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3D-printed boats will race in first-annual Red Hook Regatta

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RED HOOK, Brooklyn — The first-annual Red Hook Regatta takes place this Sunday, 4 p.m. at Valentino Park in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

The public will cheer as 3D-printed boats race to deliver mini-cargo along the pier. The event is the brainchild of students in the Red Hook Initiative’s Digital Stewardship Program.

The Digital Stewardship Program is a free one-year program for young adults that unlocks the world of technology through self-discovery, problem solving, and creative critical thinking. Students undergo six months of tech classes - including hands-on experience in 3D printing, coding, and wifi networking - followed by a six month internship.

In addition to tech skills, Digital Stewards learn event planning, marketing, project management, business relations, and more. All are skills required to plan and execute the Regatta, which is fully run by the students. The stewards also manage Red Hook WIFI, a free network providing internet access to the community.

Participants, who must be ages 19-24, are paid for their time in the program.

As their capstone project, Digital Stewards Laurenzo Reed and Jesus Benitez wanted to merge their neighborhood’s rich shipping history with the fun of technology.

“My job as a digital steward is to show everybody the ways of technology and introduce it to everybody,” says Benitez, who had never worked with 3D printing prior to the program.

Benitez, who aspires to run a gaming company someday, coded a free video game to explain the rules of the Regatta.

Tech jobs are a hot commodity. According to nyctecheconomy.com, New York City’s technology ecosystem encompasses nearly 300,000 jobs. Of those, 44% do not require a bachelor's degree. The average salary is just under $40 per hour, which is nearly 50% more than the city wide average.

Digital Stewards are given training, mentorship, and on-the-job experience that make them both capable and confident enough to pursue careers in tech. Many leave the program with their own independent clients.

The cultural component of the program is a major factor. According to their website, Digital Stewards, “bridge the digital divide using a diverse set of technology and media skills, empowering young people’s dreams and creating new levels of success.”

The Digital Stewardship program is a program of the Red Hook Initiative. The regatta is a project of RHI's collaboration with Pioneer Works, known as the Civic Journalism program.

Through a broad range of exhibitions, performances, arts and science residencies, and educational programs, Pioneer Works seeks to transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries, foster community, and provide a space where alternative modes of thought are supported and activated in tangible ways.

To apply for the Digital Stewardship program, email tony(at)rhicenter.org to request an application.