Note: This post was written by Illini Gadget Garage staff member Madeleine Wolske.
This past Tuesday, two staff members had the pleasure of going to the Champaign Public Library and setting up a fun Pop-Up during Teenspace, an after-school programming for middle and high schoolers. The intention behind this Pop-Up was to show local teens how fun tinkering is, and in turn, how easy it is to repair your own tech with the right tools and resources. With the intention of disassembling and putting them back together with the teens, we brought in two Dell Venue 8 tablets, one iPad, one MacBook Pro, and one Windows Surface. We had our usual Pop-Up kit in-tow, including our iFixIt Toolkits, Magnetic Project Mats, and some guitar picks. When the kids came in, we paired two or three teens with one device. Using tear-down guides from iFixIt.com, they gradually took apart and put together the devices.
Most of the teens were ecstatic about “breaking apart” the devices, but were hesitant on what tools to use. There were a few who let us know how easy it would be to simply stab the pieces out of the device, or that they would be willing to jump on the device in order to bypass the tricky opening.
The best part about the event was seeing the teens realize that opening up an intimidating device was not only easy, but a lot of fun! They dismantled the devices collaboratively, some unscrewing, while the others told them where and why they should unscrew. Others applied circuitry basics learned at school in identifying parts and let their knowledge guide them in disassembly.
The teens were utilizing the tear-down guides, but all of the tinkering was led, and done, by them. The IGG staff stepped in when they needed help with stripped screws or especially frustrating ribbons, but the majority of work was youth-led. While the teens worked, they asked two main questions, “Why is this so hard to open?” and “Why can’t I just use one bit to get all the screws out?” These questions started conversations that focused on usability and accessibility of technology and hardware, their right to repair, and the lifespan of technology. We talked about patented screws (check out our blog post on the history of Right to Repair), what happens when phones or other personal devices get recycled or thrown away, and how they can help the environment by fixing their devices instead of getting new ones or upgrading. The teens were pushing their boundaries on how they interpreted and reacted to technology, and analyzed how they used their devices and what happened to their devices when they were done with them. This was all due to simply opening and exploring the components of devices. It’s pretty amazing what individuals discover, and what questions are asked, once they get involved with how their device works.
Interested in opening up your own devices? Want to tear down the devices that the teens worked on? Or looking to host a similar Pop-Up with your organization?