On April 16, 2015 we ran our first Restart Party. Working with students, we were able to salvage 34 of 36 damaged Chromebooks slated for disposal during a one hour Earth Day event. To build upon the success of the Restart Party, we started to brainstorm the possibility of long-term repair learning opportunities in the high school. We specifically stayed away from the language of a “repair center”, worried that students would view it as a space to drop off their tech and pick it up a few hours later without connecting with the repair process. Using the Restart Project branding and motto, we settled on the name “Restart Center”: a place for students to learn how to maintain their own devices and gain a deeper connection with sustainability ethos of the repair movement.
To help you get a Restart Center started at your school, we’ve listed all of the things we considered before launch.
It was very important for us for this project to be a student-led initiative. We are lucky enough to have a Technology Secretary, a representative from student government, who focuses on technology initiatives for students. He was very interested in leading recruiting efforts, helping with scheduling, and making very concrete suggestions to ensure the project met the needs of students.
Branding the tutoring center as a Restart Center was a purposeful choice for two reasons:
- We wanted to connect with the Restart Project, making sure our efforts associated with the larger repair movement; and
- Branding and design can take a huge amount of time and really slow down a launch. We loved what the Restart Project had developed for their work and reached out to them for permission to use their language and logos for our project. The folks at the Restart Project have been both generous and enthusiastic partners in this process.
The Technology Secretary had a great suggestion for recruiting success: make sure students can get community service hours for their work. Students are required to complete community service hours, and there are already several tutoring centers on campus where students receive credit for tutoring peers. By working with the community service office, we were able to make sure students would receive credit for their work and we would also cement the Restart Center as a tutoring center, not a repair shop. Having community service hours to offer, recruiting was handled easily by our Technology Secretary through peer outreach.
We opted for the iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit for our techs. At $47.96, it was a bit more expensive than a smaller smartphone repair kit, but we wanted our techs to have the flexibility to repair laptops, desktops, and smartphones. Plus, we believe in the iFixit mission and want to support the organization.
We are taking a “pop-up” approach to the Restart Center, setting up in busy places at popular times of the day. Our student volunteers listed the most popular places, such as the library, student commons, and cafeteria, and we’ll bring the Restart Center to them. Having the Restart Center set up in high-traffic, visible locations also helps to raise awareness about the service. We’re still working on an easy way to let the community know where we are at any given time, but we’re hoping being in the right place at the right time will help most people find us.
We outlined our learning goals to help us stay focused, so if we find ourselves straying into new projects we can revisit our original goals to see if the project meets our mission. Students who participate in the Restart Center will:
Develop a new relationship with their personal devices, seeing them as repairable rather than disposable;
Extend the life of their devices by replacing or upgrading damaged components;
Reduce the waste stream of personal devices by teaching students how to repair instead of discarding damaged devices;
Learn about the environmental cost of replacement over repair of devices;
- Experience, first-hand, the impact of design on repairability;
Learn how to slow down their consumption of technology through routine repair and maintenance; and
Participate in the domestic and international repair movement.
The volunteers have a wide range of skill sets and experience with tutoring, so our training focuses on both repair skills and tutoring development. We are helping students externalize their thought processes while diagnosing an issue, to make sure they’re demystifying the repair process for the tutored student. Additionally, we emphasize the mantra, “If your hands are on the device more than the device owner’s, that is a fix-it center not a tutoring center.” We have several adults who will be present during the first month of the launch for technical support and tutoring tips.
Funding and Parts
One of the first questions we asked ourselves is how to manage the process of working with students, recommending purchase of parts, buying parts, and setting up appointments for repairs. Due to the generosity of a local donor, we are able to pay for $3,000 worth of parts for students. We’re hoping this will help streamline our workflow (we’ll buy the parts) and encourage students to come to the tutoring center. We will also salvage any components possible during the repair process to use in other repairs, such as cameras and microphones from full front plate replacements on smartphones. If you are having students buy their own parts, it’s important to work with students to find the right part online. There is a lot of variation of quality and price, so guidance in this area is key. Additionally, a lot of students don’t consider the risks of buying copy parts that aren’t held to the same chemical safety standards as the Original Equipment Manufacturer.
Communication, Ordering, and Scheduling (Updated 2/26)
After the first few weeks, we quickly realized students were getting overwhelmed with requests from students to their personal IM or email. We set up an email address with an auto reply which contains a link to:
- A form to complete so we can collect model, color, and issue for accurate ordering; and
- A link to all available time slots for self-scheduling, powered by YouCanBookMe.
It’s important for us to know that we’re having a real impact with our Restart Centers. At the end of each shift, student volunteers will submit a quick Google Form with hours volunteered, number of people who stopped by for advice, and repairs performed. We will report our progress to our internal and external community in the spring.
Finally, Soft Launch
Our first month of advertisement is mostly word-of-mouth. We want to start small and ramp up so we don’t overwhelm our student volunteers. The soft launch will give us a chance to tweak our processes and identify where we need more training.