"Over time, we have learned that certain devices have certain typical problems, e.g. the water inlet in coffee machines or the cables on irons.” (9th grader)

Do you have to be a shop or physics teacher to start a project like this?

No, it doesn’t matter what subject area you teach.

It is the students who do the repairs, and experienced repair instructors will be there to provide any help that is needed.

Repair Shop teachers should, however, be passionate about changing from a throwaway society to an ethically responsible one.



How much time will we need?

In 2016, the Munich Rudolf Steiner School Schwabing started the Student Repair Shop as an elective for 9th and 10th graders, with three double lessons per week taking place over twelve weeks.

Since the 2016/2017 school year, the Student Repair Shop has also been offered for our day-school 6th and 7th graders as a full-year double lesson course on one afternoon per week.

That year, the Student Repair Shop also became the Technology subject (which is required in Bavaria) for the 11th grade. In each of these classes, twelve young people have four school hours at a time to repair things, one day a week.

Experience has shown that double hours (90-minute classes) are necessary because getting devices open, troubleshooting, possibly ordering spare parts and tidying up the workplace all take a lot of time.

How much space / what equipment will we need?

Each student should have two square meters (21.5 square feet) of space to work.

Each two-student team will need a workstation with a wooden work surface that is at least 140 cm (55.1 inches) long and 60 cm (23.6 inches) wide.

Each workstation should be sufficiently equipped with tools and supplies. 

To ensure easy access, many of these tools can be hung on a perforated wall-board installed near the table.

Portable steel cabinets with lots of small drawers are practical for keeping spare parts and other small items within easy reach.

Good lighting is a must; having as much shelving as possible is useful, and having enough power outlets is also a good idea.

If you will be focusing on electrical and electronic repairs, we recommended having a separate measuring station for functional testing and final safety inspections.

Every student repair shop should also have at least two PCs or laptops connected to the Internet.

The room must have an emergency shut-off breaker. This can be easily retrofitted.

How much start capital will we need?

1000 € was enough for us to get started by buying enough tools for four workstations. Each workstation can be used by two students at a time.

We also asked parents to donate any tools, screws and other fasteners that they no longer needed.

At a later stage, we set up two more workstations for electrical repairs and acquired a 3D printer (for 350 euros) to produce parts which are no longer available.

We were able to set up and equip our wood shop using donated funds.

What safety measures have to be implemented?

Generally speaking, all of the general safety and first-aid regulations for schools apply.

Every school’s obligation to supervise students makes it absolutely imperative that a teacher always be present in any student repair shop.

If you want to repair electrical equipment that requires AC power, a qualified electrician must be available for testing and final safety inspection.

Before any repair work begins, students should receive experience-based safety training.

We have had good experience using a waterproof cable box as a protective cover over the power plug of a device to be repaired. This protective cover makes it impossible for students to connect the device to a power outlet. Students can still check contact resistance and thus identify a defective power cord as a possible problem.

We also explain the various technical protective measures that manufacturers of electrical devices build in to their devices.

Before a repaired device is handed over to the customer, it must undergo a routine safety inspection. German law requires that this inspection conform to the DIN VDE 0701 standard. For this inspection, we recommend using a testing device that conforms to this standard to measure the protective conductor resistance, insulation resistance and the substitute leakage current. Devices should also be visually inspected during the repair, while they are still open.

What about liability?

As a general rule, every school will have some form of school liability insurance.

Above and beyond that, we recommend taking a close look at the subject of liability.

For our Repair Shop, we have settled upon the following policy: The customer must agree to release the Repair Shop from all liability (= obligation to pay damages) when any device is submitted for repair, as confirmed by the customer’s signature in the corresponding section on the receipt-of-order form.

What size group works best?

The optimal number of students per group will depend first and foremost on the number of workstations and the number of supervisors that you have.

We have found that groups with a maximum of twelve students work well. For groups of this size, at least one teacher and two volunteer repair instructors should be available.

How can we find volunteer repair instructors?

Send an email to parents calling for “tinkerers wanted”: Are you interested or do you know anyone who might be interested and has time? Do you know anyone who would be suitable (neighbors, acquaintances, grandparents?).

Retired vocational and technical school teachers, who could potentially be doubly qualified members of your team, could also be contacted.

It might also be worth inquiring at local trades associations, trades guilds or chambers, at volunteer exchanges, on social networks, on any local online neighborhood networks and at local community centers.

You could also try asking at a repair café near you!

What should we bear in mind where volunteer guidance is concerned?

We have found that it is best for one volunteer to support four to six students.

Repair instructors should have the ability to exercise restraint, and they should be open to students’ creative ideas.

First and foremost, volunteer repair instructors should help the students to find their own repair solutions
Questions about what exactly the problem is or what a device should be doing can help with troubleshooting. A little background information – from the sidelines and only as necessary – may help a student to more easily understand the interrelationships relevant to the repair at hand.

If a repair is taking a particularly long time, it may be necessary for instructors to encourage students to keep at it.

What are the criteria for accepting items to be repaired?

The work performed by the Student Repair Shop is an attempted repair, and no guarantee of success can be given.

Small household appliances such as kitchen appliances, irons, vacuum cleaners, sewing machines and fans, or wooden items such as toys, suitable furniture, riding toys made of wood and the like.

Electronic devices with problems in inaccessible areas or problems which cannot easily be solved using Internet tutorials or other instructions, or, of course, any objects that are particularly dangerous, have all proven to be unsuitable.

As a general rule, the following items should not be accepted for repair: valuable antiques, works of art, musical instruments, medical auxiliary devices and electric devices or appliances with increased risk potential (e.g. devices that operate on high-voltages).

Where can I find repair tips and networking opportunities?

There is an active Repair-Café community and a network of repair initiatives. Through various channels, Repair Cafés offer people the opportunity to exchange experiences, give (repair) tips, ask questions and learn from each other.

Detailed and specific repair tips can also be found on the Repair Cafés websites or on iFixit, a free online repair manual for everything, written by everyone. And of course, you can find the tips in our handbook >>Here