This Homemade Clock Got a Muslim Teen Arrested at School

Ahmed Mohamed will not be charged.

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Sep 16 2015, 4:56pm

Image: Associated Press

Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old ninth grader in Irving, Texas, was handcuffed and arrested on Monday for bringing a homemade clock to school. Police believed that the clock was an attempt to build a "hoax bomb," and allegedly told the young Mohamed, who is Muslim, that it looked like something out of a movie.

Good news: Dallas Hackers Are Helping Ahmed Mohamed with His Next Inventions

In reality, the clock was nothing more than a cleverly arranged—if not exactly pretty—mess of circuity and cables stuffed inside a cheap box. Basically, a goddamn science project. Mohamed wanted to impress his teachers, none of whom, he believes, "know what [he] can do."

This morning, after the wave of media attention that followed the arrest, including tweets of support from Hillary Clinton, the Irving Police Department held a press conference and announced that there will be no charges for Mohamed, according to local reports. However, the police doubled down on their belief that the clock looked "suspicious."

The device was "clearly homemade"

The device was "clearly homemade and it is not immediately evident that it was the experiment he described," the Irving police chief said, according to Dallas News reporter Naheed Rajwani, who attended the conference. Rajwani also posted a photo of the actual device, the first to surface since the arrest.

Even if Mohamed's case is closed, the conversation about race and science education that the arrest sparked is unlikely to go away as quickly. Some Twitter users juxtaposed the now-viral photo of a distraught-looking Mohamed being handcuffed while wearing a NASA T-shirt with photos of smiling white children openly carrying firearms. It's fine, the message seems to be, for white children to carry guns, but non-whites can't show off their decidedly non-violent skills with a soldering iron.

Some commentators, like sci-fi author Nora K. Jemisin, also noted on Twitter that many non-white children are discouraged from entering the sciences from an early age, although not necessarily in such a blunt fashion. The unbearable whiteness of Silicon Valley has been a point of constant scrutiny for industry observers for some time, as well.

Mohamed is currently free, and was never taken to jail—instead, he was sent to a juvenile detention center to meet his parents after the arrest. During the press conference, Mohamed tweeted a photo of himself smiling and giving the peace sign, commenting, "Going to meet my lawyer."

CORRECTION: This story originally stated that Mohamed was arrested yesterday, but it happened Monday. Motherboard apologizes for forgetting what day today is.