Las Vegas SYN Shop home for makers, hobbyists, tinkerers

In an office park storefront in Henderson, a gang of hackers gathers.

Adult hackers. Mom and dad hackers. Even a few kid hackers, all of them concentrating intently on the morning’s activity.

But don’t worry. Your credit card number, your photos, your tax records and anything else you might have floating around somewhere in some sort of digital form is safe. That’s because these hackers are a more diverse — and a more benevolent — group than the hackers you usually read about.

All are members of SYN Shop (https://synshop.org), which bills itself as Las Vegas’ “hackerspace,” a place where enthusiasts of computers and other activities ranging from woodworking to crocheting gather to pursue their passions, collaborate with and mentor one another, and share their passions with newcomers.

In one room, a group of kids is using mallets to pound stamped designs into straps of leather that will leave the room as bracelets. Nearby, a computer enthusiast installs a hand-operated control device in his computer. And in the connected warehouse-sized space out back, another member makes a wooden chessboard with the help of a high-tech, and pricey, laser cutter.

If it helps, think of “hacker” in this context as the modern-day equivalent of “tinkerer” or “hobbyist,” but with the ability to use equipment way cooler than anything your dad might have borrowed from a neighbor’s garage.

SYN Shop is “like a community center for nerds, basically,” jokes Mark Koch, a member of the group’s board of directors.

“For us, ‘hacker’ means that we see things in the world differently. Like, we buy a product and we like to take it apart to see how it works, and we might add a button to make it work slightly different, hacking, or changing our own gear to make it do things the (original) engineer didn’t think of,” Koch says.

“SYN Shop” plays off of “Sin City” and also alludes to synergy, the notion that two things combined can create something greater than either one can alone. Its beginnings date back to 2008 when a group of valley do-it-yourselfers would meet casually to discuss shared interests.

“We used to run out of people’s garages,” Koch says, but as more enthusiasts joined in, “we had to move to bigger quarters.”

Koch says SYN Shop spent three years in downtown Las Vegas before space demands prompted a move to its current location at 1075 American Pacific Drive, Suite C, Henderson. There, for a $50 monthly fee, SYN Shop members have access to some seriously cool — and really expensive — equipment that they can use to, as the group’s motto puts it, “make things awesome.”

“The way we describe our membership is that it’s like a gym membership with tools,” Koch jokes.

There’s an electronics area, a metalworking area and a woodworking area equipped with a drill press, band saws and a lathe. There are 3-D printers and a laser cutter, Koch says, and even “a ShopBot,” which cuts large pieces of wood.

“We have a whole spectrum of other tools that you probably wouldn’t be able to afford. But for 50 bucks a month, you can come here and rent them.”

On a recent Saturday, the lower-tech craft of leather working was being taught to kids who wielded mallets with surprisingly painless dexterity. Robert Vinson says he and daughter Emma, 10, have been to SYN Shop “many times. There’s a lot of neat stuff for the kids.”

Emma is “very mechanically inclined,” he adds. “She’s an artist. She draws and makes things. She works with me in the garage and does carpentry.”

“It’s fun,” says Emma, adding that her favorite thing to do at the SYN Shop is “just about everything.”

Camren Wakefield has been a SYN Shop member for about three months. He says that even the pricey equipment made available to members — Koch says the laser cutter and ShopBot alone would run about $20,000 apiece — is dwarfed in value by the knowledge fellow members are willing to share.

“All of these guys are superintelligent,” he says, and “what’s nice about this place is you don’t have to be a member to get their experience. You can show up and just hang out with them.”

Tyas Frantz is using the laser cutter in the back shop to make a chessboard. Actually, Frantz says this is the second chessboard he’s making with the cutter. During his first attempt, “I learned a lot,” he says, mostly from fellow members offering tips.

“There is a community element happening here,” he says. “People watched me and said, ‘You know what you should do? Put tape here and here …’ So I learned a lot while that was happening and, ultimately, it makes me want to try again.”

While only members have free run of the SYN Shop’s equipment, classes held at the shop are open to anybody for fees that range from free to about $10, Koch says. (A schedule of classes and discussion groups can be found at www.meetup.com/synshop)

 

And, Koch says, anybody is welcome to stop in just to pick members’ brains. SYN Shop has about 100 members, whose membership fees generate enough money to keep the space open.

While some people become members only for as long as they need to use the shop’s facilities and tools, Koch says others pay the $50 fee each month even if they don’t use the facility simply because they support having a hackerspace here.

“A lot of our members are just dedicated to the concept of this,” Koch says. “So we just pay our $50 a month whether we use it or not, because we want this place to exist.”

Read more from John Przybys at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com and follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

Life
MAGIC fashion convention showcases men's clothing trends
The MAGIC fashion convention has come to Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase some of the hottest clothing trends for men. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Army medic’s Afghanistan story told in new book
The graphic novel “Machete Squad” is based on journals written by Las Vegan Brent Dulak.
Las Vegas man talks about losing his wife
Dwayne Murray, 37, lost his wife, LaQuinta while she was at Centennial Hills Hospital. A jury awarded him $43 million last week after it said the hospital failed to perform the standard of care in administering a drug for her sickle cell disease.
Barber sets up shop in grandfather’s old shop
Andres Dominguez’s new barber shop is filled with memories of his grandfather, who ran the El Cortez landmark for more than 30 years. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life and times of a 90-year-old horse player
Leo Polito of Las Vegas describes meeting legendary jockey and trainer Johnny Longden on the beach at Del Mar. Mike Brunker/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Learning the history of singing bowls
Presentation at Summerlin Library teaches residents about the history of singing bowls (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learning live-saving techniques in Stop the Bleed class
Leslie Shaffer, an AMR paramedic, shows how to control bleeding during a Stop the Bleed course at the Summerlin Library. The class is designed to teach anyone how to control and stop life-threatening bleeding. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vicki Richardson speaks about on the power of art
Artist and arts advocate Vicki Richardson talks about the power of art to inspire and challenge. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DressCoders pairs tech with haute couture
DressCoders is a startup focused on haute couture garments. The company uses illuminated thread that is washable and can be sewn right into the fabric. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Brava infrared oven
In cooking with the Brava infrared oven,there’s no preheating. the bulbs can reach 500 degrees in less than a second. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sinks Merge Style And Utility
Study could determine cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
Dr. Aaron Ritter, director of clinical trials at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, discusses his research on how inflammation in the brain impacts Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holocaust survivors talk about tragedy and friendship
Janos Strauss and Alexander Kuechel share their perspectives on life. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Siegel Cares' Santa delivers toys to kids at Siegel Suites in Las Vegas
Siegel Cares, the charitable wing of The Siegel Group, delivered toys to families at their apartment complexes in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Revisiting “Christ the King” sculpture
A longtime admirer of the sculpture at Christ the King Catholic Community in Las Vegas shares her perspective. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator Christmas House
Arguably better than a hotel holiday display, is Terry and Angie Fator's home located in southwest Las Vegas.
UNLV Winter Graduation Packs Thomas & Mack
UNLV's 55th winter commencement ceremony included approximately 2,146 undergraduate and graduate students who recently completed their studies. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Build-A-Bear comes to Reed Elementary School
Students participated in a Build-A-Bear-Workshop at Doris Reed Elementary School in Las Vegas, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the LVRJ
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center art depicts names of God
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center founder Sharaf Haseebullah talks about new diamond-shaped art panels featuring some of the 99 names of Allah at the main entrance the Las Vegas mosque. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine explain the different types of poultry available for the holidays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Catholic Charities hosts early Christmas meal
Students from the Bishop Gorman High School football and cheerleader team helped to serve food at the Christmas meal sponsored by the Frank and Victoria Fertitta Foundation at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on Sunday. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
ad-high_impact_4
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like