Over 175 STEM professors call on manufacturers to embrace repair for future of technology

Instructors of future innovators call for Right to Repair reforms
February 25, 2020

Minneapolis, MN -- With the rise of software in everything from tablets to tractors, manufacturers have taken numerous steps to discourage or block independent repair. Because the ability to fix and tinker with our devices is critical to training future innovators, more than 175 professors, representing top universities from across the country and world, have signed a letter calling on legislators to support Right to Repair reforms. In part, the letter emphasizes the importance of repair in inspiring young engineers, innovating solutions to difficult problems, and creating a more ecological future.

“Manufacturers have sold us the idea that technological progress is driven by the constant turnover of disposable technology.” said Tim Schaefer, state director of Environment Minnesota. “In reality, when manufacturers try to deny us the ability to fix our broken stuff, they hurt innovation and innovators, both today and tomorrow.”

Restricted access to the parts, tools and information required to fix devices means that consumers are increasingly forced to go back to the manufacturer when things break. Increased manufacturer control leads to higher prices for consumers and incentivizes device replacement, sending more e-waste to the scrap heap. This may improve bottom lines, but STEM professors think it does more harm than good.

“To solve the problems of the future, we need more bright young innovators, and we need them to come from all different backgrounds,” said Dr. Susan Lord, Chair of Integrated Engineering at the University of San Diego. “Engaging with and fixing common electronic devices can be an expanded entryway for young minds into fields like mine. But that entryway will narrow if we don't fight for our access to repair.”

By having access to the tools and schematics necessary to repair, students are able to investigate their favorite devices and explore the different mechanisms that make them run. This kind of hands-on experience is invaluable in allowing students to develop an affinity with the technology that they use every day. But with manufacturers refusing to provide these tools and schematics, the calls for Right to Repair legislation are amplifying.

Right to Repair legislation, introduced as HF 1138 in Minnesota, would mandate public access to the parts, tools and information required to fix our devices when they break. Environment Minnesota supports HF 1138 and helps lead the coalition to restore the Right to Repair in Minnesota.

“‘Reduce, reuse, recycle is missing an important R: repair,” added Schaefer. “Right to Repair reforms protect the environment and keep money in consumers’ pockets. That’s why we urge Minnesota to pass this legislation now.”

Letter text and signatories can be found here.