Macathon competition invites student ingenuity and creativity

Macathon competition invites student ingenuity and creativity

Rachel Kelly, Staff Writer

On Friday, November 4, Macalester students piled into Olin-Rice for the annual Macathon event. A 24-hour long competition, 19 teams with three to six students each were assigned rooms throughout the three levels of OlRi, and settled in to tackle real-world issues. 

“Macathon is an overnight innovation competition and they invite a bunch of students, about 100 in teams, and put us in OlRi overnight with unlimited caffeine and a lot of food and ask us to come up with a solution to a real world problem,” Aahanaa Tibrewal ’25 said. 

“We really just wanted to have a good time, spend some time together and come up with something fun, but our main priority was just to do it so that we had done it and to have a good time,” Finn Veerkamp ’25 said.

The competition was a mix of newcomers and returning Macathon participants. Those who had competed before knew what to expect from the weekend event.

“My first year I didn’t sleep all night and so I was expecting something pretty similar to that once again this year,” Tibrewal explained.

But there were some students who had no prior experience with the event.

“My team were all first year Macalester students so we didn’t have very many expectations,” Evvie Bond ’26 said. “We thought we were going to be just exhausted by the end of it. That was probably what we were most worried about and we were thinking that the other participants would have already predeveloped perfect ideas and such but it was fine, we fit right in.”

Regardless of experience levels, everyone showed up to have some creative fun with friends.

“[Macathon is] chaotic time with friends like where you’re just kind of just talking and arguing but in a really productive way,” Adley Shwartz ’25 said. 

Students are allowed to brainstorm problems before the event begins but not solutions. 

“I had zero thoughts about what we’re gonna do,” Shwartz said. “You can bring some problems but not solutions to those problems. We didn’t do anything, we were just like, we’ll show up and see how it goes.”

During the competition, dinner from Shish was provided to all the participants. Macalester alumni and faculty serve as judges who complete two rounds of advising throughout the night. 

“[Judges] hold some office hours, so it’s really helpful to be able to talk to them because these are just people from different fields. They ask really interesting questions which help direct our projects,” Tibrewal said.

Additionally, students are able to ask for help from outside sources. They’re encouraged to reach out to experts, friends, faculty and staff, anyone who can assist them in developing their product. 

Macathon solutions take shape in many different ways. Students are able to create just about anything to address their problem. These include apps, programs and prototypes. Teams have to show demand for their solution and present a prototype or blueprint of their product to judges in team presentations. 

Students were encouraged to problem-solve outside their Macalester classroom experience. Any problem was up for grabs and any solution could be created.

“It’s a whole 24 hours where I put all everything else in my life just on pause. I put my brain on pause for academics,” Tibrewal said. “Instead I just think about something cool that interests me and try to make something out of that. It’s really fun.”

After brainstorming and planning Friday evening into the night, teams participated in the semi-finals on Saturday. Six teams, two from each floor of OlRi, were chosen to participate in the finals. After final presentations, the top three teams were chosen by judges. 

“Pockitz,” a kit for expanding women’s pants pockets, took home the first-place prize of $1,000. The team behind the product—Yvonne Moreira-Audrade ’25, Kiara Garcia ’25, Adley Shwartz ’25, Finn Veerkamp ’25, Ronan Manning ’25, and Morgan Niven ’24—wanted to solve an issue people could identify with.

The team used Instagram polls, interviews, a usable prototype and data about marketability, cost, and scalability to explain why their product was needed, what audience it served, and how the solution would realistically roll out.

“It’s a huge market obviously,” Shwartz said. “There’s something like $50 billion worth of women’s pants produced a year.”

The second place team received $750 for their solution to soil erosion. Having researched existing solutions, the team set out to make them more environmentally-friendly without sacrificing cost. The team consisted of Aahanaa Tibrewal ’25, Issaka Van’t Hul ’25, and Juliet Cramer ’24.

Their goal was to create more sustainable, longer-term solutions to erosion issues globally. 

“We realized that some methods already exist, but they’re not entirely viable yet, and so our solution found an improvement of those methods and made it more practical in the long term,” Tibrewal said.

The third place team created a new design for epinephrine auto-injectors—known commercially as EpiPens—that deliver life-saving medication to millions with severe food allergies. The team sought to reduce the cost of injectors and make them easier for untrained bystanders to administer. The team members were Evvie Bond ’26, Chloe Ke ’26, and Shelly Bai ’25.

“Our project tried to come up with a new epinephrine auto-injector that did not fall under any of the current patents, and we called it the epic pen,” Bond said. “It’s essentially an Epipen that’s easier to use and would have a price ceiling so that [the price would be] kept at below $100, no matter what.” 

Overall, Macathon is about creative solution building and having fun with friends, making it an annual and cherished tradition at Macalester. 

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