Repair is everywhere, and so are iFixit Technical Writing Project (iTWP) alumni. Students in the iTWP are a diverse group from across the U.S. and around the world. Our previous alum was from California, so let’s head across the country to Massachusetts to talk with civil engineer Evan Costa about his experience with the project and his thoughts on repair.
Evan participated in the iTWP while studying at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he graduated last spring with a B.S. in Civil Engineering. He calls the small, picturesque New England town of Rochester, Massachusetts home. Following graduation, Evan was promptly hired as a transportation planner on nearby Cape Cod.
Portions of the Q&A have been edited for clarity or conciseness.
iFixit: Tell us a little about yourself.
Evan Costa: I’ve always wanted to build stuff since I was young, playing with Legos and Lincoln Logs, so in school, I tried to take more courses that involved building and designing. These ultimately led me to engineering, and when it came time to apply for college, I chose civil engineering because of the multiple pathways it included. I had my first internship in my sophomore year, as a traffic technician/data collector. That experience cemented my desire to work in transportation engineering, one of the pathways in civil engineering.
iFixit: Where do you work now?
Evan Costa: I work as a transportation planner on Cape Cod and love it. My job includes professional, technical, and administrative work necessary to support regional transportation planning efforts. Some of my job duties are collecting, interpreting, and analyzing data; creating transportation plans; and utilizing Geographic Information System and other appropriate tools. In short, there is a lot of technical communication in this job. My favorite part is the fieldwork/data collection since I’ve always wanted a position that was not 24/7 behind a desk.
iFixit: Tell us about your experience with iFixit’s Technical Writing Project.
Evan Costa: I enjoyed the process and thought it was really fun! My team and I worked on a series of guides for the Acer Chromebook Spin 15 CP315-1H-P1K8 while participating in iFixit’s Technical Writing Project during my Technical Communication class in college. The memory that stands out the most is when we took the computer apart and figured out how to replace and repair each component that people have problems with. It was also the first time I attempted to take apart a computer.
iFixit: What was the most surprising thing you learned during the project?
Evan Costa: How quickly a computer can break if you’re using the wrong tools. While removing the back case, we damaged one of the plastic clips. The computer went back together, but one of the clips that held the back on no longer functioned.
iFixit: What did you find most valuable about the experience?
Evan Costa: Collaborating with the iFixit Team to write guides that will actually be used and help others.
iFixit: How did you benefit from the skills you acquired during the iTWP?
Evan Costa: Funny enough, when I was an intern before it became my full-time position, the iTWP experience came up. I was about to have my name on a report for the company and was asked if I had ever had any of my work published online before. I directed them to my iFixit page and they were impressed.
While doing this project, I learned more about technical communication, project management, working on a team—and my strengths and weaknesses in each area. This became very important when working on my capstone project at university, but it’s also relevant to my work today. Technical writing is an important part of my job, as writing reports on the data we collect is a major aspect of my work. Overall, the project helped me to refine how I write reports too.
iFixit: Do you have any advice for current or future students going through the iTWP?
Evan Costa: This experience teaches you to work closely with a team of individuals with different strengths and weaknesses and work effectively together to get things done on time. That was my experience with it at least. As is with most things in life, you get out what you put in. So if you work hard, then you will most likely have a similar experience.
Have fun with the project and be responsive/answer comments on your guides after the fact. People really enjoy it when you go the extra mile, especially if you know about the specific problem or issue they are facing.
iFixit: Did the iTWP change your opinion or perspective on repair or sustainability?
Evan Costa: I’ve always valued repairing things—it’s essential. We live in a culture that throws stuff away when it no longer works. So, to improve sustainability and our environment, we should definitely put more of an emphasis on repairing things, especially electronics. We also need to champion people who repair since it helps reduce waste. iFixit guides help to reduce e-waste because people have access to easy-to-use repair guides to help them fix their electronics instead of just getting rid of them.
iFixit: If you had the opportunity, what item/device would you design to be more repairable? Why?
Evan Costa: I currently have an iPhone 13 Pro Max. I would probably want my iPhone to be more repairable—that way, I could take care of any issues in-house instead of outsourcing it.
iFixit: What is your favorite/most used tool in your toolbox?
Evan Costa: The iFixit screwdriver is one of the best physical tools I own and my most used when it comes to electronics repairs.
iFixit: What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to repair?
iFixit: What’s your best piece of repair advice?
Evan Costa: Go slow and be careful, practice on some less expensive stuff, and then give it your best shot.
iFixit: In one word, what does repair mean to you?
Evan Costa: Restoration.
iFixit: What’s a fun fact about you that you would like to share with our readers?
Evan Costa: I am an avid concert-goer and have attended over 200 concerts. My favorites so far are Aerosmith, Kiss, Elton John, and Dead & Co.
iFixit: Is there anything else you want to share with us?
Evan Costa: Keep on repairing and fixing!