Ahmed’s clock

If there is any greater testament to failures in public schools, the recent saga of a 9th grader with a homebrew electronic clock should rank right up there.

I have to say, if I were a teacher and a student had a device that looked like this and started beeping during class, I’d be a little nervous too. Imagine how the Secret Service would react if it had been mailed to the White House: [Ed Driscoll]

A bomb has one major ingredient – the explosive. This is a mass of some chemical that can blow up. Do you see anything in the picture of Ahmed’s clock where there is any significant mass of something that could blow up? Or consider the Boston Bomber and his pressure cooker pots. Those were containers, like pipes with caps on each end, that could hold some explosive and provide a containment that could enhance the effect.

In this case, it was funny noises and perhaps some flashing LED’s and wires that caused the alarm. In microcontroller cook-books, making a beep and flashing a light are the first things you learn how to do. The biggest question is why Ahmed left the battery connected after the first period teacher told him he ought not show it to other teachers.

There is a lot of talk about wanting more students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM subjects). It is one thing for a pundit like Driscoll to be paranoid about anything electronic, but any high school teacher? and administrators? and cops? Avocational interests are fundamental to STEM pursuits and the Maker’s communities [see Makezine] show just how much of a need there is to share ideas, show off work results, and socialize with others of the same mind. That is why, perhaps, that community is all in a tizzy about Ahmed’s clock. It is yet another illustration of just what modern school systems, the establishment, thinks of geeks and nerds. It is fortunate for society that, so far, word about such atrocities as Ahmed’s clock get out and support for reason gets voiced.

Update: Here’s Dave Jone’s rant at EEVblog eevBLAB #14 – 14yo Hobbyist Arrested For Bringing DIY Clock To School and Hackaday explains why you should build a clock for social good this week. It should also be noted that the very quick invite to the White House appears to have a racial twinge – Ahmed was a victim of white privilege or something and had the appearance of a protected minority.

Update 2 – Reverse Engineering Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock… and Ourselves. Yep: looks like the kid found an 80’s digital alarm clock and re-packaged it in a pencil case off Amazon. This rather fits with the idea of a precocious 9th grader out to tweak teachers. He shoulda’ been guided to more modern, microcontroller based, ideas and ongoing development of add-on features. Instead, the schools provided destructive feedback. Rather than encourage technical education and experimentation, the positive feedback was directed towards social disruption and disorder. Modern school systems in a nutshell.

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