(Photo by Brady Dale)
As the Navy Yard, Downtown and Dumbo hog the spotlight in the borough’s tech renaissance, Hack Red Hook, the neighborhood’s first-ever hackathon, married civic engagement and code to serve the most pressing needs of residents and put Red Hook on the map as a potent force in Brooklyn tech.
Held at the massive 25,000-square-foot headquarters of host PioneerWorks, a nonprofit dedicated to the synthesis of art, science and technology, the 24-hour event gave students and professionals the opportunity to learn, express themselves and raise awareness of tech in Red Hook.
The first-ever Red Hook neighborhood hackathon was hosted from Friday, April 18 to Saturday, April 19. Hack Red Hook was organized specifically by Angel Say and Dave Scheinkopf. Say, a recent college graduate, works on nanotronics software at PioneerWorks and Scheinkopf, a Red Hook resident, is Director of Education at the space.
Though representatives from Twilio, Foursquare and Gilt presented their APIs on Friday evening, there was no single focus or theme to the event.
“The goal is creation,” said Say, and create they did. Around 75 participants built 12 projects, seven of which won prizes donated from the community. The Red Hook Crit, a popular bike race, offered a messenger bag while restaurants such as Good Fork and Port Defiance donated gift certificates for the winners.
Find all the submissions here. Here are a list of the winning projects:
- Red Hook Hub Online — The HUB is the brainchild of a team of graphic designers, activists and artists with Design/Relief, a project to address unmet community needs in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. After conversations with Red Hook residents it was clear that communication was the biggest issue. At the hackathon, a team of four engineers began the HUB’s website that upon completion will allow users to input neighborhood information and announcements for anything from babysitting to storm warnings. The site will compliment two physical billboards and an LED ticker meant to serve those without internet access.
- LDLN (“Landline”) — was another prize-winning hack that leveraged the Twilio API to help organizations efficiently deliver relief services to communities affected by natural disasters. For example, if a bridge linking two towns is damaged and un-passable, responders can record its location and LDLN spreads the word so that others heading to the area can seek alternative routes.
- Smooth Streets — Transportation is a major problem in Red Hook, residents repeatedly said, and a third prize-winning hack called Smooth Streets uses Twilio and NYC Open Data to provide a map with the locations of outstanding road condition complaints. An added feature contacts the relevant elected representative with a phone call and email.
- Story Farm — An innovative approach to cultivate art and storytelling, for children and adults.
- Aegis — Aegis is a DIY security system. Using a laptop and a Leap Motion, anyone can set up a robust defensive mechanism for their household or local business. Using Twilio and SendGrid APIs, notifications when someone has broken into your property are instant.
In addition to creating these initial tools, the hackathon also aimed to bridge Red Hook’s tech and non-technical worlds. Local business Pizza Moto and Snap Hot Dogs contributed food while the Red Hook Initiative’s Digital Stewards provided logistical support. For these Stewards, local 19-24-year-olds who recently began training to maintain and build Red Hook’s own Wifi network, it was a first exposure to hacking culture and software development.
According to Scheinkopf, the success of Hack Red Hook will likely spur other events such as a Red Hook Regatta to design and race motorized boats, along with another hackathon in fall. In the meantime you can learn more about PioneerWorks education initiatives, follow the progress of the latest cohort of RHI Digital Stewards through their blog and await the launch of the HUB at Red Hook Fest in early June.