Estefania Suquilanda, Hewitt’s lower school tech support specialist, has always had a passion for repairing gadgets, and after years of helping friends and family with their broken computers, tablets, and phones, she realized tech repair was a valuable skill she could teach the young women of Hewitt. “My goal is to pass on the repair bug to Hewitt students from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Whether dealing with a cracked phone screen or an argument with a best friend, knowing how to repair things is an important skill to have. There are always ways to mend things, to make them better and help others in the process.”
After learning about the London-based Restart Project, an organization that teaches people how to extend the life of their gadgets and reduce electronic waste, Suquilanda was excited to bring the project’s mission to her students. Aware of the importance of empowering girls to confidently use, explore, and understand technology, she started Restart @ Hewitt as part of Restart Project's school-based program. Once a week, Suquilanda works with upper school students who are interested in learning how to fix broken technology that might otherwise be thrown away. “Anyone can join because anyone can repair. All it takes is a bit of curiosity, patience, and love. We try repairing anything that comes to us. Members of the Hewitt community have sent us everything from children’s toys to vacuum cleaners. We’ve replaced broken motherboards and cracked screens.”
Suquilanda is quick to point out that, in addition to gaining concrete repair skills, her students are also learning critical thinking skills and the art of problem solving. “They are learning perseverance, consensus, and compromise - to keep trying even if it’s hard because they have the tools they need and the support of the other members of the group. They are also practicing being fully present during repair because every movement has a cause and an effect on the device.” With every new repair project, Restart @ Hewitt students create new relationships with their technology and become more confident in their abilities to ask the right questions and get the answers they need to be successful.
After leading Hewitt’s lower school students through a few small-scale projects, including replacing a teacher’s phone battery and creating wearable art from broken keyboard keys, Suquilanda’s youngest students were eager to learn more about technology repair. This fall, through Hewitt Clubhouse, she will offer students in second and third grade more opportunities to repurpose broken technology and familiarize themselves with the tools her older students are using to repair gadgets. Her after-school class will incorporate play, group conversations, and hands-on projects to help lower school students develop a stronger understanding of what technology is, where it comes from, and what purpose it has in their lives.
Of her work with Hewitt’s girls and young women, Suquilanda says, “I want to be there for my students, to offer support and guidance so that they can be confident in themselves. Through this work, I want students to see that they can fix their own problems, no matter how big or small. Then, they can help teach others to do the same.”