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A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

Posted September 23, 2015 10:00 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: education engineering invention news

I have a weird relationship with clocks. Despite being American, I generally use 24 hour time. Why? Way too many alarms set for 7 p.m. and not 7 a.m. I'm also someone who DOES NOT HIT THE SNOOZE BUTTON. I know people who strategize so they can hit the snooze at least three times. I also hate just knowing the time. Unless I'm at work or I have plans, I'd much rather live schedule (and stress) free. My girlfriend is not one of these people, and my natural nonchalance has earned me a glare or two over the years.

Do you know who else has an unusual relationship with clocks? Yes, you do. It's 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed from Irving, Texas. Mohamed is the freshman student who was suspended from school and arrested by police after bringing in a homemade electronic device to his high school. Mohamed brought it in to show a science teacher and also very carefully explained it was a clock. But when school administrators learned Mohamed had brought in a device to school, they became suspicious. What they found was a pencil case that had been turned into a clock. After countless instances of tragic violence in American schools, schools are ultra-cautious about foreign objects and potential IEDs. Irving High School officials decided the best course of action was to call in police because they were convinced Mohamed's pencil case clock was meant to look like a hoax bomb.

And it sorta does. Mohamed selected a pencil case that looks similar to the classic briefcase bombs featured in many movies. Outfitted with an external seven-segment display, it definitely looks like a prop to be dismantled just-in-time by Jack Bauer on 24. The image at right isn't the actual clock Mohamed brought to school, but is a mock-up of the same pencil case he elected to use. (Please ignore my rushed Photoshop job.)

Mohamed has been steadfast that it was just something he had "invented" and it was never meant to cause an outcry. There was an outpouring of support nationwide for Mohamed, from President Obama to MIT, NASA, Twitter, and countless celebrities and tech entrepreneurs, each offering encouragement. The media personified Mohamed as the epitome of America's misguided racism and zero-tolerance policies. To the casual observer that certainly seems like what occurred.

Yet CR4 members, please carefully consider the actual photo of Mohamed's clock, as pictured at left. As engineers, technicians, builders and enthusiasts, what do you all see here?

Perhaps you are like Thomas Talbot on YouTube or the user Anthony on ArtVoice. Talbot is a research scientist at USC's Institute for Creative Technologies and Anthony notes he is a lifelong tinkerer with an engineering degree. Both of whom contend that Mohamed simply took a mass-produced alarm clock out of its enclosure and outfitted it into a new case. Evidence such as a 120V transformer, a screen-printed PCB, a 9V battery backup, and switches for snooze, alarm and time modes seem to support their hypotheses.

The intention of this blog isn't to persecute Mohamed. He's a male teenager, a population segment not usually celebrated for their maturity or decision-making skills. He probably thought it looked cool and since it was legitimately harmless, was fine to bring to public school. At worst, he made a mischievous mistake.

But few would argue that Mohamed, and his father who regularly runs for president of Sudan (yes really), ultimately benefited from this event, which adds some skepticism.

It feels like Mohamed-a bright boy with the mind of a budding engineer-took advantage of a dubious predicament for school administrators. Unfortunately, his success means other kids who tinker, make and build might not be able to leverage the knowledge of their teachers because of situations like this. Events like this might springboard the future of one individual, but curtail the innovations of dozens of others.

(P.S. I'm actively patrolling the comments, so keep them on-topic please.)

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#1

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/23/2015 10:10 AM

I've always found it funny that the bombs on TV shows always have a digital display indicating how long before it will go off. That's very obliging of the bomb maker.

To diffuse it, you either have to cut the blue wire or the yellow one. Pick the right one and the count down stops - pick the wrong one and kabluey!

Given that we are all programmed to believe that bombs have digital displays, I can understand the reaction of the school officials. It very well could have been a bomb.

My question is if he had brought a toy gun to school, would he get invited to meet with the president?

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#5
In reply to #1

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/23/2015 12:45 PM

Not when you watch "Hogans hero's" or 'Where Eagles Dare"

They are analog timers

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#7
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/23/2015 2:02 PM

I can remember old shows where there was a wire fastened to the "wind" key for the alarm on a wind up alarm clock. When the alarm went off, the key would turn, moving the wire until it touched another wire to complete the circuit. It was not as dramatic as a count down timer, and probably easier to disarm.

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#14
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/23/2015 7:45 PM

Sounds like something on 'Get Smart'

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#26
In reply to #14

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 8:53 AM

Shhhhhhush !!! You mustn't talk about such things unless you lower the cone of silence.

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#42
In reply to #26

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/25/2015 10:02 AM

Not the cone of silence! that thing never works, even when it does work.

Unless you use the ultra-high security phrase cards along with it.

""

[this] [mission] [will] [have] [you] [working] [with] [agent] [66]

[who] [is] [agent] [66] [?]

(looks at own card, turns card over, shoulders drop and eyes roll in silent groan of exasperation) [99]

""

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#8
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/23/2015 2:56 PM

I was always waiting for one that counts up, but you still have tot have the curly wires!

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#30
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 10:57 AM

My question is if he had brought a toy gun to school, would he get invited to meet with the president?
Only if he printed it on a 3D printer!

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#34
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 11:21 AM

"EDIT"

But seeing as he didn't "invent" anything, he just repackaged a store bought clock I doubt that he has the smarts to print a gun!

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#39
In reply to #30

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 8:26 PM

Obama is as much the president as a squatter is in a foreclosed house.

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#49
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

10/06/2015 6:56 PM

In the local news paper, a 6 year old child had a hat on as he entered kindergarten, with toy army men with guns molded into them attached with a rubber band to the brim. He was suspended from school for a week. The school had a no tolerance policy for weapons.

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#50
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

10/07/2015 12:43 PM

And kids get suspended for bringing a 'Wonder Woman' lunch box to school, on the grounds that it is a 'violent' character. She isn't depicted as being violent on the lunchbox, and she is typically depicted as the LEAST violent of the DC heroes, often considered the pillar of Love and Compassion within the Justice League.

Zero Tolerance is one of the worst plans ever, forcing administrators to over-react unreasonably to the slightest little thing.

Perhaps we need to circulate fliers and distribute t-shirts around all these schools:

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#51
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

10/07/2015 6:59 PM

If only.............

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#2

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/23/2015 10:55 AM

I have followed the story.

A terrorist wouldn't be showing his device off. They all would have been dead before that point.

Another observation I don't see any explosives in the case. It would be nice if our educators were educated in recognizing a real bomb. That goes for our police force too. The officer that arrested him should have been able to.

Another observation is that the educator that had suspicions to me didn't follow any protocol to protect the other students. If they had question as if it was a bomb. They should have never let the student handle it again. They should have cleared the school and had a bomb squad investigate the device.

In the media and public out cry of support for the student we have created a hole that a real terrorist could use. The next educator may not want to report a similar device because of it.

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#6
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/23/2015 1:58 PM

For the opening of a new McDonalds restaurant, Ronald McDonald made his appearance.

The next morning, a diligent manager noticed a mysterious black bag on the floor near the entrance. The manager immediately called the police. The bomb squad arrived and took the bag to an open field nearby, where it was detonated with explosives, this resulted in a shower of clown noses and other clown make-up.

You can't clown around.

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#20
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 5:42 AM

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

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#32
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 11:04 AM

Part of the goal of terrorism is to disturb the daily life of people they are targeting, either through death and dismemberment, intimidation, distraction, etc.

This kid, and his family, acted in such a way that they knew would be disconcerting to the school officials. I think they acted with intentionality with the purpose of disruption and seeing what the response would be. They used their kid to do this. What kind of parent does that? Oh, the same kind of parents who put bombs on their kids to kill innocent people.

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#3

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/23/2015 11:32 AM

Here's a YouTube video showing how "difficult" it was for Ahmed to 'invent' his clock.

Don't blink. (No there are no weeping angles, for you Dr. Who fans.)

(Hint: It took 20 seconds. If you were slow loading YouTube you missed it.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=20&v=kHk_6Vh4Qeo

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#25
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 8:02 AM

And then there is...

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#41
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/25/2015 9:13 AM

Nope, it did not make it for the teacher to see.

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#4

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/23/2015 12:30 PM

It's difficult to know what is going on here, taking it out of context, as has been done by the press....Knowing what the boy's motivation was, is pure speculation at this point...What we do have is quotes from the boy, he invented it(not true, he assembled it from finished parts) built it to impress his teacher(not very impressive) looks like a bomb(ok a made for tv bomb, but what would you expect from a kid)....Looking at it out of context and not knowing the motivations involved, it looks like an act of intimidation aimed at the teacher....I think they acted appropriately...Everybody falling over themselves trying to be politically correct,,,embarrassing, and sad at the same time...

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#9

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/23/2015 3:04 PM

The biggest winner appears to be the media.

I am not sure what the kid is actually claiming, but it is almost certainly a repackaged commercial product. Not all that imaginative and certainly not worthy of a trip to the White House.

I am sure that just about everyone here can (and maybe will) tell you of some truly creative things that they have built that far out-class what is pictured here. So what's the big deal that this makes national news?

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#10
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/23/2015 3:23 PM

I have made things that I was not aware anyone else had made, and as a kid, only cared that they worked.

For example, a reel to reel tape deck, like the schools used, with an extra tape head robbed from a cheap Japanese tape recorder, plugged into the "Professional" 500 ohm input jack. I found that placing this head downstream from the real head, would create an unholy echo and by moving the head to and away from the deck head and up and down the width of the tape, I could get some strange effects.

I also found that a speaker connected to this deck and placed in the window on Halloween, would cause calamity.

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#11
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/23/2015 4:10 PM

"I also found that a speaker connected to this deck and placed in the window on Halloween, would cause calamity."

That's a riot!

I did that with a large folded bass horn cabinet that I hid in the bushes and an LP of scary Halloween sounds.

It was too loud when people came to the door so I would lift the needle, hand out the candy, and return to playing as they left.

Scared this little kid when I did that. He dropped like a rock to the sidewalk screaming when the needle resumed play.

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#12
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/23/2015 4:18 PM

Ah, Phantom of the Opera through Voice Of The Theater!

Those little screamer goblins they sell now, miked through a healthy PA, can make even teens on their cell phones levitate.

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#13
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/23/2015 7:22 PM
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#24
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 7:17 AM

Dead Millennials.

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#28
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 9:43 AM

I don't get it, no trick-or-treaters and all these bags of candy?

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#31
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 11:02 AM

I'm ready for them.....

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#15

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/23/2015 10:11 PM

IF the kid truly did just stick a working clock into a different case, he's no inventor.

But, it does show some talent.

I think the kid should have listened to his science teacher after he showed it to him, and put the box in his backpack and taken it home.

The teacher who called the police can't be faulted for anything but ignorance.

But cuffing the kid and taking him away was a HUGE mistake.

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#16

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 1:06 AM

In an old movie the bomb was a wind-up alarm clock where the clapper would strike matches that would light the fuse to the explosives.

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#17

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 1:08 AM

Looks like something we would build IN electronics class IN high school.

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#18
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 1:14 AM

The kid didn't BUILD anything. That's the problem.

He took a complete clock out of its original package and put it in a pencil case.

Cute, but no cigar.

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#19

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 5:38 AM

I think this whole thing was BS right from the start. This is no invention and never was. It's a kid punking his teacher and school, and apparently ~90+% of the rest of the country, along with the White House, Zuckerberg, MIT, etc., and of course the mainstream media. Motivation - maybe he was just being a wiseguy kid. Or maybe one or both parents (and others) are involved (remember balloon boy a couple of years ago?) ...creating some "victimhood" for poor young Mr. Mohamed et al.

How do you think it would have gone if he had just showed up at the White House with his suitcase and asked to show the President his "cool clock?" If he does bring it to the White House, someone should ask Josh Earnest if the Secret Service is going to have a look first... and run any background checks on him and his parents. Or will he just waltz right in with it, no questions asked, since he has a Twitter invitation.

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#27
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 9:39 AM

Elvis brought Nixon a personalized .45 colt.

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#21

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 6:43 AM

given his sister had previously been suspended from school for threatening to blow it up and his dad being from where he is, I don't think the school overreacted at all. Also read the kid was belligerant and wouldn't answer questions. If it had been a bomb, I doubt anyone would be questioning the school's response.

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#29
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 10:39 AM

"If it looks like a pig, smells like a pig, has a curly tail like a pig, it's a pig."

There is a trail of poor behavior and an environment that should, I repeat should, make people suspicious. The educator errored on the side of caution, what's wrong with that? Have we not heard that "it's better to be safe than sorry"?

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#38
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 6:49 PM

I'm waiting for you, or someone else, to suggest that we build a fence around the USA, and make the Muslims pay for it right before we send them all home.

Of course, that's no longer an original idea.

A trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

I, for one, can't see any conspiracy here.

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#46
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/26/2015 8:49 AM

Good day lyn,

I'm not saying there is any kind of conspiracy here. Our kids are a result of the environment in which we raise them. The sister has also been a trouble maker and was suspended from school for questionable behavior. The statement "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" may, and probably does, apply here. I would bet the parents have a extremist mindset.

The same with my and your kids, they are a reflection of our thinking, good, bad or ugly. That's why it is incumbent upon you and I to be continually growing in character, integrity and honor.

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#22

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 7:04 AM

In the close up pictures I saw on the Internet the blue wire seemed to be #24 AWG. I don't know how the teachers and police fell for it. Anyone who has ever watched TV or movies knows that the blue wire is always #18 AWG.

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#23
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 7:09 AM

WOW!

I totally missed that. Nice catch!

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#36
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 1:36 PM

And of course they are not wound into neat little coils!

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#33

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 11:17 AM

This story rings of "Balloon Boy". Now we should just call him "Clock Boy"!

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#47
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/29/2015 6:09 AM

Naw, you've got to be alliterative: Clock Kid.

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#48
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/29/2015 9:20 AM

My apologies to the "Clock Kid"

A perfect example of what happens when people use their children to further their agenda's.

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#35

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 11:58 AM
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#37

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 1:45 PM

Looks like things I built in high school. I "repackaged" a number of electronic devices such as clocks and radios. I took them all to school too. Of course, back then, we could bring guns to school to go hunting after school was over, so things were different back then.

Considering there is nothing there that looks like an explosive, I think a bunch of idiots went off the deep end. Apparently the teacher he wanted to show this to did not see it, or was told to shut up and wait for the untrained experts at the local police force to come and look at it.

This could have been avoided by the student seeking approval before bringing it in, but as stated before, we are dealing with a teenage male. Not the most likely to think things through.

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#40

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/24/2015 11:46 PM

Using two tape decks we could record backwards. My roommate, a classical guitarist, would then place a piece of music backwards.We titled it "Bachwards"

We had more fun making Halloween tapes. We had a creaky rocking chair, a chain, a dinner bell, an upright bass and several of us wandering around the room making whistling, blowing, roaring noises. When we slowed this to half speed we most awesome spooky sound effects ever.

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#43

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/25/2015 10:34 AM

A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and it is found to be running backwards. The school, the clock and everyone on the face of the earth disappears.....

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#44
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/25/2015 10:37 AM

Couldn't we just make the president and the clock boy "GO AWAY?"

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#45
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

09/26/2015 8:40 AM

Oh, I'm all for that. And the sooner the better.

We are then left with a mess to clean up from bho's time in office. That will take years. As Albert Einstein said, "the significant issues that we deal with cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that it took to create them." When political, socialist ideologes have been put in place and are entrenched in the gov beauracratic system it is hard to get rid of them.

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#52

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

10/07/2015 8:07 PM

In high school we built a radio. A nearby electronics store had surplus radio clocks so I put one in my radio to make a clock radio. Then we installed this "panic button" feature. But since this was a vacuum tube radio it would take about a minute to warm up when it came on. If I was quick I could turn of the alarm while it was still making little blips before it became a full-on siren.

We also made what was called a capacitive relay. It would close a circuit when it sensed a body nearby. You could control the sensitivity by turning a dial. Yet they still can't get these traffic light sensors to work for bicycles.

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#53
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

10/08/2015 8:43 AM

Yet they still can't get these traffic light sensors to work for bicycles.

Because no one uses tubes anymore.

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#54
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

10/08/2015 9:16 AM

Well, that, plus the 'smart' traffic lights use inductive loops in the pavement to detect cars, and the standard for designing car-detecting, buried induction loops barely has enough sensitivity to detect a tricked-out Harley Davidson, the 'tiny rice burners' are iffy as to whether they'll register, and a carbon-fiber bicycle frame, well, that's pretty much invisible unless you add a big block of iron for the loop to detect. And adding 'dead weight' to a modern, light-weighted bike is defeating the purpose of making the bike light in the first place.

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#55
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Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

10/08/2015 10:09 AM

I remember a traffic signal sensor that used sound to detect, I know this because pulling up to the intersection on a motorcycle, caused pain in the right ear.

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#56

Re: A Boy Brings a 'Homemade' Clock to School and...

10/08/2015 4:13 PM

Here's an image of the remnants of an old traffic signal pressure pad. They always worked if I rode my bicycle over them. There was a modern signal that would work if I rode in the middle of the lane. It doesn't seem to work anymore. Maybe because then I was riding a steel framed bicycle with steel fenders and a heavy steel rack.

Someone suggested placing a magnet on the bottom bracket of the bike. Someone else stated that doesn't work. But what if magnets were placed under the pedals where it's closer to the ground and the motion might help. Haven't had time to experiment. Meanwhile I'll reach around the pole and push the button.

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