The ResiSTORE: The power behind OSU’s underground electronics nonprofit

By Logan Howell
Tristan Luther, a third-year in electrical and computer engineering, shows off the original ResiSTORE sign, previously known as the IEEE Store. Luther has been the volunteer manager since winter term 2019. 

Jade Minzlaff, News Contributor

The ResiSTORE, a non-profit electronics shop located in the Dearborn Hall basement, recently celebrated a record-breaking week in sales, with over $400 made in a single week from items averaging about 30 cents apiece. 

The ResiSTORE is a passion project run by a volunteer staff that specializes in a wide variety of electronics equipment for students and hobbyists alike, setting it apart from other, better-known electronics stores on campus, like Tekbots, which is run through the Electrical Engineering department and primarily provides lab kits for classes. 

Tristan Luther, a third-year student in electrical and computer engineering, has been the manager of the ResiSTORE since winter term of 2019. “This is the Dearborn basement, which is not too good for getting our name out, but that’s sort of the culture of this place. We’re very underground, it’s sort of like, ‘if you know, you know’ kind of thing. The fact that a 20-year-old college student owns a room in Dearborn, essentially, that’s weird, but it works.”

When he first started volunteering at the store, Luther said that it looked “like a hurricane” had gone through it, and devoted himself to improving the space. “It was like a bunch of rotting cardboard boxes with electronic parts loosely strewed about them, not too great. We wanted it to be nice because we saw a lot of value in the service this could provide to students if it could fulfill its potential.”

Some of Luther’s work in the ResiSTORE includes the creation of a new website and a sophisticated barcode system for shelving that lets store volunteers keep track of their exact inventory. Additionally, he made wooden signs engraved with art from April James, a third-year student in computer science, who he said he met through volunteering at the store. 

Comparing the ResiSTORE to Tekbots, Luther said, “We both serve different purposes. The ResiSTORE is more prototyping, more specialized, we have about 1,700 items in our inventory, Tekbots has about 400.” 

Luther said their inventory contains a wide variety of electronics components including resistors, transistors, connectors, microcontrollers, inductors, capacitors, prototyping supplies and tools. Jumper wire is currently their best selling item. 

Luther said that he became interested in researching the history of the ResiSTORE in the OSU Archives after he took over the shop, and has had correspondence with the now-retired professor Donald Amort, who founded the store around 1960, which was originally known as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Store. 

According to Luther’s correspondence with Amort, the IEEE Store was founded when the transistor started to become part of the curriculum for electronics classes in the early 1960s, and lab kits became necessary for classes. These electronics kits were originally sold in the Memorial Union bookstore, which was then located on Monroe Avenue, but the bookstore employees at the time “couldn’t tell a transistor from a resistor,” so Amort started his own electronics store staffed by his teaching assistants in what is now a janitor’s closet on the second floor of Dearborn Hall.  

In 1971 the store was taken over by the IEEE Club as a way for their members to gain experience with hardware. During this time, the store outgrew the janitor’s closet and moved into its current home in the Dearborn basement. 

Luther said Tom Plant, a former advisor for the IEEE Club, referred to the 1980s and 1990s as being a “dark period” for the store, which was mostly dormant at this time. The IEEE store was officially run by the IEEE Club until they disbanded in 2015.

According to Luther, in 2016 the Robotics Club took over the store and renamed it the OSU Robotics Club Store, before rebranding as the ResiSTORE in 2017. 

Luther started volunteering in the winter of 2018 and has been continually making improvements, like upgrading their register to accept both cash and card. 

Grant Haines, a third-year student in computer science, has volunteered at the ResiSTORE for two terms. “It’s a really great opportunity, I don’t get to do a lot with hardware, so I just like the opportunity to learn more about it.” 

Haines said that he enjoys the community created by the store volunteers.   

“It’s very down to earth, everyone who works here likes doing it and is here because they want to be here. It’s why Tristan set it up,” Haines said.

The recent improvements to the store have made it more accessible to students, and an increasing number of students are taking advantage of their variety of inventory. 

David Wood, a second-year student in electrical and computer engineering, and one of the ResiSTORE volunteers who will be taking over Luther’s position next term said, “There is definitely an upward trend that we’ve noticed throughout this year specifically, we actually had a record-setting week two weeks ago.” Wood estimated that around 15 to 20 students purchase from the ResiSTORE per day.

Luther said that he hopes their rising profits won’t get in the way of their mission. “We need to maintain our nonprofit status because we’re a service to the community, not a method of making money, but we’re having a problem of, people are buying so much that profits are kind of happening, so we need to optimize our prices to that, but it allows us to give more back to the community by stocking more, weirder, parts and stuff that’s more specialized,” Luther said. 

In the future, the ResiSTORE team says they hope to expand the store. 

“We just plan on getting a bigger inventory, I don’t know if one day we’ll outgrow this room. I hope so, I hope it could be a full-fledged electronics store in Corvallis because those don’t exist anymore,” Luther said.  

The ResiSTORE has a flexible schedule of hours posted on their website and encourages any interested students to volunteer.

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