'Let Ahmed Come Fix It': How the Irving Teen Developed His Knack for Electronics

Ahmed Mohamed, 14, was detained on Monday after he brought a homemade clock to school that a teacher mistook for a bomb


Sudden fame is exhausting.

Just ask Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old boy who was thrust into the national spotlight this week after a teacher in Irving, Texas, mistook a clock that he’d made for a bomb. He was led out of MacArthur High School in handcuffs before police opted not to file charges against him. The incident led to a media frenzy, an invitation to visit President Barack Obama at the White House, a scholarship to NASA space camp and an internship offer from Twitter, among many other opportunities.

But first, he needed a nap. Ahmed spent Thursday afternoon sleeping at home, while his family gathered in the living room to share stories about the teen. He won’t be returning to MacArthur High again, his father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, tells PEOPLE.

“It will bring back bad memories for him,” he says of Ahmed, whom he describes as “bright, gifted and talented.”

Even as a young boy, Ahmed was intensely curious about how things worked, his uncle, Abdul Elhassan, tells PEOPLE. From cellphones to radios to light switches, he was enthralled. And if their car broke down, he’d offer to try to fix it himself.

“I’d say, ‘What are you talking about? You don’t even know how to drive!’ ” Elhassan recalls with a laugh.

He soon developed a reputation as the “fixer” in the family, as well as around the neighborhood and even at Sam Houston Middle School, which he attended until moving up to MacArthur High this fall.

“Everybody knew him” at his former school, says his aunt, Ekhlas “Lucy” Sirelkhtim.

“My daughter was in the same after-school program as he was and the teacher would say, ‘Let Ahmed come fix it’ if anything technical went wrong,” she recalls.

One of her favorite Ahmed inventions was a small car that transformed into a boat when placed in the bathtub. It turned back into a car on dry land.

“To be honest, the clock was not his best product,” she adds.

Creating electronic devices has long been Ahmed’s passion, says his sister, Eyman Mohamad, 18.

“It’s hard for most people to break something and put it back together, but for him, it’s fun,” she says.

As for the dramatic incident at school, Eyman says, “This isn’t right as an American. Ahmed loves to build and create; it’s his hobby. If this was someone else – not being Muslim, not being brown – it wouldn’t be a problem. It became racial discrimination. But the support we’re getting from everyone shows that America is standing up, and it’s so great to see.”

When her brother was taken to the police station on Monday, “he was really heartbroken,” his sister adds. “It just broke his little heart. But now he’s like, ‘I’m never going to stop, no matter what.’ He tells people, ‘Don’t be afraid to be yourself, no matter what the consequences are.’ ”

As interest in his story continues – he’s heading to New York to be on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert – Eyman says she just hopes her brother’s ordeal will lead to a change in the way people view and treat each other.

“This is America. We need to target something else besides people,” she says. “Target hunger, target the water we have here in Irving.”

“There are bigger problems than being afraid.”

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