Star Simpson, the MIT sophomore arrested this morning after allegedly entering Boston's Logan airport with a bomblike object affixed to her shirt, is impulsive and creative but not a danger to anyone, say her fellow classmates.
Police say that Simpson, 19, walked up to an information booth to ask about an incoming flight, wearing a computer circuit board affixed to the front of a black sweatshirt with attached wires and a 9-volt battery. On the back of the shirt was the writing, "Socket to me." She was holding a lump of Play-Doh in one hand, said police, who determined that the apparatus was not explosive.
State police, who were called by an airport employee, arrested Simpson outside Terminal C and charged her with disorderly conduct and possession of a hoax device. Simpson was arraigned later today in East Boston District Court, where she pleaded not guilty and was released on $750 bond. She was also ordered not to go near Logan airport.
"She said that it was a piece of art and she wanted to stand out on career day," State Police Maj. Scott Pare, the commanding officer at the airport, said at a news conference. "She claims that it was just art and that she was proud of the art and she wanted to display it."
Pare added, "I'm shocked and appalled that somebody would wear this type of device to an airport."
Simpson was "extremely lucky she followed the instructions or deadly force would have been used," Pare said. "She's lucky to be in a cell as opposed to the morgue."
Simpson — a native of Hawaii and a member of the school's swim team and scuba club — studies computer science and is known around campus for her free-spirited personality.
"She's kind of counter culture. She's prone to do whimsical things. Last year she shaved her head," Caine Jette, a fellow sophomore at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and member of the Hawaii Club, told ABCNEWS.com. "She's relatively impulsive. Sometimes she walks around without her shoes on."
Simpson, who works at MIT's machine shop, is a part-time inventor, listing among her accomplishments on Instructibles.com, an inventor's Web site, as Go-llerblades (powered roller skates), a 3-D blackboard and an instant-release rope belt.
"She's always got something crazy going on," said Tom Lutz, an assistant at the machine shop, "but she's nothing, but well-intentioned. She's extremely friendly and an absolute sweetheart, a very creative person."
Lutz was not aware of Simpson's arrest, but insisted that it must be a misunderstanding. "She doesn't strike me as the type to make trouble. I don't think she was out to get arrested."
On her Web site, Simpson writes, "I love to build things and I love crazy ideas."
She adds that while she lived in Hawaii, she was busy "traveling the world and saving the planet from evil villains with my delivered-just-in-time gadgets."
In January, two men were arrested after dozens of battery-powered devices, which turned out to be part of a Cartoon Network promotion, were found around Boston.