First Click: Nerds unite in support of boy genius Ahmed Mohamed

September 16th, 2015


Ahmed Mohamed is a maker in the making. A young genius if you ask his cousin. Mohamed builds his own radios and Bluetooth speakers and likes to tinker on his go-kart because he wants to be an inventor when he grows up. So, the 9th-grader brought a clock he made to his new Texas school with the hope of impressing his teachers. Instead, the Muslim boy was arrested by Texas police after teachers worried that his clock was actually a bomb.

The arrest came 14 years and four days after the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center. This is the America in which the 14-year-old Mohamed lives. Where the most common images of Muslims on television depict them wearing orange jumpsuits when not being viewed through the targeting sight of a drone. A country where young men with brown skin and odd-sounding names are potential terrorists lest "real Americans" be diligent.

Mohamed's America is the same country that’s struggling with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The most recent PISA results, which measure the competencies of 15-year-olds, ranked the US a sad 35th out of 64 countries in math, and 27th in science. A Pew study published in February with a focus on K-12 STEM education showed little progress.

Mohamed's America is the same country that educates some of the world’s best minds at its universities only to lose them because it doesn’t have enough H-1B visas to go around. "We take very, very smart people, bring them into the country, give them a diploma and kick them out," said Google’s Eric Schmidt, "where they go on to create companies that compete with us."

Mohamed's America is also the country that’s rallying to his defense on Twitter under the #IStandWithAhmed hashtag. One of his earliest and most vocal supporters is Anil Dash, entrepreneur, writer and self-professed geek.

Nerds everywhere are offering support for the promising engineer arrested in his NASA T-shirt. People like these Google and JPL engineers:
And this other JPL engineer:
And Vox Media’s (The Verge’s parent company) Chief Product Officer:
The people and institutions that care about technology, science, and social justice are correct to rally in support of Mohamed because we need every talented and curious kid with thick glasses we can find. Not just the white Christian ones named Jeb.

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