Riot Refurb: A Device Repair Lab

Intro to Computer Science students repair broken equipment with the purpose of donating them to people in need. Photo credit: Julie York

(Pictured: Intro to Computer Science students repair broken equipment with the purpose of donating them to people in need.  Photo credit: Julie York) 

What is the best way to learn about computer hardware? Look inside!  That is exactly what Julie York’s students did in their Intro to Computer Science course while also contributing to their community.  During their Device Repair Lab, these students gained valuable computer science and career knowledge and skills while rebuilding devices, like iPads, Chromebooks, and MacBooks. While some devices are sold at a discounted price, others are donated to organizations and people in need.  Any funds from the sales go back into the program to purchase chargers and materials.  To date, students have repaired over 200 devices. 

As anyone with device problems could attest to, students needed patience and persistence, as well as concentration as they performed the challenging and delicate work of device repair.  Students learned valuable computer science skills, such as disassembling devices, reassembling them, and diagnosing problems.  They also had to use computational thinking to identify the problem and how to fix it, develop efficient procedures for cleaning devices, and deduce patterns in computer issues to streamline their work.  As one student said, “I found the whole process very interesting.”  Another one said, “This is something I could do in the future.”   

Julie York Classroom Computer Science
Photo Credit: Julie York

Beyond the computer science skills they developed, students also learned valuable career skills like leadership and collaboration.  As one student put it, “I think that teamwork was the most important skill for the success of this lab because I think that everything is better when it’s done as a team.”  This student went on to say that without leadership “the group I was helping would’ve been in a mess.”  Students also incorporated art and communication skills as they designed flyers, made video ads, and wrote repair reports.    

Many students in Julie’s class are multilingual learners.  She scaffolded their language development by providing instructions in their primary language and opportunities to read, speak, and listen in English.  While they were developing their English skills, students were also able to learn the computer science material, and develop important career and leadership skills.  

The Riot Refurb program has gotten positive feedback from community members.  One person who received refurbished equipment shared, “Thank you so much for doing this. I have 4 kiddos, so this is a big help for my family!”  Another student, who got a laptop, talked about how he would use his new device to edit videos.  Through this project-based program, students can themselves as changemakers in both their school community and beyond.  

While the class is now learning about coding, they are still looking to connect with people and organizations in need of devices.  Click here for more information about this program. 

The Maine DOE encourages all schools and districts across the State of Maine to learn more about interdisciplinary instruction on our website or by contacting our Interdisciplinary Instruction Team Coordinator at