Inaugural Hackathon: 'Ideas are flowing'

June 12, 2024


Photo by Lee Stonehouse
There were active Q&As at the end of each project pitch during the first UNM-Taos HIVE Hackathon on June 8.


The UNM-Taos HIVE’s inaugural Hackathon on June 8 was neither a Hacky Sack marathon nor a room full of people engaging in illegal digital and network data gathering. It was an event created to be a social assembly meant to connect people, form groups based on similar interests, and come up with a project that could potentially become a business.

Most Hackathons are social coding events that bring computer programmers and other interested people together to improve upon or build new software programs. But UNM-Taos HIVE Program Specialist Anya Slavina wanted the Taos’ Hackathon to be “more Taos friendly.” 

Three teams with at least four people worked together to bounce ideas off of each other. Some people came together and added others to their group, and others came solo and formed groups. 

The event started in the morning and lasted into the evening. “Everyone is enthusiastic. They’ve been at it for hours,” Slavina said during late afternoon. “Ideas are flowing.”

By 7 p.m., three pitches had been given: 

Connecting people with opportunities: Creating a platform where people can post their needs and connect with people who are able to meet them. This would be in place of the various Facebook groups (e.g., Ask Taos) and non-local services such as Angi. People would be able to endorse contract workers or recommend them for a full-time job. It would also be a space for teenagers to find opportunities and spaces where they're welcome to hang out. 

Regenerative farming incubator: A program that brings together people with expertise in regenerative farming practices, people who have land they want to convert, and anyone who wants to learn some farming skills in a low-stakes environment. The goal is to invite people with land or with existing farms who are using industrial or non-sustainable methods to convert to regenerative agriculture to take care of the planet and grow nutritious food that's better for everyone. 

Connecting Taos: A program promoting mental and physical health to community members of all ages and backgrounds. The goal is to connect people around outdoor activities, healing, and community in order to balance the forces of loneliness, fear of trying something new alone, and the overall trend toward declining mental and physical health in New Mexico. This project involves a lot of outreach and making connections between existing programs.    

The overall winning project ($750 prize) was Connecting Taos, which was mostly made up of UNM-Taos employees—Madelynn Gonzales-Mascarenas, Robert Tourgee, and Juan Juarez—as well as UNM-Taos alumnus Manuel Baca and Madelynn's brother, Maximus. 

“It was a close call between this project and the regenerative agriculture project,” Slavina shared, “but the winner was deemed more feasible because of the 7-year period that it would take to get a farm to a regenerative state. The health and wellness project also reflected unique contributions from each of the members, which was incredible to see. Clearly, this is a team that works well together.” 

The two other teams won prizes of $250. “Implementation of any of these projects would be a boon for the community and everyone is excited to see where the Connecting Taos project goes,” Slavina added.   

It was a day well spent, according to the participants. Madelynn Gonzales-Mascarenas summed it up: 

“I got a sense of community from the Hackathon. Encouraging people from different backgrounds to come together, problem solve, and work on projects. It promotes a sense of teamwork. We all had lots of fun. All ideas got a chance to shine.” 

When asked if the UNM-Taos group plans to bring their idea to fruition, Gonzales-Mascarenas said, “We are still considering if we have the time and capacity to take on a project like Connecting Taos, but it is definitely a possibility. We are still relishing in our win and haven't made any decisions.” 

There is a possibility that another HIVE Hackathon will happen later this year.