Taking tech and recycling to a new generation

Tech geek Geoff Bentley in action at one of his teacher workshops. Photo – Billy McQueen / Rekord.

One year after Geoff Bentley started running a community workshop during Trash & Treasure Sundays, the Cambridge Repair Co-Op is fulfilling its brief while Geoff prepares to take his “recycle and re-use” mantra to a new generation.

He has just received $1680 in funding from the Waipa District Council’s Waste Minimisation Fund for a pilot programme of repair and up-cycle workshops called Repair Detectives, set to start next term for year 3 and 4 pupils in some Cambridge schools.

“The idea is to encourage the next generation to help reduce landfill waste by repairing and re-purposing broken items,” he explained. “My hope is to eventually get sponsorship to take that even further around Waipa and the Waikato.”

Spreading his recycling vision is an extension of what happens at the Repair Co-Op. For two hours on market days, Geoff and his volunteers help locals fix their broken household items. The objective, he explained, isn’t for them to drop their items and run; the idea is for them to stay, tap into the expertise at hand and learn how to repair and re-use.

It was after seeing the Hamilton Repair Co-Op in action that he started the Cambridge Co-Op a year ago in Meraki Workspace in Cambridge’s Victoria St, with the rule of thumb being that people can bring whatever broken items they can carry up the stairs, then have a go at fixing it themselves, with help if needed.

Cambridge Repair Co-Op workshop volunteers Tony Batley and Sue Murray cast their eye over a toaster needing to be fixed.

“We must get away from this throwaway approach in society,” he said. “Earlier generations learned to extend the life of their household items, and with the support of our volunteers, we can do that too.”

They have already helped people repair kettles, lamps, toasters, piano keyboards, stereos, printers, baby monitors, torn clothing and more. “Repairing is a process of discovery, learning how products are put together … using critical thinking and creativity to find a solution.”

Geoff is self-taught across most of his skillsets and wants to pass on that love of learning. “The only tertiary qualifications I have are in jazz piano and carpentry,” he explained. “My real work over the past 20 years has been in the IT industry, more specifically as a web developer.”

Several years ago, a request for tutoring turned into an opportunity that saw him start TechLeap, a network of tech clubs where youngsters aged 10 to 16 collaborate and learn across a range of tech areas – coding, game development, virtual and augmented reality, electronics and robotics, web development, 3D modelling and animation and more. He now runs two weekly after-school TechLeap clubs in Hamilton, one in Te Awamutu and one at Cambridge Primary School.

“I try to integrate arts, maths and engineering into what we do – we delve into the science behind technology.”

Geoff is a fully accredited professional development facilitator for the Ministry of Education, whom he said were keen to encourage the next generation to become creators and not just consumers of digital technology. He is currently working with schools in Cambridge and the Waikato, helping teach teachers and support them ahead of the implementation in 2020 of new digital technology into the curriculum.

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