One UTD alum chose to return to campus after graduating, where he now splits his time between work and providing free repairs for student electronics in a bid to reduce waste production.
Josef Velten graduated in 2012 with a Ph.D in material science and engineering. He returned to UTD to work on campus as a visiting scientist after getting his degree. Velten made a post on the UTD subreddit advertising his free device repair services in the Student Union, titling the post “Fix-It Friday.” He mostly specializes in small electronics, but has also worked on a wide variety of machines, such as bicycles, vacuums and even a car transmission swap.
“On the UTD subreddit, some guy had a laptop hinge repair question and didn’t want to buy a new laptop,” Velten said. “I asked him to take a few pictures so I could figure it out. Consumer goods are not usually the toughest of things, especially considering it is cheaper to make them flimsy. It’s kind of a questionable thing that I don’t really like, and I grew up in an environment where having to repair your things was considered normal. You develop an ability to fix things once you can take it apart and assemble it back together.”
Initially, when Velten tried to set up the “Fix-It-Friday” on campus, he was not sponsored by any student organization and was asked to leave. Students who were aware of his arrival and purpose to UTD were upset about when Velten was initially shut down. A few days after being removed, Velten was sponsored by the UTD chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America to return to campus.
“It was an unsanctioned event, and even if there’s no solicitation, apparently, it’s against the university’s policy to allow that,” Velten said. “Luckily, when I put a call out for someone to bring a sign (for the repair table) so I could at least make it look better, the DSA said they could sponsor it. It would just be a program under them. I’m sure there is some liability issue that the school has, and I understand that they would rather be safe than sorry. Their place, their rules.”
He said he believes what he is doing is a way of bringing UTD together and encourages students to come visit him and learn. Velten added that he wishes to make a network of students helping other students with their items which need to be repaired.
“Hopefully if they want to come down and fix their stuff, and hopefully if they are willing to learn and I can teach, I am willing to do that,” he said. “This is me trying to live my truth of anti-throwaway culture,” he said.