Permission to Play: Let's Make Fixing Things Cool Again Permission to Play: Let's Make Fixing Things Cool Again

Permission to Play: Let's Make Fixing Things Cool Again

May 4, 2013

I’ve even found that kids are more interested in learning engineering than adults. Give kids something to take apart and their faces light up with excitement. Give adults the same device, and intimidation clouds their faces. That fear comes from a lifetime of feeling like electronics are beyond our ken, a feeling ingrained by a society that constantly reminds us ending is better than mending.

That’s why it’s so crucial that we get to boys and (especially) girls early—before the sense that we can’t-do overwhelms the belief that we can.

When that happens, we go through life never the wiser as to what’s inside those inscrutable black boxes. And as long as they work, we don’t really care. The problem: it’s pushing a generation of students away from critical industries.

In 2010, less than 5 percent of the American workforce was in science and engineering—and then only 25 percent of them women. Maybe that's partly because so many people are mystified, baffled, even frightened by technology.

We need to stop treating electronics as an “adult zone.” Properly supervised, most electronic repairs are far less dangerous than, say, football.

And I bet it’s easier than you think. There's nothing inherently more difficult about changing an iPod battery than putting together a Lego model. The tools are different and the parts are more varied, but the process is similar. So, take old cell phones, MP3 players, computers out of your drawers, basements, garages. If they're broken, figure out how to fix them—then use them or give them away.

Kids take to repair really quickly. Every time we host a fix-it clinic, kids who have no prior repair experience are able to fix their parents' electronics. When we went to Egypt and Kenya to film our repair documentary, Fixers, we saw school children in Nairobi who had learned electronics repair as part of the curriculum. We hear regularly from young teenagers who used iFixit guides and tools to start small repair businesses—some of those kids are highly successful.

Taking complex machines apart teaches engineering. That's why we should build opportunities to explore electronics into curriculum. That’s why parents should help their kids take stuff apart. So get a good screwdriver and rescue some moldering electronics from your garage. If you give your kids permission to play, learning science and engineering will look like fun.

Images courtesy of iFixit

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Permission to Play: Let's Make Fixing Things Cool Again