Yesterday, four ARROW members met at Maker Works to fix assistive devices. Shown below is Paul, KW1L; Rick, K8BMA; and Ron, K8RCF. Yours truly is taking the picture.

The devices we worked on are devices used by people who have difficulty communicating. Typically, they consists of a big switch that the user presses to play a pre-recorded message.

The problems are generally easy to diagnose, and the repairs are generally simple repairs. Rick, for example, replaced the plugs on several of the devices, and Paul and Ron replaced the speakers in several of the units.

One of the devices that I tackled came with a note that read, “Won’t play or record, even with a new battery.” 

Picture of a defective battery clip.As we all know, the first step in troubleshooting is to verify the problem. So, I obtained a new battery and opened the battery compartment. As shown in the photo at right, it was clear that the problem was a defective battery clip. Somehow, someone managed to tear the negative contact off the clip. I replaced the battery clip and brought the device back to life! 

Overall, we probably fixed close to ten devices, including the pushbutton switches. We probably could have fixed more, but it took us some time to learn how to disassemble and then reassemble the devices.

And, while the fixes are usually simple, they can also be a bit frustrating. For example, the device that I replaced the battery clip on wouldn’t go back together very easily. It looked to me as though the screws holding the device together just aren’t long enough. Other devices had similar design issues.

Even so, it was an interesting and fun exercise, and we will be doing this again. There are many more devices to fix. I asked Dale, our contact at Maker Works, if we might schedule an evening session so that those of you who are working can join us. Stay tuned for that.