McMaster engineering and management capstone seeking project applications

mcmastercampusEditor’s note: I was forwarded the below from Paul Grunthal at the McMaster Industry Liaison Office about the opportunity for local firms to propose capstone projects for the Engineering and Management Program at McMaster. Fill out this project description template and contact Paul at grunth at mcmaster dot ca if you are interested in the program.

I would like to tell you about a unique resource that you can use to help you solve engineering/business problems. The Engineering and Management Program at McMaster University is a unique 5-year program in which students receive a fully accredited Engineering degree and the core learning of a fully accredited business degree.

The 5th year capstone course in this program requires multi-disciplinary teams of 5 or 6 of these students to add value for external clients by carrying out a project at the intersection of business and engineering. These students are well equipped to develop and execute projects related to new product development, manufacturing process improvement, supply chain analysis, environmental compliance, ergonomics, health and safety issue resolution, and much more.

You don’t pay for their labour, only for project related expenses. There is also the possibility of securing additional government funding (a couple of thousand dollars) for your project.

This is a great opportunity to get a look at some of your potential future hires.

The attached template will help you describe your project so that you can be matched up with the right team come September.

I would encourage you to take advantage of this great opportunity for your business while also supporting the development of our future engineering business leaders.

Very best regards,

Paul Grunthal, BDA
McMaster Industry Liaison Office(MILO)
Tel: 905.525.9140 X26548

The grown-up table



During his DemoCampHamilton15 keynote Adrian Duyzer (@adriandz) made an argument that Hamilton’s future as a tech city was threatened by a lack of leadership. Most of Adrian’s criticism was directed at city hall, essentially arguing that while the community in Hamilton was doing its part, our political leadership was not doing its part.

I’m a “grassroots guy” in the sense that it’s my go-to-strategy for doing anything. It’s my comfort zone. Grassroots organization is just a matter of bringing people together with a common purpose in mind, after which they will make great stuff happen with no further intervention. You’re essentially playing the role of facilitator, and leaving the rest to the community.

Because grassroots is my go-to strategy for getting things done, I kinda resisted the point Adrian was making. I respected the opinion mind you, it’s just not something that I could personally identify with or relate towards.

At the end of the day though, Adrian was correct in the sense that political leadership and institutional support is necessary.

Hamilton’s bedrock institutions and the policies they pursue, support and enact matter. As an example, we absolutely need to give every child in Hamilton a great chance to pursue a career in software development. But right now, we don’t. No opportunity is bigger or more important than giving every child this opportunity. There have been numerous attempts to make this happen at the grassroots / community / non-profit level (CoderDojo, hack jams, coding days, etc.).

But the most expansive and successful attempt thus far has been “institutional” – the McMaster software outreach program. The program has reached thousands of children per year in Hamilton to encourage them to pursue software development. While other efforts in this regard have been important and worthwhile, none has had the scope and scale of the McMaster software outreach program.

When it came time to pursue economic support for this program via government grants (NSERC PromoScience), Keanin Loomis at the Chamber of Commerce, amongst other institutional leaders, was quick to write a letter of support for this program. I strongly suspsect that these letters of support put the decision to fund the program beyond any doubt of the funding agency. And now, as a result, thousands of children in Hamilton each year are being encouraged to pursue software development through fun McMaster-run workshops. That’s amazing.

Keanin asked me to chair the Innovation & Technology committee at the Chamber of Commerce. I said yes, because I believe the Chamber is an institution with potential. It’s 168 years old, older than the city itself. Committees on Chambers of Commerce tend to get pegged as “lunch clubs”. But Chambers are also strong at: measuring / assessing the current state of things, creating reports on the current state of things, and advocating for policies that improve the current state of things.

They have the potential to play the role of moving grassroots enthusiasm into a plan, and action. I truthfully have no idea if I’ll be any good at the role – this is a whole new ball game for me. I’ve been showing up to the meetings for the last few years, and it feels like the grown-up table for lack of a better term. But I’m very excited to give it my best shot, because Adrian was right, and the potential is there.


Hacker Saturdays with special guest Vikas Gosain of Maluuba



From Alex Pineda (@AlexPineda77) in the Hacker Saturdays newsletter…

This Saturday will mark the 20th Hacker Saturdays! [Insert something sentimental]. Thanks guys for making every other Saturday techy.

Recently Vikas Gosain, of Maluuba, asked to come down from Waterloo to showcase their voice technology and associated APIs. He’s very interested in finding talent in fields of NLP/ML, Android development as well as Java web development. I figured, we don’t really offer NLP jobs here in Hamilton so why not? They have great technology, about 50 staff, and a growing customer base full of awesome technology companies looking to leverage their tech. Spend the first hour chatting with Vikas if you please and the remaining two hours will be work as normal. Welcome Vikas!

Remember we’re at Brown Dog Cafe, 211 Locke Street S. Come fully charged.

When: Saturday September 13th from 1:00pm – 4:00pm

Where: Brown Dog Cafe @ 211 Locke Street South Hamilton, Ontario



Learn about Bitcoin with entrepreneur Lorne Lantz

September 10th @ 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm | Free
Innovation Factory

bitcoinLorne Lantz, who buys his lunch everyday with Bitcoin, is a Bitcoin Entrepreneur who has built multiple financial technology startups that were recognized by PayPal and Swift, will share with you the revolutionary technology behind Bitcoin and how it is forcing the world to rethink the way we exchange value.

Lorne’s current startup, CherryPie, is an all in one solution to help merchants accept Bitcoin with limited impact on operational process or staff training.

Lorne is a McMaster DeGroote MBA and a former Lion’s Lair top ten finalist. He’s since been working for companies down in Silicon Valley.

We are very excited to host him on September 10th! Please come out and join us for this noon-time lunch about Bitcoins!

Email to attend!

More on Lorne:

“Lorne gave a nice talk to us here at CA that covered the basics for the uninitiated, and he described his product — a terminal that takes Bitcoin in addition to regular cards, which you can actually use to buy lunch at the Plug and Play center in Sunnyvale… Folks enjoyed it and were considerably enlightened.” (Testimonial from Geoffrey Hird)

Lorne was also featured in a CBC news article.


Design for introversion

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate TED talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.


Introversion vs extroversion is a major difference between people. Some people tend to become bored when they are alone and tend to become energized from being around people (extroverts), and others are energized from reflection and drained by being around people (introverts). Introversion and extroversion exist on a spectrum or line rather than a binary one or the other.

I’ll never forget when my friend described coming home from a day of working in the office alone, and how he was anxiously waiting for his room mate to come home so he could talk to him and “get his energy up again”. Say what now? I can’t even imagine what that’s like, so that must make me an introvert. That said, I love talking to interesting people, especially 1-on-1, about ideas and things they are working on, instead of doing small talk or talking about boring stuff like other people doing people-ish things, so I think for an introvert I must be closer to the extrovert end of the spectrum.

The above talk by Susan Cain is worth checking out (interestingly, it received a million views faster than any other TED Talk – and a standing ovation). Susan talks about how introversion tends to be looked down upon, starting with teachers who describe extroverts as the more ideal students. Susan brings up the downfalls of a world that favours extroversion, and suggests accommodating introversion.

I wholeheartedly agree with this idea. The biggest drawback of extroversion is that while it’s great at selling courses of action and generating agreement between people, the ability to generate agreement between people might not support the ‘objectively best’ course of action or decision. Of course, it’s a two way street.

So that’s not to knock extroversion or extroverts, if you ask me extroverts tend to get unfairly pegged as somehow “shallower” people relative to introverts, when that’s not really the case. It’s more about recognizing different modes of behaviour that can be more effective depending on the role one is trying to conduct at a given time. In the case of introversion, that means recognizing that it is sometimes worth accommodating, rather than expecting individuals to overcome introversion.




In many situations, there is a lot of value derived from accommodating introversion. It can allow the better ideas can float to the top, rather than the ideas coming from the most charismatic individual(s). Sometimes it may just not be worth it or realistic, some situations just necessarily require extroverted behaviours, e.g. some forms of sales. But in more technical situations in particular, accommodating introversion can bear worthwhile fruit.

  • If you want to gather opinions for a course of action, use surveys or written feedback that give introverts time to process, instead of a discussion.
  • If you are going to have a discussion, provide written information ahead of time, introduce pauses in the discussion, and some sort of formal way to order who speaks when, giving everyone a relatively equal opportunity to speak.
  • Provide closed workspaces in addition to open workspaces.
  • Allow people to work individually unless group work is truly necessary.
  • Don’t wait for people to offer ideas, ask for them.
  • Don’t interrupt people when they are speaking.

And again, I’d emphasize it’s a two way street. I’m focusing on designing for introversion because our industry is notoriously introverted. If you’re an introvert, you might need to let an extrovert know you need time to think before responding. If you’re the ‘boss’ in a situation you might need to provide opportunities for extroverts to have more free form discussion and to think out loud, etc. Essentially taking the recommendations above and flipping them 180 degrees.


StartupDrinksHamilton36 on September 10th

startupdrinksThis month’s event will mark 3 years of StartupDrinks taking place in Hamilton. The event concept was founded by Raymond Luk. It spread from Montreal to Toronto to cities all across Canada. The events are intended for anyone founding, working with, working in, or interested in tech and startups in their local community.

The first ever StartupDrinks in Hamilton took place in the basement of the Kelsey’s by McMaster Innovation Park. It was actually done as a pre-event to the first Startup Weekend Hamilton that we were trying to get off the ground. The value of the event is primarily connective – it’s a chance to meet interesting people and have great conversations. I remember the first StartupDrinks whittled down to a single table of people towards the official end of the night, and the conversation at that table went on for hours after the event end.

There’s another key value to StartupDrinks – relaxation! People that keep themselves busy doing interesting things can find themselves wound up, and StartupDrinks is a night off.


When: Wednesday September 10th, 2014 @ 6:30pm – 9:00pm

Where: The Pheasant Plucker (2nd floor) @ 20 Augusta Street – Hamilton, Ontario

What: StartupDrinks Hamilton is a monthly networking event for Hamilton’s startup community to make connections over drinks and relax a little! Feel free to talk about projects, ideas, funding, technology… or just shoot the breeze!



Two kinds of truth

I’ll get back to posting some neat stuff about the tech and startup scene, once and awhile I like to do an ‘ideas’ post, I’ve had a few in my head lately, and this is one of them…


Truth is a tough concept to the define and fully hash out. I know the theories. But when you boil it down there’s roughly speaking two kinds of truth – social truth and scientific truth.

Social truth is all about agreement between people. We agree about driving on the right-hand side of the road in North America. We agree that stealing is wrong. We agree about Justin Biber lacking talent!

Social truths persist when they create value to groups or to broader societies at large, or sometimes even when they seem to create value. By agreeing which side of the road to drive on, we avoid collisions.

The social truths that only seem to create value tend to get shaken out of favour over time, replaced with better truths. So for example while racism unfortunately still exists, it’s an example of a ‘social truth’ that has been in a process of being shaken out of society (hopefully out of existence entirely). It was once much more accepted as truth than it is now.

Other social truths remain controversial over longer periods of time, and limited to certain groups. People will never stop arguing about about tax rates. Some things are beyond the reach of science to discover truth. We can’t measure, compute and/or reason about everything.

scienceSocial truths are created and spread socially. Powerful members of groups can sometimes use that influence to shape social truths. There’s limits to that though, especially overtime.

Scientific truth is the ‘deeper’ truth in the sense that it’s more testable, repeatable, and detached from what people think about it. It’s the type of truth that evidence supports, or that can be formally proven (mathematically). People can disagree with the force of gravity all they want, but it’ll still be there.

Scientific truth also has huge value to society – think MRI scans, automobiles and instant pizza pies!

A once believed scientific truth can turn out to be false sometimes, usually requiring a revision to some theory about reality, but that doesn’t devalue scientific truths or the value they provide as a whole. It is however a reason to give pause when using science as a tool – science discovers scientific truth, but because it’s a process conducted by people, mistakes can be made.

There’s a huge amount of crossover between scientific truth and social truth. Scientific truths tend to become social truths overtime, because they provide value to society. There are hybrid truths – so for example whether we choose to drive on the left or right hand side of the road is a social truth, but the fact that driving on one hand side of the road works better for everyone is a scientific truth.

The social truths that persist overtime tend to have roots in scientific truths. This is partially why people tend to argue a lot about ‘what the evidence says’ about some matter.

The world is full of social truths battling it out. Social media has enabled anyone to try to create social truths. People tend to congregate in groups that agree on controversial social truths, and bash other groups of people that don’t agree.

I’m biased towards scientific truth. I like the order, objectivity and cleanliness of it all. You can’t spin it into being, it’s already there, you’re just trying to find it and dig it out of the hole.

I’m not crazy about social truth – too often it’s just people trying to dominate each other over some stupid stuff. South Park totally nailed this idea. It’s social animal behaviour that has roots in our ‘monkey ancestry’ let’s say.




But you need both. Scientific truth without social truth is irrelevant, and social truth without scientific truth is at best unproductive, and at worst very dangerous.

It’s really too bad that some of the best practitioners of scientific truths are the worst practitioners of social truth, and vice versa. I think that’s part of why a lot of bad politicians succeed, why a lot of good ideas go unheeded, and why startups need ‘both sides of the brain’ to succeed.

But on the flip side, to end on a more positive note… when both truths are combined, some pretty amazing stuff can happen.


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