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‘Repair cafe’ to launch at UWE Bristol School of Engineering

A ‘repair cafe’ is set to open on the University of the West England (UWE Bristol) Frenchay campus this year, thanks to funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Engineering students at the university are launching the MAKERS (Making and Knowledge Exchange for Repair and Sustainability) project with the goal of improving the representation and belonging of women and people of black, Asian or minority ethnic groups, along with those from backgrounds underrepresented.

Working alongside community groups from Easton, Eastville and St Paul’s, who have experience setting up similar schemes in their areas, the cafe hopes to open at the university’s School of Engineering in October 2023.

By working alongside these community members, sharing and exchanging skills, and using the engineering team at UWE Bristol, the project will create a community of repair students and build links with the broader Bristol community repair movement.

They will help solve problems and repair broken goods, training those involved in the scheme and supporting the circular economy. The repair cafe will run until May 2024 and will build on previous UWE Bristol STEM partnership projects in the city.

Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers, Associate Professor of Engineering at UWE Bristol Society, said: “We look forward to launching the MAKERS project with Bristol communities, thanks to funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering. Every year, we throw away large numbers, even items with very few problems, that could easily be put back into use after a simple repair.

“As well as being better for the environment and promoting sustainability, this scheme will save people money, share missing repair skills and bring the local community together.

“For UWE Bristol, it offers our diverse engineering students the opportunity to add value to the field by working together in a useful and hands-on environment and developing peer support and friendship. They will gain practical skills and informal mentoring by working alongside intergenerational members of the community, recruited through the Bristol Repair Café network and industry STEM ambassadors.”

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The Royal Academy of Engineering awarded nearly £90,000 to its Diversity Impact Program project, which aims to inspire change within university engineering departments by providing funding for schemes that transform the experiences of engineering students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.

Kat Corbett volunteers at the repair cafe at The Old Library in Eastville. She said: “We are delighted to be part of the MAKERS project, which not only addresses the climate crisis, but also the lack of diversity in engineering.

“Our monthly Repair Café has been going strong since we first set it up in early 2022, which shows that there was real demand: people aren’t just coming to get their items fixed (many of which have very sentimental value), but also to learn new repair skills, or just enjoy a cup of tea in the cafeteria while they wait their turn.

“Our repairmen have also formed a real community and regularly support each other with repairs. There is immense social and environmental value in the Repair Café movement, and we are excited to work with UWE Bristol to help grow it even further.”

Engineering students from UWE Bristol will also work with Baggator at Easton. Stuart Phelps, Chairman of the Trustees, added: “This is an excellent opportunity to share skills, build relationships and repair things that people value.

“At a time when many of our friends and neighbors are struggling to make ends meet, MAKERS will help them by breathing new life into valuable things; make new friends between the University and Easton; and get things out of the dump. A living and real example of the circular economy where it is most needed”.

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