a pencil case.

This is the fifth year Google has hosted the fair. The grand prize winner, which will be announced at 8:15 p.m. PT. gets a $50,000 scholarship from Google. National Geographic, Scientific American, Lego and Virgin Galactic are also awarding prizes. This year’s fair, themed “It’s your turn to change the world,” started taking applications in February. Google received thousands of entries in 11 languages. It whittled them down to 90 regional picks, and then the final 20.

Finalists came from eleven countries — as far away as Russia, India and Taiwan, and as close as Cupertino, California.

“You go to my school!” one girl said to Anika Cheerla, a student at the nearby Monta Vista High School. The two quickly started talking about the best language for building neural networks.

Cheerla spent the last year creating a diagnostic tool to help doctors more easily diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.

“I was a normal kid before I started this project,” said Cheerla. “Now I’ve transformed into someone who does machine learning in my free time.”

For students at the fair, people like Cheerla are normal. And for a while, they were among their peers: a diverse group of young kids who love engineering, programming and science.

Just like Ahmed Mohamed.

Outside, a group of the West Oakland Middle School students posed with Google’s special guest as their teacher yelled, “We stand with Ahmed!” Scott has talked about Mohamed’s story in class as part of an ongoing conversation about discrimination.

Mohamed, wearing an official Google Science Fair T-shirt that said “Finalist Fan” on the back, took an occasional break from the never-ending selfies. During a lull, he hopped on a Google bike and sped around the sprawling campus by himself, like a 14-year-old kid.

7 comments

  • Opinion8d

    So I guess the rest of the kids just ‘repackaged’ existing items to call it their own?!?!?! Probably not! Why doesn’t the media report what this actually is. I used to add speakers to my existing clock-radio -did that make me a hi-fi developer?? Dig a little deeper and give the whole story!!

  • NH

    It’ll be interesting if the secret service inspects the device….I mean clock before he enters to see Obama. Oh wait, that would mean they don’t trust him (the kid). Wouldn’t that be hypocrisy?

  • chris

    I heard Obama is planning to have the families of the 9/11 hijackers visit the white house so he can express his sympathy to them. After all they lost loved ones in the September 11th attacks too.

  • Z

    He didn’t make anything! He took an alarm clock from the 70’s and put its guts in a pencil box!

    Taking credit for something you did do is called PLAGIARISM!

    Stupid libs! Tell the whole story!

  • Wynn Christensen

    I am an electrical engineer. As part of my college experience we made a digital clock in the lab. In my work I have some experience in making prototypes. This clock was not homemade. No homemade clock would have nice printed circuit boards. When I first saw it I thought that the board was a computer board that he could have programmed. While not as difficult to do as building a full hardware clock, it was still a nice accomplishment. I was on his side for a while. After looking closer I can tell however, it is not a computer board and it must have been pulled out of an old clock. I would like “Clock Boy” to take his clock to MIT when he goes and let them look at it. MIT will be embarrassed that they ever invited him as he is a fraud and they will know it in about 30 seconds. I think the police should then open up a new investigation as to just what his motives were in bringing this fake bomb to school. I think he is a pawn of his father and sister and now that most of the nation has been setup watch out for what comes next. WAKE UP AMERICA. YOU ARE BEING DUPED!

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