Tinkering Teens

This past Tuesday, two staff members had the pleasure of going to the Champaign Public Library and setting up a fun Pop-Up during Teenspace, an after-school programming for middle and high schoolers.  The intention behind this Pop-Up was to show local teens how fun tinkering is, and in turn, how easy it is to repair your own tech with the right tools and resources.  With the intention of disassembling and putting them back together with the teens, we brought in two Dell Venue 8 tablets, one iPad, one MacBook Pro, and one Windows Surface.  We had our usual Pop-Up kit in-tow, including our iFixIt Toolkits, Magnetic Project Mats, and some guitar picks.  When the kids came in, we paired two or three teens with one device.  Using tear-down guides from iFixIt.com, they gradually took apart and put together the devices.

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Unscrewing the motherboard off a Dell Venue 8.

Most of the teens were ecstatic about “breaking apart” the devices, but were hesitant on what tools to use.  There were a few who let us know how easy it would be to simply stab the pieces out of the device, or that they would be willing to jump on the device in order to bypass the tricky opening.

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Working on a Dell Venue 8.

The best part about the event was seeing the teens realize that opening up an intimidating device was not only easy, but a lot of fun!  They dismantled the devices collaboratively, some unscrewing, while the others told them where and why they should unscrew.  Others applied circuitry basics learned at school in identifying parts and let their knowledge guide them in disassembly.

Teens working on an iPad.
Teens working on an iPad.

The teens were utilizing the tear-down guides, but all of the tinkering was led, and done, by them.  The IGG staff stepped in when they needed help with stripped screws or especially frustrating ribbons, but the majority of work was youth-led.  While the teens worked, they asked two main questions, “Why is this so hard to open?” and “Why can’t I just use one bit to get all the screws out?”  These questions started conversations that focused on usability and accessibility of technology and hardware, their right to repair, and the lifespan of technology.  We talked about patented screws (check out our blog post on the history of Right to Repair), what happens when phones or other personal devices get recycled or thrown away, and how they can help the environment by fixing their devices instead of getting new ones or upgrading.  The teens were pushing their boundaries on how they interpreted and reacted to technology, and analyzed how they used their devices and what happened to their devices when they were done with them.  This was all due to simply opening and exploring the components of devices.  It’s pretty amazing what individuals discover, and what questions are asked, once they get involved with how their device works.

Interested in opening up your own devices? Want to tear down the devices that the teens worked on? Or looking to host a similar Pop-Up with your organization?

We want to hear from you! Send us an email or follow us on Facebook to connect with our staff!

Splash! When Liquid Meets Laptop.

coffee spill
Coffee Spill

‘Tis the season when the weather starts to turn warmer and people find themselves craving iced tea and lemonade or perhaps the increased necessity of caffeine to fuel us through the workday (or school day) as deadlines approach. Whatever the reason, we frequently find ourselves with a beverage in hand as we interact with our personal electronics, so what do you do when… WHOOPS… happens?

*Sirens in the distance*

Liquid spills are a gamble of time and no small portion of luck. When it happens, you’ll want to react as quickly as possible. So here are a few steps to keep in mind to help prevent damage to your laptop – and yourself – due to a spill.

  1. Turn it off
    • Don’t bother with the start menu shut down command. Do a hard shutdown. Hold your finger down on the power button until the laptop turns off.
    • Liquids and electricity DO NOT MIX and when they do it can be dangerous to both you and your laptop.
  2. Kill the power
    • If you’re plugged in to power your laptop, unplug immediately.
    • If you have a removable battery, remove it.
  3. Unplug anything else
    • If you have any cables, devices, or drives (mice, USBs, flash drives, etc.) attached, unplug them. If your laptop shorts, it can short them as well.
  4. Flip it over
    • Help keep the liquid from traveling further into your laptop’s components by not letting it sift through it.
    • When you flip it, try to do so in a way that you keep the liquid from traveling towards the screen.
    • Do not shake the laptop in order to try and get the liquid out. It may cause further damage to internal components as it wiggles around your laptop finding new crevasses to hide in.
  5. Clean up the spill
    • Fingers crossed it was just a tiny spill, but if it wasn’t, you’ll want to be sure to blot the spill with a lint free paper towel or cloth
    • Pat, blot, but don’t wipe. Wiping may push the liquid onto other areas of the keyboard causing further possibilities for damage.

By this point, you’ve done most of what you can to save it. Now it’s just a waiting game. Try not to turn your laptop back on for at least 24 hours so that the internal components can dry out thoroughly. If you are able and willing, it may be a good idea to open your laptop and remove some components to help speed up the drying process and check for damage.

Now, the next thing to consider is what kind of beverage was spilled on it. The great majority of liquids will require some cleaning of your keyboard and likely some of the internal components as well, especially those that contain sugar. Sticky laptops are no fun. Aside from shorting out components, the biggest problem with liquids invading your laptop is that the particles in the liquid can cause corrosion. Many times, if you notice some small quirks of your computer like a few keys don’t work after your laptop has been turned back on after a spill, this is due to corrosion and it can get worse over time.

corroded motherboard
Corroded motherboard

corroded connector
Corroded connector

Please keep in mind, these steps are not guaranteed to save your laptop; they are just best practices for minimizing the damage. So save early, save often, and always try to have important projects, files, and folders saved somewhere else. Just in case.

Introducing Right to Repair and its Roots in the Automotive Industry

Extending the shelf life of products that use modern technology is a large part of the equation when it comes to the electronic sustainability movement. Unfortunately, this area is often found to be a source of trouble for consumers and independent repair shops. This is because many manufacturers make it impossible for consumers or independent repair technicians to fix their products. Sometimes this is done purposely and in other circumstances it is inadvertent. Regardless, this leaves consumers with few options and they are often forced to buy new or pay the monopolistic prices that select dealer or manufacturers have at their facilities. Fortunately, legislatures at the federal level and in many states have heard the voice of their constituents and right to repair bills have been introduced nationwide.

The root of the right of the repair movement can be traced to developments that have occurred within the automotive industry. In modern vehicles computers have come to control virtually every aspect of automobile’s vital systems. Therefore, vehicle repair has become a high-tech operation and computer diagnostic tools have in many ways have replaced traditional mechanical experience.[1] Currently, manufacturers serve as a door-keeper of repair information and only dispense this information to the selected dealers they do business with or at their own manufacturing facilities.[2]By 2001, this trend was well underway and in response the first Right to Repair bill was introduced in the United States. The stated goal of this bill was to end the unfair level of control that car manufacturers exercised over repair information.[2] In turn, the vehicle owner or independent repair facility would have the information necessary to diagnose, service, or repair their own vehicle.

While Right to Repair bills stagnated at the federal level, they have gained traction in many states. The biggest victory for the movement occurred in Massachusetts in 2012. The Massachusetts “Right to Repair” Initiative appeared on the general election and passed with 86% support from the state’s voters.[3] The Massachusetts law forced car manufacturers to provide independent repair shops with the same diagnostic tools they give authorized repairers. Consequently, by 2014 it had become obvious to the automotive industry that other states would pass similar legislation and they agreed to make the same data available nationwide by 2018.[4] Undoubtedly, this was a momentous shift in the automotive industry, but how does that impact the gadget repair industry? What if tech companies were forced to provide the same information?

[1]  Sturgis, Scott (January 26, 2007). “A Mechanic’s Laptop Makes Manual All But Obsolete”. The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2009.

[2] “Automotive Group Testifies Against Right to Repair Act Bill”. Autoparts Report.

[3] “Right to Repair Question 1 – 2012 Massachusetts Election Results”Boston Globe. November 8, 2012.

[4] http://www.autonews.com/article/20140125/RETAIL05/301279936/automakers-agree-to-right-to-repair-deal

What’s In a Screen?

The easiest thing one can do to a smartphone is accidentally dropping it and cracking the screen.  The process in repairing a cracked screen is relatively easy to follow, but before purchasing any components, tinkerers need to be aware of what they’re buying online.

Before purchasing a new part, examine your device and try to determine what part is broken.  I needed to repair my iPhone 5c’s cracked screen and did some research online to fix it.  Using a Google search for “cheap iPhone 5c screen replacement,” I found an inexpensive eBay link.

Screenshot of eBay iPhone 5c Screen Replacement
Screenshot of eBay iPhone 5c Screen Replacement

For the low price of $6.99, I can receive not only the screen, but tools and adhesive as well! This is a great deal, but is it what I want? In order to make sure I’m purchasing the right product, I need to refer back to my device.  Make sure you check the physical attributes of the problem:

  • Is there a large crack on the glass?
  • Is that crack accompanied by blue stripes on the screen?
  • Are you able to see everything displayed?
  • Does your touch screen still work?

My crack was external, and no damage was done to the display or digitizer (touch screen capabilities).  It’s important to analyze the problem fully, because the screen on your phone isn’t just one component.  It’s one part, compromised of three main pieces: the outer glass protective screen, the thin digitizer, and the LCD display.  These parts are also usually encased in a heat shield of some kind, protecting the LCD from the other parts of the phone.

Components of an iPhone 5c Screen
Components of an iPhone 5c Screen ***The Digitizer is a thin sheet on top of the glass LCD screen, making the “Digitzer” two components and not one***

The part from eBay was only for the external glass screen, not the other parts of the screen.  Here’s where I need to make a decision on what my repair commitment is.  Questions to ask yourself:

Looking at tear downs and repair videos, I did not want to fix just the outer glass screen.  I wanted a less invasive, simpler repair, and ordered the fully assembled screen from iFixIt, which contained all three aspects of the iPhone 5c screen already put together.  When ordering a part, be aware of the seller you’re purchasing the part from.  Questions to ask yourself:

  • Does this seller have good reviews?
  • What is the return policy? Is there a return policy?
  • Are buyers able to review the product? What’re they saying?

I chose to order my part from iFixIt because I’ve ordered parts from them in the past and was happy with my order.  After I received the new part, I was able to replace my whole screen in under 30 minutes–an easy fix!

NOTE: All links provided in this blog post are for informational purposes only, the Illini Gadget Garage does not endorse any of the companies listed, nor does any affiliated departments or the University of Illinois.

CD Recycling at the IGG

CDs in Jewel CasesThe warm fronts have made some of our staffers go
into a frenzy of Spring cleaning! We’ve been organizing our inventory, recycling obsolete technology, and finding a lot of old CDs and jewel cases. Instead of throwing them away, we have bins at our location to recycle them.

Update your music collections at home, get rid of that soundtrack from “The Jimmy Neutron Movie” you’ve listened to once, and take your CDs and cases to the Illini Gadget Garage for easy recycling.

Tech Tuesdays!

So you have some faulty technology, but you have class or another commitment during our open hours, we understand and that is why we are hosting “Tech Tuesdays” at the UGL. Every Tuesday, from 6-9 PM, we will have one of our associates in the media commons. Feel free to bring your damaged device or discuss the issues that you may be having. If we can’t help you on the spot, we can at least advise you on the best course of action and you may find it worthwhile to bring your defective item to our Research Park location. Furthermore, this is a good opportunity to discuss volunteering options, for any of you that may be interested. Additionally, we are looking to add “pop ups” at other locations. If your organization is interested in having us, just fill out the following form, https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1xp8I4lK_CWeW8cM2PwqKkBhExyq0mvxkzJc_WtmvVDI/edit.  Don’t strain your budget or fill a landfill with harmful electronic waste, instead check us out on a “Tech Tuesday” and see what we have to offer!