By Jim Hynes
Need a simple PC for basic tasks, like email and web browsing? No room in the budget for a new computer in your office? Call Reboot McGill.
The group, funded by the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS), receives disused computer equipment and peripherals like monitors, keyboards and cables from the University’s Waste Management Program, then repairs and redeploys it where needed both on and off campus.
At McGill, it’s Waste Management’s job to collect disused electronic equipment from all over the school’s campuses and dispose of it safely via specialized recycling contractors.
“But what we’re trying to do is get in-between McGill and the recycler and intercept the stream so that stuff that can be reused is reused,” said Reboot’s founder and current coordinator Joshua Kyle.
The idea behind Reboot originated with some engineering students who acquired then subsequently lost a space to set up shop in back in 2008. The groundwork was done but the project was going nowhere until Kyle came along and got things moving again. He applied to the EUS as a Manager, talked about the project with the Office of Sustainability and through them got the space Reboot now occupies in the Ferrier Building. By May of 2010 the group was up and running.
“We just take things that might be useful for people at McGill to reuse,” said Cyrille Couture, the current Manager of Reboot. “If something doesn’t work, we’ll look and see if there’s something we can keep, like power cords, or cards that can be plugged into other computers, or parts of printers, like chips. So we take those and keep them, and what we can’t use goes back to Waste Management.”
Reboot is staffed by approximately 20 volunteer students, many, but not all, with computer engineering backgrounds. The volunteers are trained to disassemble computers and strip them of useful parts, like RAM, video cards, power cords and other cables. Using those parts, they then put together new computers, sometimes sacrificing two or three to assemble one workable one.
“We don’t do any soldering, it’s basically just plug and play,” said Kyle, a Materials Engineering student.
On- and off-campus clients
Hard drives are “triple wiped” and, since it’s illegal to install an operating system like Windows, Reboot installs an open source system like Ubuntu. “And since most people need it for simple stuff like word processing, email, web browsing, it’s perfect for that.”
Computers in good working order are then redeployed on- and off-campus depending on need and the number of requests received.
“Our first priority is to the McGill community – staff, students, faculty, student groups and clubs, that kind of thing,” Kyle said. “And if we don’t get enough requests on-campus and there are people who need them off-campus, well, why not spread the wealth?”
Last year, Reboot donated 107 computers to internal users like McGill’s Centre for Intelligent Machines and the African Studies Program, and to off-campus groups like the Roslyn Elementary School and a number of non-profit organizations like the Social Justice Committee of Montreal and the West Island’s Volunteer Assisted Services.
Members of the McGill community wishing to dispose of unwanted electronic material must fill out a form at the Waste Management Program’s website: www.mcgill.ca/wmp/forms/.
Anyone wishing to apply for a Reboot refurbished computer or related equipment can do so at: http://reboot.mcgilleus.ca/.