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


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

Visit 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!

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 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 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

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

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.


Webinar, 7/27/17–What the Tech? Learn Basic Electronic Component Function with the Illini Gadget Garage

Computers and smartphones are really complex machines, right? Well, if you know a little bit about them, they’re not all that intimidating. We’re going to break it down for you in our “What the Tech?” series of workshops, providing a basic walk through of different computer components and what they do.

This first presentation, via webinar, focuses on the basic components found in computers, smartphones, and other electronic devices and their functions in making a computer operate properly. Components to be covered include, but are not limited to: processors, hard drives, memory cards, and cooling elements. The Illini Gadget Garage’s Amanda Elzbieciak will guide you through the basics. The presentation will take place on Thursday, July 27 from 10-10:45 AM. (Note that the our campus workshop will be closed from 10-11 that day as a result.) Register online at

This webinar presentation is free, but donations are appreciated to support future Illini Gadget Garage programming. The Illini Gadget Garage is a repair center that helps consumers with “do-it-together” troubleshooting and repair of minor damage and performance issues of electronics and small appliances which promotes repair as a means to keep products in service and out of the waste stream. In order to pay hourly staff to help the public and train and oversee volunteers, as well as to pay for expenses like utilities, consumables, etc., we rely on the generosity of sponsors like you or your organization! See

A future presentation will offer hands-on opportunities to dismantle devices at our campus workshop. If you have suggestions for topics for future presentations, email us at

photo of various electronic components laid out on a table next to a ruler for scale

Tech Terror: “I don’t want to break it”

“I don’t want to break it.”

It’s a phrase we hear quite frequently here at the Gadget Garage as a preamble to attempting a repair and we completely understand that concern. Technology can be costly: in both its initial purchase price or in replacement parts; it can be valuable, holding important documents or all those digital copies of family photos you have stored on it; it can be complicated, trying to determine what caused your device to stop cooperating or to stop working all together; and it can even be dangerous at times, dealing with electrical components and batteries. But not wanting to break it doesn’t mean you should be afraid to try to fix it… for many of the same reasons. Technology is expensive to replace; some information is too valuable or troublesome to lose without trying to recover it; some complicated problems have very simple fixes; and a little bit of danger can be exciting now and then. So why don’t more of us take a deeper look into the electronic devices we use everyday when something goes unexpectedly wrong?

“I don’t want to break it.”

It’s a bit of hesitation.
A bit of trepidation.
A small dose of anxiety.
A little bit of fear.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Fear is a natural reaction to something new and unfamiliar.There is a wide range of fears which can prevent us from being more involved with our technology. In general, it’s a fear of making a bad problem worse, but fear can inhibit us from even trying as some of us don’t want to ask for help because we don’t want to appear ignorant or admit to not knowing how something works. Understanding technology is a learning process for everyone. The people who design circuit boards and smartphones and tablets they all started with a blank slate … and overtime they learned bit by bit… just as we learn any other skill: through patience, practice, and a bit of trial and error. So don’t tell yourself you can’t do it before you even try.

Where would you be today if you let something that scared you a little bit stop you? Would you know how to ride a bike or drive a car? Would you know how to play your favorite sport or instrument or how to cook safely in the kitchen? Would you have made friends or started relationships with people who were once complete strangers to you? Learning about technology and your devices and how to repair them isn’t radically different from these things, and at the rate which new technology appears nowadays, we’re all learners. Even the individuals who work with technology everyday sometimes struggle to figure out a new device or a new program feature, so try not to get disheartened by your failures.

You can do a great deal more than you realize, you just have to be willing to try.