"I'm also interested in repairing things because of the sustainability aspect. It's a win-win situation for everyone!” (9th grader)
from the 5th to the 12th grade
Founder of the workshop and teacher of physics and mathematics
Volunteer repair instructor, former mechanical engineer
Volunteer repair instructor, former monument conservator
Gesellschaft für Ausbildungsforschung und Berufsentwicklung München eG (scientific support)
Caretaker of the school
Volunteer repair instructor
A typical day in the Student Repair Shop
It is 10:15 on a Monday morning, and twelve 9th and 10th graders, approximately the same number of girls and boys, have gathered in the Student Repair Shop. The students are greeted by the teacher in charge and by two volunteer repair instructors, and asked to sit in a circle. In this opening forum, the students report on their experiences with the repairs they worked on during the last class. Here are some real examples:
Sophie: Amelie and I repaired a CD player with – according to the customer – a broken drive. After a while, we found out that the drive wasn’t the problem. With some cleaning and readjusting, we were then able to repair it successfully.
Benedikt: I fixed a little battery-operated dancing bear. I cleaned the battery compartment, and it worked again. But it only worked for a minute – now I have to go back and see what the problem is.
Sammy: I received a coffee machine that was leaking. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the housing open. Then I looked on the Internet for advice on how to fix it, and I was able to get it open.
After this opening forum, the students distribute themselves to the workstations. A two-girl team is busy repairing an electronic car key with a broken contact. After a brief consultation with one of the volunteer repair instructors, the girls decide to solder the contact. They've never soldered before, but that doesn’t deter them in the slightest. They put on their safety goggles, test the soldering iron out by soldering on a piece of scrap, and find that they are doing just fine. Now they are able to successfully solder the broken contact, and they are very pleased: "Yes!! “We did it!”
The two boys repairing the mixer have reached a dead end. They were able to get the device open, but now they have to find out what exactly the problem with the on/off switch is. They can see that there are plastic gears inside the mixer and that one of these gears is broken. The repair instructor who they have asked for help asks them what they were able to find out about this specific kind of plastic. They answer that it is marked “POM.” The volunteer informs them that they won’t be able to get a replacement for the gear because it is made of a special industrial plastic. The students ask whether it is worth trying to glue the broken part back together. After discussing which glue might be appropriate for the task, the students get down to work. They are very careful with the delicate part; this job requires a great deal of manual dexterity. They then successfully glue the part back together. When the glue has hardened enough, they put the mixer back together and call the teacher over before they test to see if it works again. It does, and the boys are pleased.
In the meantime, another customer has arrived with a broken toaster. As a matter of course, a student who can easily take a break from the repair she is working on takes it upon herself to talk with the customer. The “toast” button that starts the toaster no longer works. When filling out the receipt-of-order form, the girl asks about the customer’s “relationship to the item to be repaired.” The customer tells her that, even though she has another toaster, she is very attached to this older one because she likes the design better, and, because she associates many fond memories and positive emotions with it, she would like to have it repaired.
While all this is going on, the other teams are concentrated on their own repair tasks. In the course of repairing an electric iron, the teacher receives a perfect opportunity to provide some background on the physics of electricity. This is brought on by a short circuit when the teacher turned the iron on – thanks to the safety precautions (see below), there was no danger. The student, meanwhile, has made another kind of connection: “the short circuit was obviously caused by parts that came into contact with one another. Before we do anything on the device, we need to make sure that all the pieces are separated from one another, so the contacts are not touching.” Shortly before the end of the one-and-a-half-hour-long Student Repair Shop, more customers arrive. This time it is an elderly couple who have brought a broken coffee maker. During the customer interview, they too are asked how they found out about the Student Repair Shop. They openly explain that they are welfare recipients, that they found a brochure about free services in a job center, and that Repair Cafés were mentioned in the brochure. When, after more research, they discovered the Student Repair Shop, they decided to give it a try. They also explained that coffee was their only “luxury” and that they weren’t able to afford a new coffee maker, so they were relying on the students to repair it for them. At the end of the repair day, the volunteer repair instructors sit down with the teacher for a brief review of the day’s class. They exchange impressions and discuss things that they would especially like to pay attention to during the next class.