With the loss of the UConn Bistro and Dairy Bar Too comes the opportunity to use this space in the center of the campus. There are many options, including renting it out to restaurants, but my solution is a repair and modification guild. Many electronics and other items break at UConn all the time, and some could be modified to be more useful.
The structure would consist of a drop-off/pick-up area in the Dairy Bar Too and a store in the Bistro. The repairs could be done in the engineering building or in the SU basement if space could be made there. Among the tasks done would be simple repairs, upgrades such as support for different protocols and better graphics/performance. This also includes accessibility modifications such as various input methods including sip-puff modifying water bottles, larger keys on laptops and foot switches, as well as making monitors easier to read with software.
Another useful aspect of a repair guild would be a reduce waste, especially e-waste with its rare earth minerals that are in short supply. If UConn students learn to reduce waste, they can teach others and create more repair centers, leading to a sustainable world. Also this knowledge can help design new products that are easier to fix and maintain, helping even more students.
One example is reusable water bottles. They are good for the planet because they help reduce disposal, but they could also be used for other purposes. They are tall which allows them to be easy to reach and also have a high volume, allowing electronics to be stored in them. With a diaphragm they could be made into input devices for computers for those who have a hard time with precise finger motion. This device is cheap to build and can be retrofitted into donated bottles to help people.
Another example is recycling the free T-shirts that are given away at UConn. When they get worn, the repair center could make quilts out of them and also other items including hats, scarves and anything else they might think of. Yet another example is earbuds. These could be repurposed as speakers for synthesizers if used in arrays. Almost any waste, electronic or otherwise from the university, whether given by students, professors or departments and labs is reusable.
If the repair guild gets big enough there may be fix-a-thons where members are invited to different places to fix and improve their electronics. For instance, some business might want their elevator to have roll-into buttons to make it easier to use, or another might want their lights to indicate if different items are in stock. All these things would require skilled people with electronics knowledge to create them. Places may even want repair guilds of their own like other college campuses, homeless shelters, prisons, etc. Kahuku High School in Hawaii has something similar, but focused on computers.
As far as the equipment needed, the main stuff would be a cleaning station, a soldering iron and some computers. This is why the restaurant is the perfect location, they already have the facilities to deal with lots of cleaning and heat. Another benefit is the engineering building and ITE building are nearby for more complex operations, as well as a loading dock for anything needing to be shipped in. The location along Union Street also lets people see what’s available and what’s happening inside, especially with the windows facing the road. The main drawback I see is the existing restaurants on Union Street are very crowded, so adding more may help spread the crowds around which would be safer during the COVID-19 pandemic.