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MacChangers students showcase COVID-19 community solutions at showcase event April 19, 2021

In its sixth year, the MacChangers program provided 130 students from all faculties with the opportunity to propose collaborative solutions to complex challenges facing society.

Students presented their solutions on March 31 to over 170 community members, McMaster staff, faculty, students, and City of Hamilton employees at the 6th Annual MacChangers Showcase. Hosted virtually, 34 teams of students pre-recorded videos and engaged in real-time with community members on their projects.

 

  

MacChangers is a co-curricular program available to all McMaster students organized jointly by the Faculty of Engineering and the Office of Community Engagement.  

Throughout the program, students learned how to identify a problem, conduct research, engage with community experts through two live webinars, develop a prototype, and propose their solution to one of four challenge areas: Clean and Green, Infrastructure and Build Environment, Healthy and Safe Cities, and Economic Prosperity and Growth. 

“I joined MacChangers because I wanted a new challenge to apply what I learned in the classroom to the real world,” says Vinayak Neeraj Bajaj, MBA student at the DeGroote School of Business.

Vinayak, who is based in India, worked with his team to find a solution to reduce foot traffic on the overburdened Bruce Trail, a popular destination during the pandemic. Their proposal encourages users to follow trail etiquette to support ecological conservation through gamification. 

Vinayak was one of 130 students who has worked since September virtually in teams to research a local challenge, consult with mentors and industry experts, then develop and present their ideas for a sustainable, feasible solution.  

This community-based, collaborative problem-solving approach is the foundation of MacChangers.

“By working together in teams and across disciplines, students acquire the critical thinking skills they need to become innovative and creative problem solvers who can make a real impact in the future,” says Ishwar K. Puri, Dean of Engineering. 

“Our vision is to inspire and prepare students to become global leaders and engaged citizen scholars who will transform the world.” 

"We are preparing our students to be future community leaders who can work within and across different communities - wherever they are - for a more inclusive and sustainable future," says Jay Carter, Community Engaged Education Program Manager of the Office of Community Engagement. 

“We are proud of the achievements made by our students this year, who demonstrated grit, perseverance, and a passion for community involvement. There are great things in store for the MacChangers program as we continue to grow and make a positive impact,” says Cameron Churchill, Director of MacChangers.

Here are some of the projects that were featured at the Showcase:

You can read about all of the MacChangers projects in their report or watch the students 3 minute videos.  

Take a look at some of the testimonials from Mac Eng students about their experiences in the program: 

Petra Ialeggio, Civil Engineering, Level III
Other team members: Jaskiran Bains (Science), Cici Sun (Humanities), Subaita Refaaf (Science)
Project: Proposed designing safer micro-mobility and active transit infrastructure called the Wave Delineater

“I am interested in working in project management for the infrastructure sector after I graduate, and due to the multidisciplinary nature of these projects, these skills are incredibly important and necessary.”  Team member Subaita Refaaf said “Joining MacChangers was incredibly rewarding because it gave me the opportunity to become involved in finding a solution for real community issues. I was able to apply my skills from school courses and personal skills to form a potential solution. It feels encouraging to know that there is potential for me to create the change I wish to see in the world with the knowledge and abilities I have currently.”

Milena Thibault, Engineering, Level I
Other team members: Liza Zvereva (Arts & Science)
Project: Proposed a tiered solution to improve accessibility within the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System which has been impacted from improper trail use. 

“MacChangers provides a unique, open-ended outlet for students to pursue their passions, apply their knowledge, and positively impact the Hamilton community. I enjoyed learning about all of the amazing and unique solutions my fellow students came up with; it’s lovely to see students making a difference in the community!”

Forrest Herman, Engineering, Level III
Other Team Members: Thuvarakaa Sathiyamether (Engineering), Tina Ismail (Engineering), Ivan Wu (Engineering)
Project: Proposed a solution to improve the aesthetic and atmosphere of long term local construction spaces in order to revive local businesses.

“This experience reminds us that we all have the potential to make a profound impact on peoples' lives; all it takes is a vision and the willingness to see it through. As an Engineering & Society student, it has been eye-opening to learn of the types of difficulties a community may face. I am passionate about learning, especially when it comes to the ways in which we can improve our society and truly make a profound impact on their lives for the better.”