I’m Joy Scrogum, a Sustainability Specialist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), one of the five state scientific surveys which together comprise the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At ISTC I work on a variety of zero waste projects, as well as coordinating our Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI). The “founders” of SEI (Tim Lindsey, Professor William Bullock, and Willie Cade) had formulated an idea for a computer repair center on campus years ago, but were unable to get funding to bring the idea to fruition. Over the years, I kept that idea in the back of my mind, and attempted, along with William Bullock, to get funding for different iterations of it, to no avail. I learned about the Repair Café concept, and became acquainted with the folks at iFixit.com, getting UIUC to be a partner in their Technical Writing Project and working with Kyle Wiens, their co-founder, who served as a juror for our International Sustainable Electronics Competition and a guest lecturer for a class I taught on environmental and social impacts of technology. Further, I learned about the role of industrial designers in waste generation through William Bullock, and through SEI I became acquainted with Professor Martin Wolske and his work on demystifying technology and setting up community computer labs. The aspects of his work tied to empowering individuals and increasing access to technology seemed similar to the waste reduction and community building aspects of repair cafes and the online community around iFixit. All of these influences coupled in my mind with that idea of a campus computer repair center and morphed it into something more like a repair café focused on electronics where the “fixers” were not necessarily experts and they would help the owners of the items to learn how to troubleshoot and repair themselves, all in the spirit of subtly promoting sustainable behavior by keeping products in service for as long as possible and out of the waste stream. Eventually, some colleagues suggested I write a proposal for Student Sustainability Committee (SSC) funding for the latest variation of the idea. I did, bringing in Professors Bullock and Wolske from the School of Art and Design and the iSchool at Illinois as collaborators. We were funded and have thus launched the Illini Gadget Garage. My current role is as a coordinator for the project, overseeing the SSC grant, supervising hourly staff, seeking donations and sponsorships to help support it, working to make the project self-sustaining, and generally guiding program development efforts. Basically, I’m the resident Mother Hen. I have a passion for working with students and the general public to make sustainability relatable and relevant to people from all disciplines and backgrounds, and the IGG is great way to exercise that. Faculty, community groups, or businesses interested in how they might collaborate with or support the IGG can feel free to email me for more information.
Martin Wolske’s bio coming soon.
William Bullock’s bio coming soon.