Last Day of Service for Fall 2018: Nov. 9 Plus a Note About the Future

The last day of service for the Illini Gadget Garage for Fall 2018 will be November 9. Whether you need some guidance with troubleshooting, know that you’ll need a new part for your device, but aren’t sure which one or how to find out, or if you need access to tools and moral support to make a repair, get your appointments made or email your questions!

We’re entering the time of year when interest in appointments slows down due to students concentrating on final projects and the general distraction of impending holidays for everyone in the community. Given that, we thought it would be a good time to close down.

Also, an important transition is ahead of the Illini Gadget Garage. The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), which helped launch the project and has coordinated it for the last few years, will not continue its coordination after this semester, in order to focus resources on other projects. The possibility of the project being “adopted” by another unit on campus is being investigated, and hopefully that will mean the IGG will reopen again sometime in the near future. However, if another unit does not assume coordination, the project will sadly end.

On behalf of myself, Amanda Elzbieciak (our fabulous workshop manager), past staff and volunteers, and co-founders Martin Wolske and William Bullock, we have greatly appreciated the opportunity to assist the campus and surrounding community with collaborative repair. Earlier this week, I spoke about sustainable electronics and electronic product stewardship for a group of employees of one of ISTC’s clients. In that presentation, I asserted my belief (backed by the evidence of the myriad social and environmental impacts of electronics covered elsewhere in my talk) that because of all the natural and human resources invested in the manufacture of electronics, the most important thing you can do as an individual to reduce the negative impacts of the electronic devices is to keep devices that already exist in service for as long as possible. Having been able, through the Illini Gadget Garage project, to assist members of the UI and broader Champaign-Urbana area to realize that repair, rather than replacement, of devices with minor damage or performance issues is a feasible option regardless of income or tech savvy, has been a sincere honor. I truly hope that whatever becomes of this particular project, that spirit of repair and reuse continues to thrive and grow in our community.

So keep your fingers crossed that the project continues without me or ISTC. If you represent a campus unit that might be interested in the project, contact me (but keep in mind you will not be the first unit to express interest). And as always, if you represent a group or company interested in starting your own project focused on reuse and repair, don’t hesitate to reach out to me for assistance. That remains part of what I do as a member of ISTC’s Technical Assistance team. Watch this space and our social media for updates. Keep fixing, Illini! In the meantime, take some inspiration from the iFixit Repair Manifesto:

iFixit Repair manifesto, available at https://www.ifixit.com/Manifesto

Opinions are those of the author alone and mention of businesses or organizations are for information purposes only and should not be construed as an endorsement by ISTC or the University of Illinois.

Updated Impact Stats and Fall 2018

Welcome back to campus, Illini–or just welcome to those of you who are just beginning your University of Illinois experience! And thanks to those of you from the broader Champaign-Urbana community who stopped to chat and learn about our project at the Taste of Champaign last weekend. It was great to hear positive comments on the idea of collaborative repair (i.e. we help you help yourself through “do-it-together” rather than “do-it-yourself” repair and we don’t just fix things for you–that’s what makes this an educational project for everyone involved!). We’ve already had some folks set up appointments for assistance, so kudos to everyone who has decided to try the “repair rather than replace” option we espouse.

A quick update on our impacts–see the recently revised infographic at https://drive.google.com/file/d/11XV_2jO3KNf7437oQ3IlXoc4HtIjGNZ_/view.

Our all time total for pounds of materials diverted through repair assistance and collections of special materials for recycling (e.g. batteries and CDs/DVDs and their cases) is 740.88 lbs!

How much is that, really? According to the web site “The Measure of Things” presented by Bluebulb Projects, that’s three-fourths as heavy as a grand piano, or about two-thirds as heavy as a polar or grizzly bear. See https://www.bluebulbprojects.com/MeasureOfThings/results.php?amt=740.88&comp=weight&unit=lbs&searchTerm=740.88+lbs.  Great job everyone! Let’s keep growing that number!

Maybe by the end of the semester, we can have a whole polar bear–we could call him the Repair Bear! 🙂 Or maybe instead we’ll just look at this cute, non-dangerous picture of a polar bear and reflect on how cool repair, reuse, and recycling makes us feel.

Image of polar bear floating on back in a pool of water, holding a black ball.
Photo by Cburnett, CC BY-SA 3.0

We’ll continue to operate by appointment in Fall 2018; send us an email, Facebook message or give us a call at 217-300-5629. You can also fill out our diagnostic form with some basic info on the device and issue you’re facing and one of our staff or volunteers will be in touch. We’ll also have pop-up repair clinics in various locations on campus and off (we’ll shoot for at least one on and one off each month) to help you fit troubleshooting and repair into your busy schedule. And we’re planning some educational workshops to help you learn relevant skills like soldering, how to maintain your device, the basics of how electronics work, etc. Again, keep your eye on this web site, our calendar, and Facebook for details!

Want to get involved? Send us an email to learn more about volunteer opportunities. No prior repair experience necessary, nor any particular academic background, just a desire to learn, to try new things, and help other people. Come join the Illini Gadget Crew and be part of the Fixing Illini! Can’t donate your time? Consider a small monetary donation to help support continued, free-to-the-public programming, like battery collections or pop-ups throughout the community. You can donate online at http://www.sustainelectronics.illinois.edu/SEIdonation.html. Thanks for your support!

Illini Gadget Garage Pop-up Repair Clinic at Champaign Public Library, July 12

On Thursday, July 12, come to the Champaign Public Library from 1-3 PM for assistance with troubleshooting or repairing your electronic devices. Staff will be set up in the Busey Bank Conference room on the library’s second floor. Feel free to stop by even if you just have questions, or if you want to schedule an appointment to come into our campus workshop at a later date to work on your device.

See the Facebook event for details. We’ll be at the CPL once a month during the summer for pop-ups. For additional information on pop-ups, see our Facebook page or our Upcoming Events page.

Image with circuit pattern in background saying Illini Gadget Garage at Champaign Public Library

Illini Gadget Garage Info Booth at Sustainable Student Farm Stand, 7/5/18

Have questions about your broken electronic device or our variety of services? Ask us at our info booth right next to the UI Sustainable Student Farm Stand on the Quad where you can find a variety of tasty fruits, vegetables, and herbs. We’ll be there outside the Illini Union from 11AM-2PM. You can learn about volunteer opportunities or set up an appointment to come into our campus workshop at a later date to work on your device.

See the Facebook event for details. We’ll be at the farmstand once a month during the summer. For additional information on pop-ups, see our Facebook page or our Upcoming Events page.

Image with circuit pattern in background which says Illini Gadget Garage at the Sustainable Student Farm stand

Prevent Battery Fires with Proper Recycling Techniques

This post was written by IGG staff member Yab Demisie.

Batteries play a major role in many of our lives. They power a wide range of everyday objects that we use day to day from small children’s toys to handheld devices like phones and wearables to fully electric cars like the Tesla Model S. While some batteries are rechargeable, no battery lasts forever. According to an everyday green article, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that over 3 billion batteries are thrown away yearly in just America alone. Due to various heavy metals contained in batteries, simply throwing away a battery can pose many harmful risks to the environment and landfills.

A majority of batteries contain metals such as (but not limited to): lead, copper, mercury, zinc, cadmium, manganese, lithium, and potassium. When batteries enter landfills, the casings could eventually corrode and metals could leak out into the soil, seeping into our water supply and then the ocean. This poses a great danger to human health and the environment.

Water contamination is not the only hazard that occurs when a battery is improperly disposed of. Landfill fires caused by batteries have gone up in recent years. The main perpetrators of this are lithium-ion batteries (which are most commonly found in smartphones). This is due to them being very energy dense and high voltage, paired with the fact that most of them use highly flammable organic based electrolytes in their chemical makeup. When lithium batteries are thrown away and put into landfills, they are put under heavy stress and have a high risk of being punctured. This makes it extremely important to properly recycle your batteries.  A case of this happening was at the Aquatera landfill in the Grand Prairie region. According to a Daily Herald Tribune post, a lithium-ion battery most likely short-circuited or was crushed under a compactor causing it to ignite.

There are a few short and simple steps you can take to prevent any of these from happening.  First, it is always best to cut back on battery waste. This could be done by using rechargeable batteries instead of single-use Alkaline. While this poses more upfront costs, it will reduce the number of batteries you have to throw away each year. Second, you should never throw batteries away into the trashcan. While it is legal to throw away alkaline batteries, it is still better to recycle them than to simply toss them into the trash. That said, fires can also be an issue at recycling facilities.

There are many locations to recycle your used batteries, the Illini Gadget Garage is one such place! When dropping off batteries, there are a few things to keep in mind to prevent fires at recycling facilities. If you are recycling ANY lithium-ion battery, alkaline battery greater than 9 volts, or a rechargeable battery with a voltage greater than 12, you must either bag them separately or tape the terminals before dropping them off. This is to prevent terminals from touching, leading them to ignite.

To find places close to you, visit either the city of Urbana website or the city of Champaign’s recycling page. Click here for a map of university locations. Another source to find drop off locations for non-Champaign Urbana residents is the Call2recycle website.

Pop-up at UGL Media Commons, Thursday, June 28

Have questions about your broken or damaged electronic devices? Stop in at our next pop-up repair clinic and we can assist you with troubleshooting and repairing your devices.

We’ll be at the UIUC Undergraduate Library Media Commons on Thursday, June 28 from 1-3 PM. Feel free to stop by even if you just have questions, or if you want to schedule an appointment to come into our campus workshop at a later date to work on your device.

Fill out our Diagnostic Form ahead of time to provide some information on the device and the issue you’re having. That will allow us to a do a little research on the problem so your one-on-one time is used more efficiently.

See the Facebook Event for details. We’ll be at the Media Commons once a month during the summer for pop-ups. For additional information on pop-ups, see our Facebook page or our Upcoming Events page.

Image with circuit pattern in background saying Illini Gadget Garage at Media Commons

News on the ‘Right to Repair’ Front–Apple US Fined $6.6 Million by Australian Government

As Rachel Clun writes in the June 19, 2018 Sydney Morning Herald, Apple US has been find for making false or misleading representations to Australian consumers about their consumer rights. Note that $9 million Australian is equal to $6.6 million USD.

‘Apple has been fined $9 million by the Federal Court for telling some Australian iPad and iPhone owners they could not have devices fixed as they had been previously repaired by a third party. The court action was started by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) after it received complaints about ‘error 53’, which disabled some Apple devices after an operating system update was downloaded. “[The customers said] they were being refused a remedy of any kind by Apple on the basis that their device had had unauthorised repairs, and those repairs could be as minor as just having a cracked screen replaced on an iPhone or iPad, which all of us need to do from time to time,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said. “So these consumers were being told, ‘because you’ve had this third party repair, you are not entitled to any remedy’.” Ms Court said that is not the case under Australian Consumer Law. ” Customers and consumers are free to have screens and other repairs done on their devices by third-party repairers, so long as that repair doesn’t damage the underlying system of the phone,” she said.’

ACCC has found that 5000 consumers may have been affected by the company’s false or misleading statements.

This outcome is surely encouraging for those who advocate for the consumer ‘Right to Repair’ here in the US. To learn more about the ‘right to repair,’ see http://illini-gadget-garage.istc.illinois.edu/proposed-right-to-repair-legislation-in-illinois/ and https://repair.org/association/.

Pop-up at CPL Douglass Branch, Thursday, June 21

Have questions about your broken or damaged electronic devices? Own a small appliance with minor performance issues? Stop by the Champaign Public Library’s Douglass Branch on Thursday June 21, from 1-3 pm for troubleshooting and repair assistance from the Illini Gadget Garage crew! Feel free to stop by even if you just have questions, or if you want to schedule an appointment to come into our campus workshop at a later date to work on your device.

See the Facebook event for details. We’ll be at the CPL Douglass Branch once a month during the summer for pop-ups. For additional information on pop-ups, see our Facebook page or our Upcoming Events page.

Image with circuit pattern, saying Illini Gadget Garage at Champaign Public Library Douglass Branch

 

Repair Elsewhere: Austrian City Pays Residents to Repair Their Devices

We want to help spread awareness of like-minded projects that foster repair, reuse, consumer empowerment, and community building throughout the world. So we’re highlighting these “kindred spirits” in a series of posts on “Repair Elsewhere.” Look for other posts in the series within the “Repair” category in our post archives or by entering “repair elsewhere” in the site search bar.

The Austrian city of Graz just became one of our favorite places in the world! Why, you ask? Because residents of Graz are actually paid to repair their electronic devices rather than replace them.  According to a May 5, 2018 report on the RREUSE web site,

“The Austrian city of Graz has become a non-proclaimed European capital of repair following the introduction of a new funding programme encouraging households to repair rather than replace their electronic devices. Launched in 2017, the scheme gives citizens the opportunity to be reimbursed for up to 50% of repair costs amounting to a maximum of 100 EUR per year. In its first year of operation over 160 households benefitted from this ‘repair bonus,’ with over 90 claims having been registered in the first two months of 2018, indicating a significant rise in interest. The reimbursements apply exclusively to repairs of electrical devices carried out by authorised services registered in the ‘Austrian Repair Guide.'” As of the date this post was written, 100 Euros equal $117.35 (USD).

The City of Graz Department of Environment manages this repair incentive program, recognizing the fact that buying a new device is often cheaper than paying to repair a device already owned. This reality of course creates an economic incentive to discard electronics and appliances before the products have ceased being useful–resulting in more material entering waste streams, and more resources being invested in the manufacture of new products than might otherwise be the case.

The article further points out “In addition to the repair bonus, Graz has also introduced a parallel funding instrument of up to 1200 EUR per year which is available for non-commercial repair initiatives such as repair cafes in order to cover cost of operation, consumables or public relations activities.” Again, as of the date of writing this post, 1200 Euros equals $1404.18 (USD).

We wish there was a similar scheme to incentivize repair, and to support non-commercial repair initiatives (like the Illini Gadget Garage) here in Illinois, or anywhere in the US for that matter!

Aerial view showing buildings in the city of Graz, Austria.
Graz, Austria. Photo by Anixxxa licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

We applaud the Graz Department of Environment for recognizing the economic barrier to repair and taken action accordingly. If repair cost (or perception of how much repair might cost) is making you to consider replacing an electronic device or small appliance, consider coming in to the Illini Gadget Garage. We’ll guide you through troubleshooting the problem, and repairing the item yourself, if you’re open to that. The cost of a new part is often so much cheaper than buying a new device, especially if you’re willing to do the labor yourself. If you don’t have the time to try our collaborative repair approach, if repairs required are complex, or if you ultimately decide not to give the “do-it-together” route a try, we can help you research local repair options (though we cannot refer you to specific shops and do not endorse any particular businesses). We’ll help you identify shops that work on the type of device you need assistance with, so you can call them to ask about costs, check out online reviews, etc. We’re here to help you become more educated about repair and more comfortable with considering repair before you make any decisions about recycling, donating, or throwing away a device. Note that we can help you find local recycling and donation options too, if that’s needed.

We’re not likely to open a branch of the Illini Gadget Garage in Austria any time soon, but if you’re interested in making a donation to support our free-to-public collaborative repair services, see the “Donate Form” page for more information (and thank you!).

Pop-up at Champaign Public Library Thursday June 14

Tomorrow, Thursday June 14, come to the Champaign Public Library from 1-3 PM for assistance with troubleshooting or repairing your electronic devices. Staff will be set up in the Busey Bank Conference room on the library’s second floor. Feel free to stop by even if you just have questions, or if you want to schedule an appointment to come into our campus workshop at a later date to work on your device.

See the Facebook event for details. We’ll be at the CPL once a month during the summer for pop-ups. For additional information on pop-ups, see our Facebook page or our Upcoming Events page.