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Epicenter Hosting Nation's First Native American Hackathon

Event to teach problem-solving skills, increase students' opportunities for STEM careers

April 19, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE – The City of Albuquerque is proud to sponsor the nation’s first Native American hackathon at the heart of our innovation district April 22-24.

The #NativeMBK Hackathon is significant not only for the city but also for the state and nation because it marks a collaborative outreach to help engage and connect the Native American community to technology and innovation; it cultivates the early stages of a workforce pipeline in web development; and it addresses a diversity gap in technological industries by exposing young men and women of color to STEM-related career opportunities.

“Since adopting the My Brother’s Keeper Communities Challenge from the White House, my administration has been actively working on creating an environment where young people of color can thrive in the classroom, at the job site, and in their personal lives,” said Mayor Richard J. Berry. “I am hopeful that this event will increase opportunities in tech careers for Native youth.”

About 60 students between the ages of 12 and 20 will start the weekend by pitching ideas to solve real challenges facing their communities. The audience, composed of 120 adult volunteers helping with the event, will vote on the best 10, and student-led teams will devise product or service solutions to their respective problems over the weekend. The hackathon will conclude with students pitching their resolutions to a panel of judges.

Throughout the event, a group of professionals will teach condensed classes on web development, coding and what it means to create a minimal viable product.

“We are excited to bring together the Albuquerque’s technology community, innovators and Native American students, families and leaders through this opportunity. This is an intentional effort to inspire STEM education for Native American students and others with a lens towards equity and access,” said Kara Bobroff, founder and executive director of the Native American Community Academy (NACA) Inspired Schools Network. “The goal is that there is a lasting effect in increased interest in pursuit of careers in STEM fields.”

Most participants will be from NACA; some will come from surrounding schools and other Native American communities throughout the state. Any student who is interested in learning about coding and web development is welcome. Supporters of the event include CNM’s STEMulus Center and local startup Cultivating Coders.

“This is a huge opportunity for Native American communities for whom finding economic opportunities from their own backyard can be a challenge. They can do this kind of work remotely for companies like Google,” said Seth Saavedra, NACA’s director of talent and advancement.

Adult volunteers in the areas of software development and graphic/visual design, as well as innovators and entrepreneurs, are still needed to help with all or part of the event and may register at www.nativembk.com.

The hackathon is a joint effort of NACA, an Albuquerque-based public charter school; Qeyno Labs, known for helping to expand equity and access in the technology sector through its Hackathon Academy for high-potential youth in low-opportunity settings in Oakland, Calif.; and My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), a White House initiative to improve the trajectories of young men of color. The hackathon name, NativeMBK, borrows from the White House program title.

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