On Jan. 31, the Maker Studio launched the Repair Café, a program where students can both learn to fix faulty electronics and bring their own broken electronics for free diagnostics and repair.
Josef Velten from the Physics and Astronomy Department pitched the idea to the studio late last year, believing it to be a great opportunity for students to obtain new skills and provide accessible options for electronic fixes.
“Bring in what you want to get looked at and fixed — we’ll try to do diagnostics. If we can fix it without using any new parts, we’ll do that,” said Velten. “If we need to get some parts, that’s on the person to bring the parts in. We’ll teach them how to install it or install it for them.”
General electronic repair costs can range anywhere in the low-to-high hundreds, making this opportunity a highly cost-effective option for students.
Velten brought the concept to life during his time at University of Texas at Dallas when a student of his complained about a broken laptop screen.
With the support from a couple students with connections to the student union, Velten was able to host a weekly repair café alongside student volunteers – an enjoyable experience he wanted to introduce to Cal Poly Pomona.
“It’s been around for a while, where people just volunteer to fix each other’s stuff to help each other out, for the sheer heck of it — reduce, reuse, recycle,” said Velten.
Velten announced the program’s launch on Jan. 24 through Reddit, attracting 70 upvotes and supportive comments from CPP users. According to Velten, students even privately messaged him with an interest in participation.
Though it seems that the Repair Café’s volunteers would study mechanical-related majors, the program is meant for anyone with an interest in learning and some free time.
Psychology student and volunteer Donna Hajhamid was drawn to volunteer for the program for multiple reasons, the main being a chance to create and nourish a new community. Hajhamid is content with expanding her skillset and helping her fellow students.
“I didn’t join with the expectation of it being a paid thing, but I think I’m learning skills where if I wanted to use them, I could land a job,” said Hajhamid. “I think right now I’m just happy volunteering and being a part of the community.”
According to Hajhamid, the cafe is intended to run as a partnership-centered program rather than a mentorship-based one, where students work together to combine knowledge at all levels.
“It’s a skill exchange” said Hajhamid. “Come with what you know, and we’ll learn off of each other. I think that’s what makes the Repair Café so cool.”
Hajhamid gained her knowledge of electronics through her childhood love for computers and video games where she realized the commonly excessive costs to restore broken electronics are not necessary.
“Electronic manufacturers want to make it seem as though it’s difficult to repair things when in reality it’s not,” said Hajhamid. “So, kind of making it accessible to everyone is really cool and being given the opportunity to learn about it with Dr. Velten is awesome.”
In addition to community and accessibility, Professor and Director of the Student Innovation and Idea Labs, Kenneth Lamb, notes the possibility of personal growth from the experience. Comparing the repair of broken mechanical objects to facing the many struggles students experience through university, Lamb believes in the discovery of resilience through means other than personal hardship.
“If you see things that are broken and you start fixing them and you start doing that multiple times, you might realize, ‘Oh, is that all that is? I can do this,’” said Lamb. “Then you realize that’s probably true for a lot of other things in life.”
The Repair Café is currently open every Tuesday from noon to 5:00 p.m. on the second floor of the library in the Maker Studio.