Andrew Leitholf of Cuyahoga Falls started brewing beer in his apartment three years ago. Now he has a cavernous former factory in which to whip up his barley, oats and hops.
The 26-year-old graduate student in geology is a founding member of the Akron hacker space SYN/HAK, which provides space for like-minded folk to share ideas about technology, art and science — or to just tackle projects on their own.
“Do you know the difference between a microcontroller and a table?” the group asks on its http://synhak.org web page. “Maybe you want to combine the two somehow. Then SYN/HAK might be a good place for you to check out.”
The group held an open house on Saturday to showcase its modest quarters at 21 W. North St. in Akron.
It is among hundreds of not-for-profit hacker spaces around the globe that offer free equipment and instruction for do-it-yourselfers and techies of just about any stripe in computers, technology, digital art, electronic art, soldering, woodworking, metalworking, sewing and more.
The emphasis is on spreading the word about, well, anything from programming Arduinos, or small computers, to making stained-glass windows — with a good dose of neighborliness thrown in.
“Our first rule is, ‘Be excellent to others,’ ” said Trever Fischer, 24, of Akron, one of the two co-founders of the budding enterprise. “This is a ‘do-acracy.’ We don’t want any one person to be in charge. We want to make sure people are happy.’
Fischer is a computer programmer by day and a SYN/HAK “champion” by night.
In a more conventional club, he and fellow champion, 23-year-old Chris Egeland of Bath Township, a systems administrator, would be called officers. Here they exist to keep the doors open and 14 members, and counting, happy.
Just about anything goes. Dues that start at $35 a month enable members to come into the space anytime they want, vote in SYN/HAK meetings and work on just about anything they want. They get their own keys, so access into the building is easy.
Fischer said donations and dues will help pay SYN/HAK’s rent of $500 a month for 2,000 square feet to building owner Tony Troppe.
But this is a community space, so if participants leave a project laying around, others may paint it, disassemble it, move it or incorporate it into their own work.
SYN/HAK also doesn’t do work for hire, even though many of their members are professionals who could fix computers or install mufflers. The emphasis is on learning, not making money.
“People want to drop off computers for us to repair, but we don’t do that,” said Penny Golightley, a 24-year-old biomedical engineering student from Cuyahoga Falls. “If you drop off your computer, we’ll keep it.”
But you don’t have to pay anything to stop in when the space is open, which is 7 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, 6 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday.
The space is spartan, the floors worn and the social quarters decidedly bohemian with green, weathered booths from a long-gone restaurant.
The organization’s name comes from the words “synchronization” and “hacker.”
New members and visitors are welcome. Contact Fischer at 440-858-3382 or tdfischer @fedoraproject.org or Egeland at 440-476-9066 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3729.