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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Macathon 2023; inspiring at Macalester and beyond

Macathon 2023; inspiring at Macalester and beyond

This past weekend, a record 21 teams worked overnight in Macalester’s annual 24-hour innovation and creativity competition: Macathon. Scribbling furiously on whiteboards and caffeinated beyond reason, these students worked to create and inspire.

In Macathon, teams of three to six people develop ideas to solve a real-world problem. The possibilities are endless, with one restriction: teams have just under 24 hours to develop their idea, construct a prototype and present to a panel of judges. The culmination of the competition, a presentation from the six finalists, opened with a speech from Jody Emmings, Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She highlighted the importance of implementing the ideals Macathon inspires in every aspect of life.

“Don’t let this be the end,” Emmings said. “Your ideas matter, here at Macathon, here at Macalester and in the real world.”

Emmings thanked those who worked on Macathon 2023 before Connor Valenti ’17  gave a speech on behalf of the alumni judges, echoing Jennings’ earlier sentiments. 

“In a world where it’s becoming easier to be complacent every day, you took action,” he said. “As tomorrow dawns, I implore you to keep that energy moving forward.”

The six finalists were announced and each presented the issue they were attempting to solve and the prototype product they created. These included a new dip molding technique using lamasa clay by the “Mac-arons”, a royalty investment platform for Youtube creators by “The Four Lokos” and a Chrome extension that finds, censors and changes online account names to assist in a name change by “WAHH”. 

Third place was awarded to “Crunchy Rice”: Evelyn Bond ’26, Shelly Bai ’25 and Tobias Schecter ’25. Their product, the “Nutty Notifier” is a lateral flow test (the same type as a COVID test) that detects the peanut protein ARA h1 in food samples, alerting the user to whether tree nuts are present in the food they are testing. 

The “Powerpuff Girls”, made up of Lifelihle Kunene ’25, Anna Diagne Sene ’24, Ghaicha Aboubacar Ahe ’24, Maria Benito Correa ’25 and Christine Oduor ’25, claimed second place with “Shh…” Their product is a silicone pad wrapper that attaches to the adhesive part of the menstrual pad and makes it quiet to open in a public restroom, making the period experience more comfortable for period-havers in public spaces. 

First place and the $1000 prize went to “MintT,” comprised of Laith Alayassa ’24, Chloe Vasquez ’24, Isabella Bautista ’24 and Timothy Lang ’24 with their invention ToxApp: an app that tackles snake bites in Mexico by identifying the type of snake, suggesting next steps and finding the closest anti-venom.

MintT opened their presentation with Kofi Annan ’61’s words: “Snake bites [are] the biggest public health crisis you’ve never heard of.” 

Vasquez, personally invested in the project, went on to introduce her inspiration. 

“My mom was bitten by a snake [in Costa Rica] in 2020, so I’m really passionate about this issue,” Vasquez wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “If she had been in another country, who knows if she would have survived. I hope this solution solves this issue.”

Vasquez spent this past summer putting together a documentary on this public health crisis, researching and talking to experts on the ground in South America. 

“Snake bites kill 140,000 people per year, and leave another 400,000 permanently disabled annually,” Vasquez wrote. “Victims are mostly rural communities in tropical countries. Hospitals are hours away, and antivenom is often out of stock. In my research experience, patients traveled from hospital to hospital, with no idea if they’ll survive. In the end, they have to decide whether it’s worth it to leave their family.”

The app MintT developed, ToxApp, would help connect snakebite victims to the antivenom often necessary for their survival. Vasquez has aspirations to make this a reality.

“I’m talking to professionals in Mexico, where we would launch first,” she wrote. “I want to do some more research about how clinics and hospitals keep inventory, but so far we’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from people in snakebite and medicine access fields.”

Vasquez is grateful for the Macathon experience, not only to develop the product, but also because of the community it creates.

“It’s a really fun event, I was blown away by everyone’s ideas,” she wrote. “Also, the catering is amazing, and you get to meet a lot of alums, so it’s a good networking opportunity if you’re looking to learn more about potential career options.”

Macalester President Dr. Suzanne Rivera closed the evening and announced the winners, speaking on the power of students and alumni working together and the lessons learned in failure.

“Macalester students are bold and imaginative,” she said. “I can see how students who participate in Macathon bring their experience to things across campus.”

In honor of Dave Mao ’97, a Macathon participant and alumni judge who passed away this summer, the “Dave Mao Keeping It Real” award was presented to “The Goonies”; Sofia Vaz ’25, Brayden Coronado ’25, Anna Rakowski ’25, Ruby Rogers ’25 and Grant Luce ’25.

Macathon 2023 participants and judges reiterated how the event was: teeming with passion, innovation and creativity and inspiring beyond the night in Olin-Rice.

“Decisions are made by those who show up, and you did that,” Valenti said. “Keep showing up and we may just build a better future after all.”

 

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About the Contributor
Lucy Wing, Features Editor
Lucy Wing ’26 (she/her) is a Media and Culture Studies major from Vashon Island, WA (near Seattle). She contributes the lack of bridges in her adolescence to her interest in pop culture and entertainment media, which bridge people together.

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