Tucked on 4th Street next to the bustle of Fremont, a small community of hackers belonging to SYN Shop moved in just over a year ago. Although the group boasts a hefty array of high-tech equipment, these hackers are not in any way linked to the nefarious types trolling the Internet. Prior to the criminal connotation, the term “hacking”—which originated around 1960—referred primarily to communities of programing and design enthusiasts. That perfectly describes the members of SYN Shop. Members gather daily to tinker with robots, problem-solve designs, and print three dimensional sculptures.
Over the past decade, hacking spaces have begun popping up all over the country. In 2008, SYN Shop founders Krux Rosowski and Brian Munroe spent time visiting other community hacking spaces including HeatSync in Mesa, Arizona and Noisebridge in San Francisco, California. The creativelycharged community experience left them convinced that Las Vegas was in need of its own hacker space.
“You can get a garage full of tools but you can’t get a garage full of people,” explains Rosowski. “Seeing the community of other hacker spaces made us want that here. With a community, you can accomplish much larger things. You get people who know things you don’t, so you can do more than you could on your own. Plus, the community can inspire you to make even more things!”
“It’s like having a bunch of MacGyvers all in one room,” says veteran member Alicia Dirk, of her experiences at SYN Shop. Rosowski kicked things off with SYN Shop gatherings in his garage starting with three people at first. Slowly the group grew in popularity, and the growing membership (over 100 members currently) and the growing tool collection needed a larger, more formal space.
The SYN Shop equipment offerings are diverse and include everything from 3-D printers, a Full Spectrum, 90w laser cutter, industrial sewing machine, 3-D microscope (“Great for checking soldering joints,” adds Rosowski), a weaving loom, and a massive CNC routing machine called the Shopbot. “You basically put wood in, and furniture comes out,” says Rosowski. A brief safety certification process and membership of $40 per month grants access to all these incredible tools. Members just need to bring their own materials. For those not ready to join, membership is not required to sign up for classes.
SYN Shop offers a variety of classes from soldering, lectures in welding, artisan chocolate crafting (“I’m teaching chocolate tempering at the moment,” adds Alicia.) network cable crafting, Sesame Street Muppets, quilting, electronic troubleshooting and more. Members are encouraged to share their knowledge with others informally or by volunteering to teach a class.
“We want you to walk away with something, not just a new skill,” adds Brian Dirk, another veteran member, glancing up from the Rube Goldberg machine he’s constructing. “We had a puppet class and everyone made and left with an awesome professional puppet.” Placing a small silver ball on the track, he tests the progress of his project. The ball slides from track to track before spiraling down a plastic bottle and shooting out of the bottom. Both Rosowski and Alicia chime in with excited approval and suggestions for improvements, demonstrating the type of creative collaboration that happens all the time at SYN Shop.
“It’s all about the making,” remarks Alicia, “taking things apart and putting it back together even better.”
SYN Shop | synshop.org
117 N. 4th Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101