Our Impact

We aim to extend the useful life of products, keeping them out of the waste stream, while also empowering consumers to see do-it-yourself repair as a viable option for dealing with minor damage and performance issues. We also use our repair and troubleshooting interactions as an opportunity to engage consumers in conversations about product design, materials sourcing, reuse, recycling, and other issues related to electronic device production and sustainability. Finally, we provide experiential learning opportunities through volunteering and employment for UI students in a variety of academic disciplines.

As our project grows, so does our impact! Below are some illustrations of the impact we’re having on the University of Illinois campus, its surrounding community, and beyond. This page will be updated periodically, so check back regularly for revised statistics and information.

Weight of devices diverted from landfill

We record the weights, in pounds, of the devices we work on with clients and if the item is successfully repaired, or if we provide appropriate information on reuse, donation, or recycling opportunities for items no longer wanted or repairable, we consider the device as having been “diverted from landfill.” (Note that in IL, 17 electronic devices are banned from landfill, but because many consumers are unaware of the law, items may still end up in the trash if individuals do not know how to dispose of them properly. Note also that the figures below do not capture devices diverted from landfill as the result of email interactions and advice; these numbers only represent devices that have actually been worked on at our physical location or pop-up repair clinics.)
    During Spring 2017 semester: 140.88 lbs.
    Total since project began in Fall 2015 (last updated 7/21/2017): 320.41 lbs.
Not bad, considering electronics keep getting smaller and lighter, and that we were unable to officially open our workshop for regular public hours until the fall of 2016 (prior to that time we operated in a limited fashion for those who did not require ADA accommodation).

The following chart shows the percentage of different devices types we’ve worked on in Spring 2017. Note that we are not limited to working on these types of devices–if you can carry into our shop or a pop-up clinic, we’ll do our best to help you with troubleshooting and repairs!

54.8% laptops; 25.5% cell phones; 9.7% audio systems; 6.5% tablets, and 3.5% electronic accessories

UI student involvement

The following UI classes have interacted with the Illini Gadget Garage:

  • ARTD 591 PL (grad)/ARTD 391 PL (undergrad), taught by Professor William Bullock in Fall 2015 semester. Are you interested in working on a new campus initiative with others from engineering, industrial design, graphic design, architecture, and marketing (business and advertising) to establish the new Illini Gadget Garage? If so this class may be for you. See the course flyer for more information.
  • LIS 451 A4, Intro to Network Systems, taught by Dr. Martin Wolske in Fall 2015 semester. Hands-on introduction to technology systems for use in information environments. See the iSchool web site for more information.
  • LIS 490 IL, Informal Learning Spaces and Pedagogies, taught by Dr. Martin Wolske in Fall 2015 semester. Explores the design of space and pedagogy for informal learning in libraries, museums, and other public and private collaborative spaces. See the iSchool web site for more information.

Students have the opportunity to volunteer to assist in our daily operations. From time to time hourly staff openings are also available. See our “Meet the Volunteers” and “Meet the Staff” pages to learn more about students past and present who have become members of our team.

Through the Illini Gadget Garage and related projects of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, the University of Illinois participates in the iFixit Technical Writing Project. Through classes, special projects, or as part of volunteering or working at the Illini Gadget Garage, UI students write repair guides for the iFixit web site. See our “iFixit Student Guides” page for a list of guides that have been created by UI students.

Patrons served

In Spring 2017 semester, 39 people worked with us to troubleshoot and repair their own devices. Hurray for them–they’ve been added to the growing number of folks for whom repair is no longer an intimidating idea! Note that this number does not include people for whom we have simply answered questions at our pop-up clinics or via email–this is strictly the number of individuals who performed guided work on devices.

As of 7/21/17, we’ve served a total of 104 people and counting! This number represents those who’ve found help at our location, pop-up clinics, and asked remote questions via email and Facebook. 

To see what folks are saying about the assistance we provide, check out our “Testimonials” page.

Pop-up clinics and other outreach

In addition to regular open hours at our physical location, during Spring 2017 semester, we conducted 23 pop-up repair clinics at various locations around campus and in the Champaign-Urbana community. If you’re interested in hosting a pop-up, fill out “Host a Pop-Up Clinic” form. Please note that fees may be charged for off-campus pop-up clinics, particularly those that are hosted by businesses for employee engagement rather than public events; for questions and pricing contact Joy Scrogum.

We are proud to have participated in the following campus and community events where we spoke about the importance of repair of electronics and sustainability, performed demonstrations, and provided hands-on activities for the public.

  • Urbana First Friday (July 2017)
  • Student Sustainable Farm stand (weekly on Thursdays at Anniversary Plaza outside the Illini Union, Summer 2017)
  • Volunteer Info Sessions (IGG events, 2017)
  • Sonified Sustainability Festival (2016 & 2017)
  • I Love Illinois Week (2017)
  • Environmental Expo (2017)
  • Teenspace at the Champaign Public Library (2017)
  • Spring Into Repair Open House (IGG event, 2017)
  • iPhone tear down demonstration (IGG event, 2016)
  • Recycled Holiday Crafting workshop (IGG event, 2016)
  • Campus Sustainability Celebration (2016)
  • Urbana America Recycles Day Celebration at Anita Purves Nature Center (2016)
  • Illini Gadget Garage Grand Opening (officially open to the public upon completion of renovations for ADA compliance, 2016)

Beginning in May 2017, we began producing a regular podcast for WEFT 90.1 Community Radio, to provide information on troubleshooting, repair, device maintenance, recycling, and related issues for the benefit of the Champaign-Urbana community. See our “Podcasts” page for links to each episode on SoundCloud.

Beginning in July 2017, we’re offering educational webinars and workshops to help educate the public about electronics repair and related issues:

Project coordinator Joy Scrogum is teaching a course for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI at Illinois) on Reuse as a Sustainability Strategy in Fall 2017. One of the course sessions will focus on repair and the Illini Gadget Garage will be presented as an example. See http://olli.illinois.edu/courses/current.html#contemporaryissues.

Besides writing posts for this web site (check out the “Archives” listing on the side bar to catch up on past posts), we also share information related to sustainable electronics issues, repair, and consumer information via our social media platforms. See the links in the “Socialize With Us” box on the side bar to connect with us.

Collections of Special Materials for Recycling

To further our efforts to foster a sustainable campus and reduce waste in our community, IGG has started collecting certain relevant materials for recycling, including CDs, DVDs and their cases and batteries. We haven’t collected a large enough amount of discs and cases to warrant a mailing to the CD Recycling Center of America yet, but during the Spring 2017 semester we filled and sent in 2 collection buckets via the Battery Solutions program. Starting Summer 2017, we will be offering mixed battery recycling, accepting both single-use alkaline batteries AND rechargeable batteries, via Call2Recyle.

We receive “confirmation of reclamation” letters from the battery recyclers we work with, which include statistics so we can keep track of the weight of batteries recycled via our efforts and the break down by chemistry. As of June 2017:

Total weight of batteries recycled: 78 lbs.
Weight by chemistry: NiCad 1 lb.; NiMH 1 lb; Zinc Carbon/Alkaline 56 lbs.; Li-ion laptop/modem 15 lbs.; Alkaline/Zinc 4 lbs.; Lithium Primary 1 lb.

If you value these recycling opportunities, please consider donating to support the educational outreach efforts of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC). ISTC handles the administration of the IGG, and uses the SEI support funds to continue this project in various ways, including the purchase of battery collection containers. Visit our secure online donation form to make at donation to the UI Foundation for these activities: http://www.sustainelectronics.illinois.edu/SEIdonation.html.