One hundred fifty-four (154) Macalester students making up 33 teams worked  24 hours non-stop during Macalester’s fifth Macathon and its second Funkathon, beginning at 4:30 p.m., Friday, February 24, and ending at 8 p.m. Saturday, February 25. The teams competed for cash prizes and the opportunity for feedback from successful alumni entrepreneurs, technologists, musicians and investors.

First-place went to Funkathon team: Moonbinch and the Belligerent Earth Girls for their song: “A Farty Party.” The team members are Lucia Alexandrin ’17, Emily Gross ’17, Sohini Ghosh ’18, and Anna Dolde ‘18.

This year there were two teams that tied for first place for the Macathon competition. Those two teams were 7bibi  and Cobenesoka. 7bibi’s project was called “Boxes 2 Beat HIV & Hep C.” They built a simple mechanical solution to easy access to clean needles in exchange for used needles. 7bibi team members (all seniors) are Forest Redlin, Ari Hymoff, Farah AlHaddad, Mutaz Alnaas, Prady Bansal, and Muath Ibaid.

Cobenesoka’s project, “Beacon,” is a mobile app that automatically detects when you are calling 911 and opens a data pipeline to the 911 operator, which allows them to get accurate location data by going to the Beacon website. Cobenesoka team members are Connor Valenti ’17, Ben Mathers ’17, Ned Read ’17, Sojin Oh ’19, and Kassandra Munguia ’18.

Macathon, Macalester’s overnight innovation and technology contest with over $2,000 in cash prizes, is a mash-up of a hackathon and a pitch competition.  Teams of students put their liberal arts education into action and invent an innovative product or service that solves a significant problem. To succeed, Macathon teams need a mix of technical, financial, design, communication and general creative skills. The three teams that come up with the most innovative solution win cash prizes.

Now in its second year, Funkathon is an overnight musical composition contest where creativity and music meet time.  Teams compete for over $2,000 in cash prizes and the opportunity to have feedback from successful Macalester alums working in the musical and arts world. All types of creative artists are invited to form teams of 3 – 6 participants to write and produce an original piece of music or multimedia presentation up to 4 minutes in length.

Macathon Judges

Josh Aas ’05
Executive Director, Internet Security Research Group
Aas is currently attempting to secure the Internet as the Executive Director of Internet Security Research Group, which operates the Let’s Encrypt certificate authority.

Steve Arnold ’72
Co-Founder and Partner Emeritus, Polaris Partners.
Polaris Partners is a venture capital and growth equity firm investing in cloud infrastructure, data sciences, Internet products and services, healthcare technology and life sciences, among other domains. Using a “VC portfolio” model, Arnold currently donates his time to work with a group of non-profit organizations focusing on innovations in learning sciences applied to K-12 education. He is co-founder and vice chairman of the board at the George Lucas Educational Foundation, which is conducting research on best practices and telling the stories of “what works” in education. He is also chairman of the board of Enlearn, which is developing a personalized adaptive learning technology platform, and Healthy Minds Innovations, which is designing and building products and services based on the discoveries at the Center for Healthy Minds, and affective neuroscience lab at the University of Wisconsin, among other projects. This is his third Macathon.

Paul Cantrell ’98
Visiting Instructor, Macalester College; Developer & Designer, Bust Out Solutions; Independent Software Consultant; Composer /Pianist; Founder & Artistic Director, The New Ruckus
After graduating from Macalester in computer science and math, Cantrell has created software for clients ranging from tech startups to Fortune 500s to arts nonprofits. He now returns to Macalester every spring, like a swallow to Capistrano, to teach computer science and run the Dev Garden. He leads a secret double life as a composer, pianist, and music entrepreneur.

Martha Danly ’76
Principal, Martha Danly Consulting
Danly is an independent consultant working with technology startups in Silicon Valley.  As a product and marketing leader, she develops teams pioneering new product categories, including B2B marketplaces, online auctions, video streaming, and speech recognition. She has two IPOs under her belt as VP of Marketing at Onsale and Ventro and a successful exit as Chief Operating Officer of World Energy. With a passion for the Internet of Things, Martha is now co-founding a cybersecurity business about to emerge from stealth mode. Danly graduated with a BA in Linguistics from Macalester and a PhD in Experimental Psychology from Harvard University. She is very excited to participate in her first Macathon.

Beth Desnick ’82
President, Thebe & Co
Desnick worked in government and the arts as a strategist and manager after graduating from Macalester. Seeing a niche for a progressive approach to business, she formed her creative agency, Thebe & Co, with Thea Nelson, ’83. Desnick is currently president and strategic lead at the agency, which is based in the Uptown area of Minneapolis.

Nahiyan Khan ’13
Product Designer at Pearson VUE
Khan is experienced in product strategy, UX and UI design and front-end development. At Pearson VUE, he is responsible for maintaining the quality of their software user experience, pushing product design discipline in all areas of product development and maintaining VUE’s front-end framework in their reference architecture. The front-end framework was planned, designed and coded by him and it influences and drives VUE’s software. On the side, he also works with his father on their family clothing manufacturing and retail business in Bangladesh.

Tyson Kratz ’11
Founder, SolBe Learning
Kratz is a founder of SolBe Learning [sohl-bee]: a premium early learning center with ambitions to disrupt the currently inflexible childcare model in preparation for a new generation of urban-professional families. SolBe is currently fundraising and securing its first location in Boston. Recently, The Boston Society of Architects recognized SolBe as a winner in the 2016 Unbuild Architecture and Design Awards Competition. Prior to founding SolBe, Kratz worked at Hemisphere Capital Partners, LLC: a Minnesota-based private investment firm with interests in casinos, hotels, restaurants, real estate, and other service and growth-oriented businesses. He also worked at 3M Co., where he held multiple positions within the corporate finance and risk management group.

Seth Levine ’94
Partner and Co-Founder, Foundry Group
Levine is a partner and co-founder at Boulder based Foundry Group focusing on early stage investments in technologies business. Foundry investments include companies such as Zynga, Admeld and Fitbit. In addition to his work at Foundry, Levine is active around the world in the entrepreneurial community as a member of the board of directors of The Unreasonable Institute, an advisor to Palestinian focused venture fund Sadara, as well as an advisor to a number of other venture funds. He is a founding member of the Colorado Chapter of the Entrepreneur’s Foundation, co-founder of Pledge 1% and Colorado Entrepreneurial By Nature. Levine is a summa cum laude graduate of Macalester College and a member of the Board of Trustees. You can find him on Twitter at @sether or online at

Dave Mao ’97
Director, Come Up Capital
Mao is the managing director of Come Up Capital, a $50M venture capital firm based in Minneapolis that invests primarily in early stage technology startups based in the Midwest. Mao has 20 years of experience in information technology consulting, project management, sales, engineering, enterprise architecture, marketing, and customer service. He has worked in public and private organizations ranging in size from early-stage startups to large multinational corporations. Mao graduated with a BA in Music from Macalester College and an MBA from Columbia Business School.

Anna Rath ’96
Founder and CEO, NexSteppe
Rath is a pioneer in the development of the dedicated energy crop industry. She founded NexSteppe in 2010 to develop and commercialize optimized crops for the biofuels, biopower, biogas and biobased product industries. Today, NexSteppe is a global company with established operations​ and products​ ​on the market ​in ​North and South America, Europe and Asia. ​NexSteppe has been named to the Global Cleantech 100 list each year since 2012 and has been recognized as one of the 50 hottest companies in the bioeconomy since 2014. Commercial partners ​have trial​ed its products in more than 20 countries on five continents. Rath was formerly Vice President of Commercial Development for Ceres, where she built and launched their energy crop business. Prior to Ceres, she was a consultant with McKinsey focused on corporate strategy, assessment of new business initiatives, and business building in various technology sectors. She holds a JD from Yale Law School, an MS in Genetics from the University of Michigan and a BA in Biology from Macalester College. She also serves on the Biotech Industry Organization’s Industrial and Environmental Section Governing Board ​and was recently awarded BIO’s Rosalind Franklin award for leadership in industrial biotechnology​.

David Sielaff ’90
Founder, Critical Hit Technologies
In founding Critical Hit Technologies, Sielaff has returned to his start-up roots, developing new software products and consulting for others in the entrepreneurial world. Prior to that, he held a variety of software engineering leadership positions at companies like Sybase, Intrinsa (a startup acquired by Microsoft) and Microsoft. He is also an active investor and advisor in early-stage technology startups, especially those operating in the social impact space.

Lee Wallace ’95
CEO, Peace Coffee
Wallace is the CEO of Peace Coffee, a quality and mission-driven coffee company based in Minneapolis. Founded in 1996 by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Peace Coffee works to develop model trading practices with coffee farmers and promotes the development of healthy local economies and sustainable business practices. Historically a wholesale company, Peace Coffee has been expanding into retail and is currently operating four coffee shops in the Minneapolis area. Named one of Minneapolis’ 40 Under 40 in 2012, Wallace’s professional background includes entrepreneurship, economic development, small business incubation, and natural foods.

Funkathon Judges

Kerry Alexander ’12
Songwriter, singer, guitarist
Alexander is the leader of Minneapolis-based indie rock band, Bad Bad Hats. Bad Bad Hats was discovered and signed to local label Afternoon Records after performing at Macalester’s Battle of the Bands in 2012. They released the It Hurts EP in January of 2013. In July of 2015, they released their debut full-length album, Psychic Reader, which garnered praise from the likes of NPR, Spin, Paste, and Pitchfork. They’ve spent the last year touring extensively, playing in 34 states and once in Canada, supporting The Mynabirds, Hippo Campus, Hey Marseilles, and Third Eye Blind. The band will hit the road again early next year, opening for Margaret Glaspy. Alexander is currently writing songs for the band’s second album, to be recorded next year.

Bethany Battafarano ’13
Freelance soprano
Soprano and Composer Bethany Battafarano makes it her goal to bridge classical music with social justice initiatives. As a singer, Battafarano is contracted locally with The Rose Ensemble, Apollo Master Chorale, First Readings Project, MN Chorale, and her chamber treble ensemble, Artemis. She has also appeared with Punk Ass Classical, Mirandola Ensemble, and Oratory Bach. In addition to her work as a vocalist, Battafarano was recently commissioned as a composer by the Cedar Cultural Center, where she premiered a work for choir and Andean instrumentation in February of 2017. A true Macalester graduate, Battafarano maintains avid interdisciplinary interests and continues to work as a Spanish medical interpreter, a transcriptionist, and an autism care provider.

Curtis Gilbert ’02
Correspondent at American Public Media
Gilbert minored in music at Macalester, focusing on composition. He played guitar in Mac Jazz, participated in the New Music Ensemble and sang with the Traditions a cappella group, arranging numerous pop songs for tenor, baritone, bass and beat box. These days his musical exploits are focused on the preschooler demographic (his 4-year-old son, Noah) and the odd appearance covering AC/DC with the Bemidji Lovejacks at the annual Minnesota Public Radio holiday party. Gilbert is a correspondent for APM Reports, the investigative and documentary journalism unit at American Public Media. He has worked in public radio since 2004, as a producer and reporter. He’s covered Minneapolis and St. Paul City halls, produced local and national programs and hosted lived events for Minnesota Public Radio. His reporting work was recently featured in the hit podcast In the Dark.

Gary Hines ’74
Music Director and Producer, Sounds of Blackness
Jazz & Blues, Rock & Roll, R&B, Gospel, Hip-hop & Soul – these are The Sounds of Blackness. They’ve performed for kings and queens, presidents and ambassadors at concert halls, corporations, schools colleges, community centers and at festivals all over the world. Sounds of Blackness has appeared with Quincy Jones, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Prince, Elton John, Maya Angelou, Usher, Harry Belafonte, Common, John Legend and countless others. They’ve won Image, Stellar and, three Grammy Awards. Their life-changing single and video “ROYALTY” is available now on ITunes and has been nominated for two NAACP Image Awards.

Doug Little ’91
Saxophonist, flutist, composer, and bandleader
Originally from California, Little has been based out of Minneapolis for over 25 years. During that time he has recorded 10 CDs as a leader, appeared on dozens more as a sideman, and performed concerts throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. Trained as a jazz musician, Little’s background also includes extensive Latin music studies in Cuba and Brazil. In 2015 his band Charanga Tropical became the first U.S. group ever to perform at the International Danzón Festival in Havana. As part of that tour the group performed on national Cuban radio and recorded its latest CD in the same Havana studios of Buena Vista Social Club. In addition to Charanga Tropical, Little also leads the Latin jazz septet Seven Steps To Havana, the world music trio Tres Mundos, and the Doug Little Jazz Quartet. For his work in music, Little has received support and recognition from the American Composers Forum, the Jerome Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, the Minneapolis Arts Commission, the McKnight Foundation, the Bush Foundation, and the French Ministry of Culture.

Kristine Stresman ’11
Synths, vocals, Enemy Planes
Since graduation, Stresman has been an active member of the Minneapolis/St. Paul indie music scene. She currently is a member of Enemy Planes. The band will be releasing their debut album, Beta Lowdown, this coming March. They’ve had a busy last year of touring, playing Daytrotter, Hard Rock Rising, and GoFest ’15, and also hosting the Wednesday night residency at The Cabooze during January and February. As well as touring coast to coast this spring, she will be curating and hosting a business and industry fundamentals workshop for women in music in the Minneapolis St. Paul metro area.


February 27 2017

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