At the end of the school year in 2016, 70+ 5th graders gave new life to their laptops by replacing the existing hard drives with new solid state drives. Participation in the Restart Party helped young students see how repair can save a computer from premature replacement. The upgraded 2012 MacBook Pros were kept in service for the 2016-2017 class and this year’s 5th graders participated in a Repair Fair, a slightly modified Restart Party designed to address the specific needs of each student. Below is an outline of the prep work necessary to run a Repair Fair.
The techs in the building sent out a short survey of symptoms to the students to help identify issues in kid-friendly language. Instead of asking if the kids needed more RAM, they asked if programs were slow to open or sluggish in performance. The survey was sent out 2 weeks before the fair to give us enough lead time for ordering.
We needed enough people for 5 stations: battery replacement, keyboard fixes, RAM upgrades, software upgrades, and clean up/backup. Every student needed to upgrade their software, backup their local data onto drive, and physically clean the devices to get them ready for next year’s students. The upgrade and cleaning stations were easily run by non-technical volunteers who wanted to help but were leery of running a repair station on their own.
Scheduling the Event (and learning from past experiences)
Last year, we had all 70+ repairs performed in a frenetic 60 minute block with tons of volunteers and lots of pressure. We only had 20 minutes with each set of kids before they moved on to other sustainable activities scheduled with their home room teacher during that time period. It was exciting and successful, but the format wouldn’t work if kids needed to perform different types of repairs that have different execution times. This year, we worked with the classroom teachers to schedule 45-minute long half class visits (12 students) to the Repair Fair. We had 6 sessions total to have all 5th grade students visit the fair.
Running the Fair
We used the survey info to give students tickets to different repair booths. If a student had no issues with their device, they were paired with a student who did to ensure every student could participate. During the 45 minute block, students used the tickets to visit different booths and moved on to other booths once they completed the first repair. The ticket system helped students know where to go, ensured students didn’t perform unnecessary repairs, and let them be more independent in their movement around the stations. The tickets also gave a festive feel to the repair event.