Repairing 200+ Raspberry Pis For A Good Cause

If somebody told you they recently purchased over 200 Raspberry Pis, you might think they were working on some kind of large-scale clustering project. But in this case, [James Dawson] purchased the collection of broken single-board computers with the intention of repairing them so they could be sent to developing countries for use in schools. It sounds like the logistics of that are proving to be a bit tricky, but we’re happy to report he’s at least made good progress on getting the Pis back up and running.

He secured this trove of what he believes to be customer returned Raspberries or the princely sum of £61 ($83 USD). At that price, even if only a fraction ended up being repairable, you’d still come out ahead. Granted all of these appear to be the original Model B, but that’s still a phenomenal deal in our book. Assuming of course you can find some reasonable way to triage them to sort out what’s worth keeping.

To that end, [James] came up with a Bash script that allowed him to check several hardware components including the USB, Ethernet, I2C, and GPIO. With the script on an SD card and a 3.5″ TFT plugged into the Pi’s header for output, he was able to quickly go through the box to get an idea of what sort of trouble he’d gotten himself into. He was only about half way through the process when he wrote this particular blog post, but by that point, he’d found just 40 Pis which wouldn’t start at all. He suspects these might be victims of some common issue in the power circuitry that he’ll investigate at a later date.

The majority of Pis he checked were suffering from nothing worse than some bent GPIO pins or broken SD card slots. Some of the more abused examples had their USB ports ripped off entirely, but were otherwise fine. Another 10 had dead Ethernet, and 4 appear to have damaged traces leading to their HDMI ports. While we’re interested in hearing if [James] can get those 40 dark Pis to fire back up, so far the results are quite promising.

Donating hardware is always a tricky thing, so for now [James] says he’ll be selling the repaired Pis on eBay and donating the proceeds to the Raspberry Pi Foundation so they can continue to develop hardware that will (potentially) accomplish their goal of giving students all over the world a functional computer.

37 thoughts on “Repairing 200+ Raspberry Pis For A Good Cause

          1. Macroeconomic theory would suggest that that the availability raspberry and other SBC put price pressure on used laptops. If I can make a working desktop computer with an SBC and whatever I can find or scrounge, that is going to inform what I’m willing to pay for a used laptop.

        1. most of africa do sell Pi’s but the pricing is bad, as they are often seen as luxury electronics and not life necessity. Locall here a Pi is $125 or K2,500 kwacha, in Southafrca it’s around $80 for a pi .

      1. One Laptop Per Child was about getting laptops to children who couldn’t afford them. I have no idea how that went or whether it’s still happening.

        Raspberry Pi seemed to be about getting kids to program, and wasn’t targetted at specific countries (or rather, is targetted at countries already wealthy with computers).

        It’s hard to tell what the Foundation is for now, other than generating lots of cheap computer boards. The focus seems to be on technology, and most use is about controlling, rather than learning to program.

          1. My past tense was because while we once heard a lot of the project, it’s faded.

            Wikipedia says the foundation closed down in 2014. So a big start, and a slow ending. Maybe that website is from a second group hoping to salvage the project.

            The idea of self learning ( “hacking”) and the computer as resource is valid. But I can see it not working for everyone, or even when imposedd by others.

          1. I seem to recall an article here actually of how they were just using the screen to light their huts and such. With these kind of endeavors there will invariably be some very nice people putting carts before horses. Kinda like the shoe guy.

        1. Negroponte happened, made a deal with Microsoft to ship Windows on them. “Microsoft and One Laptop per Child Partner to Deliver Affordable Computing to Students Worldwide
          May 15, 2008”. XP on a 256MB ram 400MHz CPU with 1GB flash.

  1. I have some Pi (2 and 3) that i have no use for and rather than throwing to the big of selling for 5€, I’d rather donate for use in education. Is there any donation program ?

  2. I was curious about the donation part as well – it seems he’s just re-selling them on the UK eBay now and “All money generated from this sale will be donated to the Raspberry Pi foundation.”

  3. I have once donated some hardware to the local hackerspace, it was to find it back in the trash several weeks later (device perfectly working). Never again, I prefer now to find someone who is really interested in using it.

    We live in a throwaway society:

    “The throw-away society is a human society strongly influenced by consumerism. The term describes a critical view of overconsumption and excessive production of short-lived or disposable items over durable goods that can be repaired.”

    1. Hackerspaces do not have infinite storage space.
      Many have developed protocols to prevent “junk” from piling up, and getting in the way (such as I need to develop for my workspaces).

    2. What was it? Was it actually useful? or did you donate it to the hackerspace because you didn’t want it anymore but couldn’t bear to throw it away?

      As someone who helps run a Hackerspace, I will flat out tell anyone who donates stuff to our space the process their donation will go through.

      We (Officers and vetted members) determine if the space or our members could want reasonably want it If yes it’s given a yellow tag with a date to let members know it is up for grabs, or if we know members have no use for it but it is worth something we sell it online.

      if we don’t think anyone could want it or it has sat on the up for grabs shelf for more then 6 months without being touched It goes in the sell pile. from the sell pile we take it to a local swap meet and either sell for cash or trade for stuff we do want. If we can’t get rid of it at the swap meet it gets red tag and goes back in the sell pile for one more try. any red tag item for sale we will take damn near any price for since after that all items that don’t sell twice go to the dump.

      the problem is people want to use hackerspaces like their personal technology dumps because they can’t stand to throw stuff away because it is “still Useful” or “just needs a few repairs” when really it is a 15 year old laptop with a cracked screen takes 30 minutes to boot to the most basic linux terminal we can find. Unless that thing has some cultural significance it is going in ye old dumpster or handed to one of our members to fill with thermite and lit off for our amusement.

      Occasionally if the item is dumb enough we will zip tie it to one of the other hacker spaces in our area’s doors as a good natured prank.

      1. That sounds like rummage sales I’ve been too, stuff nobody wants. Though I once got an eprom programmer (home made, or built from a kit) that way, the onky oerson likely to have recognized it.

        I worry in the reverse. A “makerspace” opened here a couple of years ago, but their initial visibility seemed because they were looking for tool donations for a “tool library”. I wasn’t looking to get rid of stuff, but it seemed worthwhile, and I could always borrow them. Months later, but before I got around to it, it changed from a community type space to one for “helping entrepreneurs”. I gather it couldn’t sustain itself, when dealing with hobbyists. They made the announcement, and nothing more. They must have died. I’d be bugged if I’d given tools to the public goid and then they weren’t available.

      2. Yeah, a local hacker space here had a large table full of this electronic waste. It looked like an old VCR torn apart, and some large circuit boards (no PIC or Atmel microcontrollers to be found). Maybe you could salvage some resistors or capacitors from the main boards, but what good are motors with no gear boxes? I would bet all of this waste could be better replaced with a cheap 1,000 pack of resistors, and a set of random capacitors off eBay.

  4. In Uganda you can get a small very old min laptop s for as low as 80$ with a $ rated at UGX3700 but you can get a raspberry pi B+ at that price.

    You see on internet that a new pico pi is $4 but on local market you cant get for less than $50.

    Even getting it at that price is a miracle and that miracle can only occur in capital city kampala.

  5. I prefer buying old ThinkPads and other commercial grade used tech.
    They provide more for the same price, an old and used T60 or x61 is better than any RPI for the price, and it comes with battery. And don’t fuel the consumerism, you are actually reusing 10+ year old tech, hopefully for many more years to come.
    They are easily repaired, parts are cheap as well, and can be Libre Booted, guaranteeing you privacy on the hardware level.
    RPIs are cool for the first world countries tho, don’t get me wrong, they are also cool for more hardware-focused projects.
    But for a daily driver and computing – old and used laptop is simply better.

  6. Many years ago, I found someone who imported Apple ][ clones but couldn’t repair them. I cut a deal where he got every second one that I repaired and I kept the other half. I got about 30 working again. For my half, I gave away a few, sold some, and finished with a box of parts (about 0 to 3) sets of parts, plus a working machine for me. My only machine before this was a SYM-1 (a Rockwell SBC, 6502 CPU, 1k RAM which I upgraded to 12k RAM with the above revenue). I wish I’d kept both machines!

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