Monday, May 7, 2018

Illini Gadget Garage Encourages People to Repair Rather than Replace Devices

I'm fortunate to have a day job that aligns with my personal values and allows me to work on various projects to reduce waste and otherwise foster sustainability. Some of these projects even encourage reuse; as you might imagine, those tend to be my favorites.

One such favorite is the Illini Gadget Garage project. The Illini Gadget Garage is a collaborative repair service, offered at no cost to the public, focused on electronics and small appliances. The goals of the project are to extend the useful life of products, and thus conserve the natural and human resources invested in their manufacture; empower individuals to understand more about how their devices function and to have confidence in STEM-related skills; and to further empower people to see do-it-yourself repair as a viable option for addressing minor damage and performance issues.

Words "Illini Gadget Garage" framed by green lines that look like circuits with a solder point on one end and a leaf shape on the other

By "collaborative repair," we mean that we're here to help you help yourself! You don't drop off electronics at the Gadget Garage for someone else to repair so you can pick them up later. You come in, tell us about your problem, and together we'll sit down, do a little fiddling and Internet research, and work on getting your device back in working order. We're combating the mainstream belief that electronics are too complex or expensive to repair by welcoming and assisting individuals of all technical experience levels (including "zero," "zilch," "nada" and "none") to "tinker" with their devices. Depending on the situation, activities may range from guidance on how to make your device run faster or install new software to hands-on repair and replacement of components. We don't sell replacement parts, but we'll help you figure out if you need parts, what those are, and where you can get them. Then you can obtain those at a local shop or online and come back in when you're ready to make the replacement so we can provide guidance and moral support! Or, if you're comfortable with doing it on your own at that point, that's cool too.

By "electronic devices," we mean all the typical items this phrase brings to mind, such as laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc., AND other small appliances and common household devices with electronic components. Stop and think about it for a minute–we're surrounded by items with electronics integrated into them. Even greeting cards can have sound cards inside them to play music or record messages. We believe all items with electronic components should last, and not be seen as disposable. We can't guarantee that we can show you how to fix everything you bring in, but if you can carry it in and it has an electronic component, we'll definitely give it a try! And hopefully, we'll have fun together doing it. If the required repair or maintenance seems beyond our capability, we'll help you find local repair shops that can help. (Note that we do not make endorsements or specific recommendations–we just help you help yourself. The decision about which, if any, local repair business to take your device to is ultimately yours alone.) If your device is sadly beyond repair, we'll help you find local recycling options.

You can check out our impacts at You can also check out a video from Urbana Public Television's "It's All About U" program, highlighting the project below. (Note the bit on the IGG starts at 8:59.)

If you're interested in volunteering or setting up an appointment to work on your device, you can contact project staff at We also have pop-ups throughout the community, so be sure to check our web site or Facebook page for announcements. On May 19th, we'll be at the Champaign Public Library, giving a presentation/demo on how to clean your gadgets (you'd be surprised how often a good cleaning fixes performance issues!), so look for presentation details soon on Facebook.

One final bit of shamelessness: if you think this sort of demystification of technology and promotion of a "repair rather replacement" culture is worthwhile, please consider making a small donation to help support continued programming--see for details. Thanks in advance for your consideration!

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