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When curious people gather, big ideas often result. A hackerspace gives them the tools and know-how to execute those ideas. A recent local example is the Robot Army, a DIY delta-robot kit conceived by artist Sarah Petkus and engineer Mark Koch, who met at Syn Shop. After working through their design, the pair did a KickStarter campaign to manufacture their three-legged little bot for consumers. They met their $25,000 goal in March, and held a build party on Aug. 31. “What’s so cool about this is that two people came together in the space, and we were able to equip them,” Hinton says. “Prior to this, Sarah was using plastic spoons and stuff.” It’s that sort of nerd-magic Hinton sought when she came to Vegas from her native Australia for a job at Zappos in 2011. Although she’d gone the software route in college, she’s loved hardware since childhood, when her father would bring home kits for the two of them to put together. She was the kind of kid who wasn’t satisfied just soldering; she had to take apart the torch and see how it worked. When Hinton arrived in the States, she knew she’d need a community of like-minded people to feel at home in her new environment. She immediately connected with Syn Shop founders Jeff Rosowski and Brian Munroe, who’d started the meetup in Rosowski’s garage. Less than two weeks later, the group was funded. “I turned up at the right place at the right time,” Hinton says. The collective has come far since then, reaching its goal of 80-100 paying members this year. But Hinton thinks the greatest achievement is its alternative business model. The organization is flat and transparent: Board meetings are conducted out in the open, anyone in the shop is invited to listen in, and any founding or vetted member can vote. “That’s the hackerspace way,” Hinton says, “trying to subvert things to a certain degree, to show people there’s another way, and that it can work.” H.K.

“Vegas has all kinds of urban tribes,” says Boyd, referring to professional subcultures that often live in self-contained cells: designers, writers, photographers. “And that can make it hard to find the right person for a gig.” Think of Nomic as a hyperlocal LinkedIn — with a crisp interface and a focus on people rather than endless résumés. The core tool is

Charitweet Giving in 140 characters or less

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ith its one-click buys, next-day deliveries, and digital carts and virtual wallets, the Internet wants you to spend, spend, spend. But what about give, give, give? With one foot still in yesterday’s era of call-in lines and pledge campaigns, charitable giving hasn’t exactly gone 2.0. Charles Huang intends to change that with Charitweet, which aims to make giving as easy as tweeting. Huang — who went to middle school and high school in Las Vegas — got the idea of a streamlined giving platform just before graduating from MIT in June 2013. He daydreamed it aloud to a friend. “I was really into the ‘save the world with software’ thing,” Huang says. He continued to believe in it after he took a well-paying — but unfulfilling — job with a Big Data firm out of college. “My friend calls me three weeks later and goes, ‘Hey, I built that software program you were talking about.’ I couldn’t believe it. I try it out and it works.” Huang resigned his position with the Big Data firm and committed full-time to Charitweet (chrtwt.org). It’s simple: You just tweet a dollar figure at the Twitter-enabled charity of your choice, include @chrtwt and you get a link back for a making a secure donation. (Charitweet takes a 3 percent transaction fee.) Great, but what about scam charities and shady nonprofits? Huang landed a dream beta tester to avoid that problem: respected philanthropy watchdog Charity Navigator. “Forging that relationship was a really huge win,” says Huang. It blossomed into a partnership. For their October launch, Huang says Charity Navigator (itself a charity) connected Charitweet to the more than 4,000 charities that Charity Navigator has awarded at least three out of four stars. Next on Huang’s task list: becoming the official charity partner of Twitter, to put its new “Buy” button to work for some deserving do-gooders. A.K.

the directory, a Tumblr-style grid of portals: arts, music, design, community and others. Those open onto grids of Nomic profiles that you can “ping” to start a professional connection. Boyd says they’re hard at work on an update that aims to streamline the process even more. If you’re raising your eyebrows at yet another social media platform, Boyd clarifies

that Nomic is intended more as a tool — a fun, colorful tool — than a site for posting selfies and vapid status updates. “It’s not a feed-the-beast model,” he says. “This is a much more focused effort to encourage people to make lasting professional connections.” A.K.

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Desert Companion - November 2014  

Your guide to living in southern Nevada.

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