Repair Stories

One Laptop to Teach Them All

Each term, as part of our Technical Writing Project, students from over 20 universities around the US partner with iFixit to write and publish hundreds of repair guides. And each term, I’m blown away by the guides that passionate student groups create on everything from skateboards to calculators.

Every student who participates in the project is told that their guides can make a difference—that a repair manual will help someone out there in the world fix something that is broken. But a couple months ago, three student groups from Cal Poly started a project with even wider ramifications. Their job: produce new repair guides for One Laptop Per Child, an organization that puts technology into the hands of elementary school children all around the world.

One Laptop, One Mission

When there’s a laptop on every desk and a smartphone in every pocket, it’s easy to forget that about one-third of the world’s population doesn’t have access to the internet. About 1.2 billion people around the globe don’t even have access to reliable electricity. So, the amazing educational resources that go hand-in-hand with technology are cut off from many of the world’s children.

 In 2005, OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte had a dream—to give the best educational and technological experience he could to those children. He created a tough, connected, low-power laptop, designed specifically with children in mind. OLPC’s laptop, the XO, comes fully stocked with educational games and software, and that opens up a world of education and information to children.

students using laptops from One Laptop Per Child
Photo by OLPC

Millions of OLPC laptops—built without hazardous materials and engineered to withstand harsh conditions—have already been distributed across 25 countries and territories, including Cambodia, Haiti, and Sri Lanka. The ultra-durable laptops are given to students and teachers all over the globe to enhance learning—both in and out of the classroom.

These laptops are not only kid-friendly, they are almost kid-proof. But, as most tinkerers know, nothing is 100% break-proof. Fortunately, when an XO breaks down, it’s not like an iPad. These laptops are designed to be modular and easy to repair, so that the kids who use them can also be the technicians who repair them.

That’s where Fixit’s student partners came in. Our student groups wrote easy-to-follow repair guides for two XO models—the OLPC XO-1.5 and the OLPC XO-4.0—because a broken computer shouldn’t stop a child from learning. Instead, breaking a laptop becomes yet another learning experience for the child to master.

OLPC repair guide from the iFixit Technical Writing Project

So check out these guides—made by students in California, used by students across the globe. And call me sentimental, but I think students teaching students, even thousands of miles apart, is a beautiful thing. Because everyone has knowledge to share, and everyone can make a difference.

As with everything on iFixit, these guides are a work in progress. And that’s how we like it. The moment you close yourself off to improvement, you’ve killed a project. We’re excited to hear comments from OLPC users of all ages, and they will help us make these manuals even better as time goes on.

Feeling inspired by our students? Write a repair guide and add it to iFixit. Still needing some inspiration? Check out our Featured Student Guides to see some of the amazing guides students have created.