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Mini Maker Faire to put the spotlight on creators' handiwork


If you ask the organizers of Las Vegas' Mini Maker Faire, " Why?," they will simply tell you, " Because it's cool."

The event is part of a larger, nationwide maker movement. Makers are anyone who believes the do-it-yourself route is the way to go -- homemade shoes that light up while dancing, a machine that makes piñatas, anything they can imagine.

The people at the SYN Shop, a downtown maker hive at 117 N. Fourth St., slated to open next month, are attempting to unite their laser cutter- wielding community Feb. 2 at the Historic Fifth Street School for the Mini Maker Faire.

"It's really one large show and tell," said Pawel Szymczykowski, an organizer of the event. "People bring their projects and share how it's made."

Projects range from the light hearted, such as a working droid inspired by "Star Wars," to the more practical, such as a sprinkler system dubbed the hydrogadget that communicates simultaneously, via the Internet, to the home owner and water authority . SYN Shop president Brian Munroe helped create the hydrogadget, a project featured on the fair's flier.

"Well, we're on the flier, so we have to get it done now," he said jokingly. "But done is better than perfect."

It is a mind-set that permeates throughout the maker community.

"You don't even have to know what you're doing," SYN Shop director Suz Hinton said. "You just need the willingness to do something you've been putting off for years."

SYN Shop member and event organizer Bill Tomiyasu said the open-ended atmosphere of the fair will attract a wide audience.

"It tends to be tech-oriented, but the fair also caters to the art crowd," he said. "There is a lot of camaraderie and a feeling of openness."

Partially funded by the Downtown Project - a privately supported $350 million venture aimed at reviving downtown Las Vegas through investment in startup businesses, technology, the arts, culture and education - the fair has rented out the Historic Fifth Street School, 401 S. Fourth St., to host the 30 exhibits.

"We're not huge, but the space is not huge," Szymczykowski said. "I wasn't sure the kind of response we'd get."

All agreed that an event such as the Las Vegas Mini Maker Faire is needed in the valley.

"There's all these other people with like minds, and the goal is to bring them all into one space," Munroe said. "We need something to demonstrate that yes, there is a bond here, and draw them out of their garages."

This is the first Mini Maker Faire in Las Vegas, but the group has big plans for the coming years.

Started by Make magazine in 2006, the maker faires across the globe must seek permission from the company to start one. Once an event reaches a critical mass, it is removed from the "mini" category, something the Las Vegas organizers believe may not be far away.

"There is already a thriving maker community in Las Vegas, at the university, production crews on the Strip," Munroe said. "We're embracing the Vegas side of the maker movement."

Hinton agreed. "We'll get to the point where they can't ignore us any longer," she said with a smile.

The event is open to the public. Tickets start at $8 and can be purchased from the event's website, makerfairevegas.com.

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Nolan Lister at nlister@viewnews.com or 702-383-0492.