Support Repair on Giving Tuesday

Tomorrow, November 28, 2017, is #GivingTuesday. Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) since 2012, this is a global movement that celebrates and encourages donations to charities and non-profits in your community. While consumerism abounds during the holiday season, with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other appeals to purchase and give items to express your affection for and appreciation of friends and family, Giving Tuesday is a chance to step back from consumerism and appreciate the various organizations and causes that work to make our communities better places by donating funds to support the missions of those organizations. It’s a day to give back ; a chance to contribute, literally and figuratively, to positive change. You can learn more about the history of Giving Tuesday at http://www.givingtuesday.org/about.

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Here in Champaign-Urbana, we’re very fortunate to have a lot of great community organizations which also include an element of reuse in their operations that divert items from the landfill while fostering positive change. Places like the IDEA Store, Courage Connection (with its Connections thrift store), the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Salt and Light, and of course Goodwill and the Salvation Army are just a few that come to mind. And of course, the Eastern Illinois Food Bank, Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, and similar entities that fight hunger in our area also help fight waste by accepting donations of unwanted or surplus food, and thus feeding people instead of landfills. If sustainability is important to you, there are many worthy causes that address all three aspects of sustainability (social, economic, and environmental) here in CU. We’re proud to be able to contribute to positive change and waste reduction in such a community.

The Illini Gadget Garage hasn’t been around as long as other organizations you might consider this Giving Tuesday, and we certainly can’t claim to impact lives as deeply as those fine institutions, but we work to do our small part every day to foster positive change. We want to empower individuals with the knowledge and tools needed to feel confident enough to consider repairing devices instead of replacing them, thus stemming the tide of electronic waste while also making technology more understandable and accessible. While helping community members to repair their own devices, we help them understand how choices made at various points along a product’s life cycle–from design to manufacture, through use and end-of-life disposal–can impact human and environmental well being. A conversation about glued-in batteries versus ones that are easy to swap out, or lamenting how difficult a certain device is just to get open in order to troubleshoot can lead to broader discussions about sustainable design, reuse, and repair. In this we way we get people thinking about sustainability through the action of considering a practical problem in their own lives. When an item is genuinely beyond repair, we help people learn about local recycling options, or if something is unwanted by functional, we can help with information on donation opportunities. And we’re currently able to do all of this at no charge to the public–UI students, faculty, staff, and yes, members of the broader CU community and beyond–are all welcome to come to our work space or to one of our pop-up clinics for assistance. That’s all thanks to donations. We launched with seed funding from the UI Student Sustainability Committee, but that funding has been used up, and we are currently powered 100% by donations from corporate sponsors, such as HOBI and iFixit, and individuals.

This Giving Tuesday, if you believe as we do that repair and reuse are important for a sustainable society, then we hope you’ll consider a donation to Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) Support Fund, the UI Foundation fund which allows the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center to coordinate the Illini Gadget Garage’s repair education and assistance efforts. Even a small donation of $5-10 is a big help, and every donation is greatly appreciated. Here’s what your donation helps with:

  • Funding the collection of single use and rechargeable batteries and shipping those to Call2Recycle and its partners for proper recycling.
  • Paying salaries for our hourly staff members, Madeleine and Amanda, who take care of our work space, train and coordinate volunteers, lead the public in one-on-one troubleshooting and repair, produce informative blog posts and podcasts, and in general help others learn not only how to repair, but why it’s both important and lots of fun.
  • Paying for recurring expenses like utilities and cleaning of our work space, purchasing supplies and equipment from printer paper to tools, paying for room rental to host community pop-up clinics, paying for marketing materials, etc.
  • Conducting not only open hours at our workshop, but also pop-up repair clinics in public spaces both on and off campus.
  • You can read about the impact we’re having, including the pounds of devices and materials we’ve diverted from landfill, at http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/ilgadgetgarage/about/our-impact/.

Visit http://www.sustainelectronics.illinois.edu/SEIdonation.html on Giving Tuesday to contribute to our efforts on campus and beyond. Note that the Illini Gadget Garage is the sole educational project of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative currently, so your entire contribution will support the IGG. Our sincere thanks for your support!

Thanks to HOBI International, Inc. for Continued Support!

We’d like to express our sincere gratitude to HOBI International, Inc. for their recent donation of $5000 to support our efforts to promote repair and extending the useful life of products here on the UIUC campus! HOBI has supported our efforts since the launch of the Illini Gadget Garage (IGG) project, providing a letter of support for our original proposal for a UI Student Sustainability Committee grant and making a previous $5000 donation.

HOBI international logo, with the letter HOBI and a lotus within the O. Below that are the words "Secure. Sustainable. Solutions."

HOBI International, Inc. is a leading mobile, IT and data center asset management provider with comprehensive and traceable solutions for device management, reverse logistics, data erasure, refurbishment and recycling, as well as compliance services. With locations in Arizona, Illinois and Texas, HOBI works with enterprises of all sizes nationwide. HOBI was founded by Cathy Hill and Craig Boswell and incorporated in the State of Illinois in 1992 as a privately held corporation. Its focus remains on the complete environmental disposition of post-consumption, manufacturing and mixed electronic surplus and scrap. The company holds R2, RIOS, ISO 14001:2004 and WBE certifications. You can learn more about them at https://hobi.com/about-hobi/.

Craig Boswell, HOBI President and Co-Founder, is a UI alum who has participated in several of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC)’s sustainable electronics efforts over the years. (ISTC coordinates the Illini Gadget Garage.) He served as a juror for the 2013 International Sustainable Electronics Competition, came to campus to present a guest lecture for the spring 2014 course ENG/TE 498: Sustainable Technology: Environmental and Social Impacts of Innovations, and was also a presenter during the 2012 ISTC Sustainability Seminar Series, speaking on design for recycling. You can view the archive of that seminar below. Craig has the unique experience of having been involved in designing electronics earlier in his career as an engineer for an electronics manufacturer. Now as someone who works in the recycling and asset management industry, he has been able to observe first-hand how design decisions impact the ability to repair or disassemble a product for material reclamation–typically by making all of that much more difficult because end-of-life management is not often considered in the design phase for electronic devices. He talks about that a little bit in the archived webinar below. It’s an important lesson which we hope UI industrial design and engineering students take to heart.

See our full list of sponsors at http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/ilgadgetgarage/donate/sponsors/. HOBI’s contributions have put it at the “Platinum” level of sponsorship.

If you or your organization would like to contribute to IGG’s efforts to promote repair as a viable alternative to immediate replacement of consumer goods on the UIUC campus and beyond, donations can be made at http://www.sustainelectronics.illinois.edu/SEIdonation.html. After entering an amount, you’ll be taken to the UI Foundation’s secure giving site to provide your personal and credit card information. Every little bit helps us pay hourly employees that coordinate student volunteers and day-to-day operations, cover expenses for our physical workshop and consumables, and provide special services like webinars, workshops and collection of batteries for recycling. Your donations also help us keep this educational project free for the campus and broader community. See “Our Impact” to check out what we’ve been able to accomplish so far. Your support will help our positive impact grow!

Note: Businesses mentioned above are for informational and acknowledgement purposes only, and should not be construed as endorsements by the Illini Gadget Garage, the University of Illinois, or units affiliated with this project.

Proposed Right to Repair Legislation in Illinois

Illinois is one of 12 states currently with proposed legislation that would support what is called the “right to repair”—that is, the right of consumers and smaller independent repair businesses to have access to instructions, parts, and tools necessary to repair electronics. If passed into law, this type of legislation would require manufacturers of electronic equipment to sell repair parts and release service information to consumers and independent repair shops.

For more information on the “right to repair” movement, see our previous posts, Introducing Right to Repair and its Roots in the Automotive Industry and Right to Repair and the Tech Industry. You should also check the web site of the Repair Association, previously the Digital Right to Repair Coalition, a group which advocates for the repair industry and legislation to protect consumers’ right to repair the devices they own, or to take them for repair to the repair shop of their choice (not just those controlled by the manufacturers). See their “Statement of Principles” at https://repair.org/association/. This page also includes a summary of the history of the right to repair movement.

In Illinois the proposed bill is called the Digital Fair Repair Act (HB 3030). See the full text of the bill on the Illinois General Assembly web site. According to the General Assembly site, that bill was referred to the House Rules Committee in March 2017 and no recent action has taken place. If you’re interested in contacting your elected officials to express your support for this bill, the Repair Association has made it easy for you, with a form that will help you contact legislators based on the zip code you enter–see https://illinois.repair.org/. Of course, the form can also assist you in determining your legislators if you care to contact them and oppose the bill.

Other states with similar proposed legislation include Nebraska, New York, Minnesota, Kansas, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Tennessee, North Carolina, Iowa, Missouri, and New Jersey. To learn more about proposed legislation in those states, see https://repair.org/stand-up/.

Incidentally, as in so many cases, the European Union is ahead of the US in terms of facilitating the repair of consumer products and thinking about designing products with repair in mind in the first place. On July 4, 2017 the European Parliament voted to approve a resolution calling on the European Commission, member countries and producers to take steps to improve repairability. While the resolution doesn’t place requirements into law, it does illustrate the desire of elected officials to address the issue of repair and design for repair in future laws and voluntary programs. See the 7/13/17 E-Scrap News article EU body takes aim at planned obsolescence in devices written by Jared Paben for further information.

drawing of wrench clasped in a fist enclosed in a circle
Right to Repair advocacy image from Repair.org

Get a Taste for Repair at the Taste of Champaign

Calling all University of Illinois students, faculty and staff, plus members of the broader Champaign-Urbana community! The Illini Gadget Garage will have a booth at this weekend’s Taste of Champaign at West Side Park in downtown Champaign, Friday, August 18 and Saturday, August 19. See the Facebook event for more details.

Stop by to learn more about the “do-it-together” troubleshooting and repair we provide to campus and community members, and why we think it’s so important that you consider repairing the electronic devices and small appliances you own rather than immediately replacing them when there’s a problem! Set up an appointment to come into our workshop to work with us on your device, learn about volunteer and educational opportunities, hear about our employee engagement event offerings, and learn how you can support continued efforts. Also, if you’re the sort of person who thinks, “oh, I could never repair a device” or “repair is too complicated,” we’ll have some practice devices on hand along with tools, so you can sit down and get a feel for what it’s like to open something up and use the tools–all without the pressure of worrying that you might make things worse with your personal device. We’re pretty sure (from our own experiences) that once you get a taste of repair and tinkering, you’ll be hungry for more!

We’ll be at booth #27 in the “Community Corridor”–conveniently near the stage and beer tents so you can’t miss us! We’ll be there from the beginning of festivities each day until 9 PM each evening. See https://champaignparks.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/TASTE-CU-2017-NG-Tabloid-Insert-w_MAP-FINAL-7.31.17.pdf for a printable map. We hope to see you there!

image of 2017 Taste of Champaign booth layout in West Side Park

Thanks to iFixit for Continued Support!

Our sincere thanks to iFixit for their recent donation of $1000 to support our efforts to promote repair and extending the useful life of products here on the UIUC campus! iFixit has supported our efforts since the launch of the Illini Gadget Garage (IGG) project, providing a letter of support for our original proposal for a UI Student Sustainability Committee grant and providing the toolkits that you’ve used if you’ve come to the IGG for help with repairs or to participate in a class.

iFixit logo, featuring the company name below a stylized blue and white Philips screw head

iFixit is the self-proclaimed “Free repair guide for everything written by everyone.” Founders Kyle Wiens and Luke Soules got into repair back in 2003, as students at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. When attempting to fix an old iBook, they found that no instruction manuals were available online. So they tinkered on their own with the tools and information they could find, and ultimately were successful. The experience inspired them to try other repairs, but again they found it difficult to find instructions, parts, and tools. So they began buying old computers on eBay for parts, and created a business out of selling parts and writing repair guides for the devices they worked on. Now iFixit is a wiki-based site geared toward helping people fix almost anything. Anyone can create a repair manual for a device, or edit existing manuals to improve them.

iFixit also collaborates with universities to provide technical writing experiences for students, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, via the Illini Gadget Garage and Sustainable Electronics Initiative at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. In the iFixit Technical Writing Project, students research common device problems and present software and repair solutions to guide others through the troubleshooting and repair process. To see guides completed or being worked on by UI students as part of this effort, see http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/ilgadgetgarage/ifixit-student-guides/.

See our full list of sponsors at http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/ilgadgetgarage/donate/sponsors/. This most recent contribution has brought iFixit up to the “Diamond” level of sponsorship. If you or your organization would like to contribute to IGG’s efforts to promote repair as a viable alternative to immediate replacement of consumer goods on the UIUC campus and beyond, donations can be made at http://www.sustainelectronics.illinois.edu/SEIdonation.html. After entering an amount, you’ll be taken to the UI Foundation’s secure giving site to provide your personal and credit card information. Every little bit helps us pay hourly employees that coordinate student volunteers and day-to-day operations, cover expenses for our physical workshop and consumables, and provide special services like webinars, workshops and collection of batteries for recycling. Your donations also help us keep this educational project free for the campus and broader community. See “Our Impact” to check out what we’ve been able to accomplish so far. Your support will help our positive impact grow!

Incidentally, if you’d like to know a little bit more about iFixit and the work they do, both Kyle and Luke are featured in the documentary Death by Design, which the IGG will be screening (for FREE) on Tuesday, August 22 at the Champaign Public Library–see http://illinois.edu/calendar/detail/2195/33277370 for further details. We hope to see you then!

logo for film "Death by Design" showing a soldering iron and smoke on a circuit board, with the film's name and tag line "The dirty secret of our digital addiction."

Note: Businesses mentioned above are for informational and acknowledgement purposes only, and should not be construed as endorsements by the Illini Gadget Garage, the University of Illinois, or units affiliated with this project.

Group Laptop Teardown Offers Hands-on, No-Pressure Experience

Interested in taking a closer look at how your technology works? Want to try taking apart a device without the risk of damaging something you own? Stop in to the Illini Gadget Garage for a group teardown. We will work as a group to open and investigate a matching set of laptops in order to learn more about how they work and how to repair them. We only have 8 laptops available, so spots will fill up quickly. Reserve your spot today.

This event will be at our main location at 1833 S Oak Street, Champaign, IL on August 1, 2017 from 10:15 AM – 1:00 PM.

Close up of someone using a spudger to work on a circuit board. The words "Tech Teardown" appear in the upper right corner of the image.