Grieving is a weird process, and part of mine involved spending time with my dad’s old bike. The thing was a mess. The tires were brittle and crumbling, spokes askew, rims warped. All the shiny bits were coated in rust. The headset was seized as the packing grease had petrified into a crust. Spiderwebs shrouded every nook and cranny. It looked ready for the junk heap; it hadn’t been touched in nearly 30 years. Fixing it meant the world to me.
Big Bird and the gang instantly transport me back to my childhood—in footie pajamas, singing along to Sesame Street’s familiar theme song. Since its premiere in 1969, Sesame Street has taught millions of kids around the globe to count, read, and sing. But Sesame Street also teaches kids something that can’t be taught in schoolbooks—the value of caring for themselves, their community, and the world. What better way to teach some of life’s greatest lessons than through repair?
My boyfriend Andy and I are hiking, camping, and backpacking enthusiasts. But if there’s one thing we love as much as outdoor adventures—it’s literary ones. We both own Kindle Paperwhites full of stories about other adventurers. Kindles are simple, light, and portable. Which makes them convenient companions for backpackers who love to read. The thing is—Kindles aren’t completely outdoor-proof. So when Andy’s Kindle broke, I decided to fix it for him.
Repair can be a rather male domain: women make up just 7% of computer repair techs, and only 2% of car repair techs. But we know a lot of fixy women, some of whom we’ve featured before: the micro-soldering mom (Jessa Jones-Burdett of iPad Rehab), grandma the fix-it girl (Jodi Spangler of Lakeshore Mac), and the women behind the nomadic repair service Pop-Up Repair (Sandra Goldmark, founder, and workers like Flora Vassar). Today, we’re highlighting a few more repair-savvy women.
In New York City, a student at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School stuck his head through the doorframe and gave Jeannie Crowley an inquisitive look. “I heard you guys are fixing phones,” the student said. “No,” Crowley replied. “You’re fixing the phone—but we provide parts and support.” The student’s face lit up. “Really? I’ve always wanted to be able to do that,” he said. “But I’ve been too nervous to do it on my own.” Now students at the campus can learn to fix their phones on their own.
9-year-old Katie is a bit heartbroken. You see, Katie has a pet robotic dog, called Zoomer—and Katie is very attached to her little robo-dalmatian. Like real dogs, Zoomer is capable of learning tricks, wagging his tail, barking, and rolling over on command. Zoomer even wanders off and “pees” in the corner when you’re not paying enough attention to him (that scamp!). Except, lately, Zoomer hasn’t been doing much of anything. He’s broken. Time to figure out how to repair this little dog.
Old playlists are instant time capsules. Rediscovering an old playlist is like digging into the sedimentary layers of your past—an emotional excavation, track by track. Ah yes, that’s what it felt like to be me back then. Of course, there are way fewer CDs and mix-tapes in circulation now than in the days of my misspent youth. We’re digital playlist people now. And it’s a lot harder to rediscover your old music if your playlist is trapped in a broken device.
My boots have been through a lot—weekend hikes, snowshoeing in high country, and dozens of backpacking trips. And it looked like they’d hiked their last. I feel like I owe it to them to have another chance. So instead of just hosing them off and tossing them by the door, I decided to have a second look. The damage wasn’t really that bad. A bit of peeling in the left toe and some torn webbing that holds the laces on the right. Here’s how I fixed it.
Sixteen years ago, Sony released the first Aibo—an adorably lifelike robot dog. Just like real dogs, Aibo responded to commands, played fetch, did tricks, interacted with owners, and had its own personality. Some owners grew very attached to their surrogate pets. But, it turns out, robot dogs can die, too—just like real dogs.
I love my Hubsan X4 107L—a 30-gram micro-quadcopter that is supposedly built to take all the abuse you can throw at it. But a series of bad crashes left my poor little drone in shambles. I was determined that my X4 would fly again. So, I did what any determined tinkerer would do: I pulled my tiny drone apart and broke out the soldering iron. Things did not go as planned …
You can’t miss the engineering marvels when you walk into the hangar at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center. When I was at the facility, I saw various vintages of aircraft scattered throughout the hangar. Cranes scuttled about. Staff hustled along marked walkways, running tests and preparing instruments—a beehive of activity. What you can’t tell at first glance, though, is that these beautiful machines—new and old—aren’t just marvels of engineering. They are also masterpieces of repurposing.