Civic Hardware Hackathon
Photo by Michael Fleshman via Flickr
Hurricane Sandy left the dockside district of Red Hook, Brooklyn destroyed. Two years after the storm, Red Hook is still trying to recover from the impact that it had on the community. At the Civic Hardware Hackathon, participants worked with members of the Red Hook Community to test out disaster relief innovations.

Two years after Hurricane Sandy, parts of New York and New Jersey are still recovering from the damage that the storm caused. It is natural disasters such as these that prompted the The Feast 2014 conference, held in Red Hook, Brooklyn, to host a civic hardware hackathon in tandem with the annual conference on October 9-11.

Technologists, entrepreneurs, and innovators across the public and private sectors participated in the first Civic Hardware Hackathon for Disaster Preparedness in support of the White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative. Co-hosted by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology DirectorateFederal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), The FeastIDEO, andIntel, the two-day event focused on creating and refining solutions to empower the disaster resilience community and survivors with critical information and resources.

Participants in the Hackathon had the opportunity to test their project in the Red Hook community and get their work into the hands of local stakeholders, gathering insight and feedback in order to refine their prototypes into useable tools. All projects presented had an open source element, which emergency responders could deploy at little or no cost.

Projects included off-the-grid messaging using off-the-shelf components, and crowdsourced data and open hardware. Overall, the event emphasized community resourcefulness and capabilities that could be sustained under harsh conditions. reported that one team of innovators called the Civic Ninijas started a new “Citizen Power Brigade” project for this hackathon to transform a hybrid electric vehicle into a clean and fuel-efficient source of mobile emergency power. Their prototype charged up to 100 phones simultaneously, and was demonstrated at over 3 locations in Brooklyn during the hackathon.  In one week with a single tank of gas, one hybrid car can charge 8,400 phones, providing 12 million minutes of talk time for disaster survivors or providing emergency power to run appliances such as refrigerators.

Laura McLauglin from Cascade Designs told

“The event brought together creative and open-minded people willing to roll up their sleeves to help, plus compelling real-world challenges – a recipe for collaboration and creativity.” 

Her team gathered feedback for their Clean Water STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Education project, aiming to improve hands-on science learning while pre-positioning water treatment devices in schools across the country for disaster preparedness. The water treatment device they shared can generate enough chlorine from table salt and a rechargeable car battery to treat a 55-gallon barrel of water in 5 minutes.

Robin Reid, Brooklyn resident and hackathon mentor, noted:

“Participants were challenged to question their assumptions and see the big picture impact in addition to putting in the hours to get the hardware to work.”

To read more about the Civic Hardware Hackathon and the teams that participated in the events, click here.

Related Stories: NYC Unveils New Disaster Relief Housing Prototype 

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