Web Culture

How to Help #IStandWithAhmed and Keep Kids Creating [Who Won the Internet This Week?]

Mihir Patkar 18-09-2015

Sometimes, just sometimes, you log online and think to yourself, “Wow, I love the Internet.” This was one of those weeks.


An innocent 14-year-old geek was discriminated against, and the entire might of the online world stood behind him – with hardware geeks leading the way.

Ahmed Mohamed is a student at McArthur High School in Irving, Texas. He loves tinkering with electronics and building things. He was especially proud when he hacked together a digital clock in a pencil box. He took it to school to show it to his engineering teacher.

“He was like, ‘That’s really nice,'” Ahmed told Dallas News. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.'”

Prescient words.

Ahmed hid the clock, but it beeped during another class. The teacher asked him to show what beeped. That’s when things got crazy: Ahmed was suspected and accused of building a bomb. The police were called, and he was actually arrested.


Twitter lit up after media entrepreneur Anil Dash tweeted the story, along with a photo of Ahmed in a NASA t-shirt:

It’s difficult to overlook the possibility of a racist bias here, but let’s be thankful that the Internet stood up for this guy. Soon, a Texas college student, Amneh Jafari, tweeted the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed that caught on fire:


The hashtag started trending, and once it was determined that Ahmed was innocent, he was released. But the damage had already been done. Ahmed was a tinkerer and the Internet’s geeks were ready to stand in unison. Big names spoke up, like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, among others:



And then, one voice weighed in that stopped all others in their tracks.

“I repeatedly told (the police), ‘It’s a clock,’ but no matter how much I told them, I guess that’s not a bold enough answer to them,” Ahmed told ABC News. “I want it (the clock) back, with my humility.”


What He Built: Make magazine, which is all about makers and hackers, has attempted a breakdown of the clock that Ahmed build. The analysis reveals a pretty simple digital alarm clock, and not something to be alarmed by.

How You Can Still Help Ahmed and Other Students Like Him

Through this sudden exposure, Ahmed has got offers that may people only dream about. From a Twitter internship to meeting President Obama, it seems like Ahmed is set for life. And tweets like this can make you think it’s the end of the story…

But it’s not. Ahmed is just one kid, and even his future isn’t secure. There are many people who got famous because of Twitter These 5 People Got Really Famous Just By Using Twitter There's tons of celebs who got famous and then made their way onto Twitter. And there's a few who did it the other way around. They got on Twitter, and then got famous. Read More , but online fame is fleeting. After those 15 minutes, you need to get back to real life. And that’s where Ahmed wants your help, to ensure he and others like him have a better future.

Activists and citizens from Texas and across America have set up an official #IStandWithAhmed LaunchGood campaign to raise funds, with a $100,000 goal. The money raised will be split 50-50 between a scholarship fund for Ahmed and enabling access to MakerSpaces for other students like him who excel in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.


Why is this necessary when he seems to be getting offers from big companies? It’s not about race alone, as can be seen with the story of Apple’s Steve Wozniak above and several others who shared their tales on social networks. It’s because schools in America have low tolerance for inquisitive minds who dare to think outside the box.

The Reason blog has cited several examples of other students being hauled up, suspended, and even arrested for just breaking the norm. It’s important to encourage young minds and help kids learn about the science of everyday stuff Help Your Inquisitive Child Learn About The Science Of Everyday Stuff A never ending curiosity about commonplace things is what gives birth to a scientist. The scientific spirit needs to be nurtured early, and today’s parents and teachers can play a big role. Read More .

The #IStandWithAhmed LaunchGood campaign’s founders write, “We cannot undo the fear and frustration Ahmed felt when being interrogated by police and walking out in handcuffs. This moment will forever impact his life. But let’s show him that he is not alone and we support his love for engineering and inventing. At a time when our nation lags behind the world in math and sciences, these funds will help him continue his education and reach his potential.”

If you are uncomfortable with giving to Ahmed’s official campaign above, don’t worry, you can still help other students who might face similar problems. NASA has been actively involved with encouraging STEM students, and their tweet can point you in the right direction:

Similarly, you can volunteer at the Stem Prep Academy or donate to their cause. Great Minds in STEM is also looking for volunteers and donations.

These are all US-centric endeavors, so if you want to support a similar cause outside the country, you should be able to find one by Googling. Alternately, consider teaching your STEM knowledge online Want to Teach? 4 Ways To Share Your Knowledge & Experience Online Teaching is an important process in learning. It is no longer the preserve of academics and schoolteachers. Anyone can become a teacher. Here’s how. Read More to students who are interested in what you do.

If you’re a parent, you can raise your kid to be a tinkerer DIY Dad & Mom: Raise Your Kid to Be a Tinkerer with Cool Home Projects Do you and your kids tinker together? If not, start today. Teach them to create things and you teach them to take control of their world. Read More with cool home projects and encouraging their innovative minds.

Similarly, you might want to pick up a Kano to let them build their own PC and learn to code Kano: The DIY Computer For Kids To Code and Learn (Review and Competition) Can a small child build a computer and learn to code on it? To find out, I tested it on one 3 year old boy with little experience of computers, and his 9 year cousin,... Read More . Kano is a DIY computer kit as simple as Lego, with an interface that encourages and teaches kids the basics of programming.

Just remember, a little help can make a big difference.

Will You Donate to Ahmed?

The online world seems to be arguing about whether it’s worth donating to Ahmed’s campaign, given the exposure and opportunities he has been offered, or to support other causes instead. What’s your take?

Image credit: Students soldering by Mitch Altman, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Related topics: Digital Alarm Clock, Electronics.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Anonymous
    September 20, 2015 at 2:02 am

    People who stand with Ahmed, probably also stand with someone who'd bring in a real bomb that looks exactly the same. There's no way i'd promote such stupidity.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 20, 2015 at 7:08 am

      You're wrong. Your money won't be missed.

  2. Anonymous
    September 19, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    No I won't donate. What's concerning is the backlash against the teachers for taking precautions in a world where Muslim extremists brainwash women and kids to murder the most innocent people in the most horrific ways.

    Better to be safe than have lives destroyed which is what this backlash will cause when teachers become hesitant to say anything with the fear they will offend someone.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 20, 2015 at 7:05 am

      There's a difference between "taking precautions" and arresting a kid. The simpler, saner course of action was to call in the engineering teacher, who Ahmed had showed the clock to. He would have clarified and defused the situation. That it got to the level of calling the cops and arresting this boy is an extreme, mishandled step by the teachers, imo.

      • Anonymous
        September 20, 2015 at 1:12 pm

        That's ridiculous. If it was a bomb, 1) it could have gone off already 2) you call a bomb squad, not an engineering teacher.

        The kid should have been suspended for a few days for bringing a device to school. The teacher who didn't report it immediately should be reprimanded. It was appropriate to call the police, because they know what to do and with a child involved, it is much safer from a legal standpoint too.

        Whether the police should have arrested him comes down to a matter of protocol. However, when the president encouraged him and send him an invitation, he has a sent a message to all children to do stupid things like this. What will happen when a kid does bring a bomb to school? It looks the same, but the results are a lot different.

      • Anonymous
        September 20, 2015 at 3:04 pm

        You are not hearing the whole story by the media. The cops asked the boy questions and he was evasive, did not say anything about showing the engineering teacher, if he had, the cops could have simply asked the engineering teacher and been done with it. They said he did not seem to want to cooperate with them, but when they decided the device was not a bomb, they let him go. The teacher was absolutely right to let the administration know, if it had been a bomb it could have killed or injured a lot of kids. That wasn't a "gun-shaped pop tart", or a kid pointing his finger and going bang at another kid, she didn't know what it was. If he had really wanted to not cause alarm, he could have gotten his engineering teacher in there to explain for him, but obviously he didn't, so you have to ask what was his motivation.

        • Anonymous
          September 21, 2015 at 2:52 am

          I agree with you. At first I was on the kid's side of the story, then when I saw the photo of his clock, it all seemed to fishy. Adding the fact that his father was a political activist who have been campaigning for anti-Islamophobia, all these media flurry all seemed too.... coincidental, must I say? If one looks at the clock that he made, it looks nothing like what an actual homemade clock would look like.

          Perhaps we should look more closely at the facts and not listen to the media so blindly (deaf-ly??) There is too many questions regarding his actions, but since the public loves these type of 'oppressed breaking out of the oppressors and winning etc etc', much logic and rational senses have been ignored.

          This is just my opinion, as much as this post is an opinion of the author.

        • Anonymous
          September 21, 2015 at 2:53 am

          Pardon my spelling and grammatical errors