Full marks for enterprise. Full marks for initiative.
But Ahmed Mohamed’s “reward” for bringing a homemade clock to school was to be placed in handcuffs, dispatched to a juvenile detention centre and have it made clear to him that the ticking device might be something much more sinister.
Indeed, it was suggested he was carrying a bomb and police have reportedly told him he might be charged with making a hoax explosive device.
“I have lost my innocence. I can never look at the world in the same way,” the teenager – currently suspended from school - told The Independent.
“I like science, but I look like a threat because of my brown skin.”
The 14-year-old said he had assembled the clock from a piece of circuit board and other things he had found in father’s garage. It had taken him just 10 or 15 minutes.
He said that when he showed it to his engineering teacher at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, he was advised not to show it to anyone else in case they got the wrong impression. “He told me it looked like a bomb,” he said.
The youngster said he ignored the teacher’s warning and did indeed show it to another teacher. “She said it looked a bomb, and called the police.”
The teenager said he was taken away in handcuffs and in the absence of his mother or father. “They took me there without my parents. They made me feel like a criminal,” he said.
The boy’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, said the first he learned of the controversy was when he received a call from the Irving Police Department saying “my son had been arrested for making a bomb”.
“My son is very upset, very shocked,” he said. “He wants to be like Einstein. He has so many ideas. He does not have an evil bone in him.”
He said he believed his son had been targeted because of his name, his religion and his colour.
“I think it is because of Islamophobia and the [impact] of 9/11,” he said. Asked if be believed his son would have been detained for the clock had he not been Muslim, he said: “No”.
Mr Mohamed moved to the US from Sudan and has twice returned to his country to contest the presidency as a candidate for the National Reform Party.
He also made national headlines in the US four years ago when he agreed to debate the Koran with the controversial Florida pastor, a somewhat bizarre event which ended with him with the Muslim holy book being burned.
“When I go and campaign in the Sudan I talk about the US as example of fairness and justice,” he said. “But this shows we still have problems.”
Mr Mohamed said he planned to talk to a lawyer and was considering taking legal action over the incident, which was first reported by the Dallas Morning News.
On Wednesday, Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd said at a news conference that while the clock the youngster bought had looked "suspicious in nature", he considered the case closed.
"We live in an age where you can't take things like that to school," he said, according to the Associated Press.
This spring, the city council endorsed one of several bills under discussion in the Texas Legislature that would forbid judges from rulings based on "foreign laws", legislation opponents view as unnecessary and driven by anti-Muslim sentiment.
The city's mayor, Beth Van Duyne, was given a "freedom award" from a conservative group for her so-called stance against Sharia law.
Mr Mohamed said despite what had happened, his son had not been put off from his wish to become an inventor. He said he more than 20 inventions.
He said he had told his son: “When you are trying to be good, sometimes other things can hinder you.”
Ahmed said he was also determined not to let what happened get in his way. “I am going to carry on,” he said. “I cannot let them stop me.”Reuse content