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From left to right, Johan Niemeyer, a junior studying sociology and criminology, Ben Bowald, a sophomore studying Management Information Systems, and Keith Brock, the manager at the Tech Guru desk in Bobcat Depot, work as students bring in their broken laptops on Sept. 26 in Bobcat Depot. (EMILY MATTHEWS | PHOTO EDITOR)

Tech gurus have seen earthworms and unusual liquids within student laptops

Laptops overrun with water, coffee, sports drinks, dog pee, earthworms and porn — the tech gurus have seen it all.

Every academic year, Ohio University students trust those gurus at Bobcat Depot to repair the seemingly irreparable. Whether it's scrubbing out unusual liquids or reconnecting a screen to the keyboard, the workers at Bobcat Depot try to restore life to the machines that hold students’ lives.

“For every computer that just has a software problem, there’s a computer that’s just completely destroyed in some way,” Ben Bowald, a tech guru at Bobcat Depot, said.

Bowald, a sophomore studying management information systems, has been repairing his peers’ computers for less than a year, but he has seen an array of repair situations.

“The worst I’ve seen is a woman who left her laptop out by a campfire and it rained,” he said. “She brought it in like it would be salvageable somehow after it rained all night — I found a few dead moths in there.”

After everything he has seen happen to laptops, Bowald said he has also seen some mental breakdowns in the middle of the store. 

“I’ve had girls sit here crying,” Keith Brock, manager of computer services and repair at Bobcat Depot, said.

Brock sees most emotional students during finals week, when coffee spills seem to increase. More broken laptops are seen in Bobcat Depot after spring break as well, Brock said, pointing to one year when he tried to fix a vomit-infused keyboard.

After Brock and his team fixed that laptop, the woman told them her roommate had puked on it, causing the liquid damage.

Dalyn Hoffman, a senior studying strategic communication, had an emotional stretch during finals week her sophomore year when her laptop fell victim to liquid damage.

“I was literally about to walk out of the door and head to a history final and spilled soda on my laptop,” Hoffman said in an email.

Hoffman had a friend who wasn’t taking a final at that time take the seared machine to Bobcat Depot. The gurus weren’t able to completely fix her laptop, but they were able to get all the files off, she said.

“I was definitely freaking out when it happened,” Hoffman said. “Especially because it was finals week.”

Hoffman said she was able to use her roommate's extra laptop for the rest of the week. 

During move-in weekend one year, he said a woman had her computer sitting on a windowsill, when a mover knocked the machine out of the window.

“It fell four stories and it completely snapped,” Brock said.

No matter how rough the repair, Brock has fun with his job by keeping a Facebook album of the worst repair situations that make him laugh.

When the gurus do come across liquid damage, it is “iffy” if they can bring it back to life, Bowald said. The most they can do is try to dry it out, he said.

Brock also tells students about the computer labs available for students to use across campus.

The lab on the fifth floor of Baker Center is usually where he tells students to go, Brock said, but he added that students can go to the college of their major and use those labs.

Desperate students often come to Nedra Plant, an IT specialist at Alden Library, for guidance.

“I’ve had a few who have desperately needed (a laptop) because they dropped them off at the tech depot or if it just stopped working,” Plant said.

Alden Library has 25 laptops available for Ohio University students to check out, Plant said, adding that the demand for them increases mid-year and at the end of each semester.

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Plant added that the laptops can’t be removed from Alden, and can only be checked out for two hours at a time. The library employees also discourage students from leaving documents on the rented laptops in case they’re accidentally deleted, Plant said.

No matter the end result, the tech gurus at Bobcat Depot always hope for a good end result for the distraught student. 

"It's much more fun to see the relief on people's faces," Bowald said. 


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