deltaHacks showcases growing McMaster tech strength

Using an Oculus Rift

delta Hacks 2; photo by Jin Lee

 

Using a Myo armband

 

deltaHacks (@deltaHacks) organized by HackItMac (@HackItMac) took place on January 16th – 17th. I was able to attend the event as a judge again, and was again totally blown away by the scale and quality of the event. And yeah, I was a total laggard about putting this article together though – slipped through the cracks back in January.

The event brought together over 400 students from McMaster University and schools around Southern Ontario to work on “hacks for positive change”. deltaHacks is very pleasantly focused on hacks that solve real-world problems focused around health, education, wellness, non-profit and similar areas (i.e. no ‘order a beer trivially faster with your Apple Watch’ apps). This theme just seems to set a great, positive tone for the event that’s been evident both this year and last.

 

 

The first place winner of the hackathon was a web-app that uses x-ray images to diagnose femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), developed by Mushfiqur Rahman, Hassan Muhammad, and Stephen Murray who worked together with a McMaster orthopediatrician. It was the perfect app for a hackathon – it utilized existing image processing APIs (i.e. they didn’t re-invent a wheel, allowing for quick turnaround), but did so in a novel way to develop a new type of computer-assisted diagnosis (it’s a legitimate innovation, and solves a real-world problem). On top of everything it was well-executed and presented too. Amazing work.

 

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First-place winners (FAI diagnosis app); photo by Jin Lee

 

deltaHacks has become a highly visible demonstration of a story that’s been flying under the radar for almost a decade now – McMaster University’s Computing & Software, Engineering and B.Tech programs are seeing significant improvements in entrance averages and total enrollment:

 

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Rumor has it that the entrance average for computer science is going to be 92 for the next year. Grade inflation is a factor, sure, but the primary cause is increased demand for the program. Students use entrance averages as a signal for program quality, which causes a positive feedback loop as more students apply for programs that are perceived to be in-demand.

 

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And a 92 entrance average starts to brush up against those of elite programs like the University of Waterloo. It doesn’t mean McMaster has become on par with Waterloo… it has 1/3rd the number of professors, a fraction of the students, smaller course selection, less research dollars overall, etc.

 

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But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if some people see an opportunity for increased revenue through increased enrollment for what’s become a hot program. Schools don’t like to increase enrollment at the expense of quality, or at least perceived quality, but once a program entrance average hits 90 and beyond that becomes less of a concern (past 90, many schools start to use more holistic admission methods that use portfolios, references, etc).

The reason the story is so interesting is how important Waterloo’s programs were to supplying the human capital for that ecosystem. McMaster has a long way to go, but when you see events like deltaHacks and look at the underlying story of increased demand, entrance averages, and enrollment numbers, there’s a lot of reason for optimism.

 

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SURGE drives entrepreneur culture at Mohawk

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Check out this feature article on Mohawk College’s SURGE (@MohawkSURGE) entrepreneur program led by the efforts of Melanie Sodtka (@melaniesodtka).


After only just over a year on the ground, two students working with SURGE will have their offerings available through the campus bookstore. One arranges leases for cellphones as well as a full stop mobile shop and the other designs and creates jewellery with ethically sourced crystals.

“It’s very exciting to be doing this,” said Sodtka, a professor and coordinator of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship program for the McKeil School of Business at Mohawk.

Sodtka’s two-year plan for SURGE focuses on creating a marketplace for student and alumni business ventures.

“We would love to see a SURGE-dedicated showcase to promote our clients’ products and services.”

SURGE launched in January 2015 after Mohawk successfully landed a grant from the Ontario Centres of Excellence.


 

REfficient Celebrates Customer Achievements during Earth Month

refficientHamilton, Ontario – April 20, 2016 – As April is Earth Month, REfficient recognizes that it is important to celebrate achievements, particularly of its champions. This year, Cogeco Connexion is acknowledged as an eco leader.

REfficient enables companies to be efficient with resources through their reduce-reuse-recycle concept. Products and materials that are reusable to others are sold, while the balance is recycled responsibly. As a result, companies get access to other business’ surplus inventory and materials, which can save a lot of money and get access to hard-to-find products.

Founded in 2010, REfficient now has a customer base in 14 countries that reused over 65,000 products in 2015. In 2016, REfficient has opened a warehouse store to give the broader public the ability to reuse products and materials outside of the traditional industries and uses, outside of the industries where they came from.

In the last three years, Cogeco has topped the Waste Diversion Champions list, diverting more than 100,000lbs annually from landfill through resale for reuse and recycling. They have also demonstrated an ongoing commitment to measure their sustainability stats and report on it both to the highest levels with their company and externally to customers and other stakeholders. “Cogeco is a great example of a sustainability leader. They care about it, include it in their processes and value the statistics. If only all other companies could be as forward-thinking like Cogeco,” says Stephanie McLarty of REfficient.

Working alongside partners like Cogeco, REfficient continues to support innovative ways that take the reduce-reuse-recycle and make a broad positive impact. A portion of proceeds from the product coming in through the Community Investment Program streamis donated to non-profits that address sustainability, entrepreneurship, and the local community. For Earth Day 2016, REfficient has made financial and product donations to Good Shepherd and Wildlife Preservation Canada.

About REfficient

REfficient’s transactional marketplace is built on a “triple-win” model, providing large companies a trusted and efficient way for deriving value from surplus inventory, while offering buyers reliable, often new equipment at savings of 20-50% over traditional sources. This innovative new green model benefits everyone by reducing waste and increasing resource efficiency. You can follow REfficient at @REfficient and www.facebook.com/REfficient.

Media Contact
Elena Doy
REfficient
905-544-5000 x5002
Elena.doy@REfficient.com

Brüha launches ticketing platform

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Hamilton, ON – Local tech start-up, Brüha, launches the first version of its platform and is looking to tap into the event ticketing and entertainment industry. Brüha is an online based culture, entertainment and ticketing platform. Products include a Website, iOS, and Android applications.

If you are new to an urban area, passing through for a day or two, or even a life-long resident, finding venues to checkout and fun events to attend can be difficult. Magazines and other periodicals just can’t provide the true value of awareness and engagement. Sifting through multiple social media feeds can be a timely process that won’t always give you the results you need. That’s where Brüha (bruha.com) saves the day! Keeping you connected to everything happening within your city.

Brüha provides a multi-accessible platform with two main avenues of use:

· First, for event professionals, venue owners, and entertainers; those looking for awareness, exposure and added visibility.

· Second, for the entertainment seekers, allowing them to explore and discover various events happening in their city.

Brüha has implemented an easy and simple user experience within their products. By enabling unique search and filtering capabilities, users can easily sift through content and find exactly what they are looking for. Brüha’s website and mobile applications have set an intimate vibe for users to explore events, venues, and organizations of interest. The best stories and experiences come from the serendipity of a connection. Brüha makes those stories and experiences memorable. Will you explore your city?

About Brüha:

Brüha is a local entertainment and ticketing platform that keeps you connected to events, venues and organizations within your local community. Brüha’s listing and map-interface will tag events, venue, and organization content as they are geographically located. With the implementation of IBM Bluemix cloud based technology, Brüha’s user experience and unique filtering capabilities make it easy to find specific categories, dates, admission price range, moods and even recommended listings. Whether you are a tourist visiting a new city or a local resident, Brüha provides a one-stop-shop that allows you to stay connected to your city.

 

Fantastic inaugural Python meetup

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The first ever Python Hamilton meetup took place last night at The Pheasant Plucker! About 25-30 or so attendees took in the inaugural meetup, and I’m glad to say it was very successful.

I missed the talk, but Colin Gorrie (@colingorrie) spoke about inflect, a string formatting package that makes plurals, verb-agreement, and spelling out numbers a breeze.

Brandon Aubie (@brandonaubie) talked about Boost.Python, which allows for interoperability between C++ and the Python, and how he used it as part of his SpikeDB neuroscience data analysis platform:

“SpikeDB is a cross-platform database and analysis application for use in electrophysiological labs that employ the SPIKE data acquisition software. SpikeDB is useful for organizing data files from multiple cells and animals and for quickly viewing the results of each recording session. For analysis, SpikeDB integrates the Python scripting language to enable users to write arbitrary data analysis scripts that operate over their entire collection (or a subset of) their data.

SpikeDB was written by and is currently maintained by Brandon Aubie while working in the McMaster Bat Lab. SpikeDB is open source and free for anybody to use.”

And to close it off Danny Vacar (@FlyingDan) talked about his Wifi User Detection System application!

 

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There were a bunch of things I really liked about this new meetup:

1) Like every other “new group” that starts, I saw a bunch of faces I’ve never seen before. The more people engaged in the tech community the better, and the more events targeting different niches within tech the more people that will become engaged.

2) The focus on a specific technology / programming language helps in terms of putting everyone on the same page and giving the event a focus and direction.

3) The talk line-up was nice and technical. There’s an added level of problem solving when you go from using APIs and tools that perform computation/analysis/rendering, to creating the APIs and tools that perform the computation/analysis/rendering. The former is more akin to software carpentry or plumbing – which is critically important, but the latter is more akin to software R&D or software architecture. It’s a small point, and I’m not sure I’m making it correctly or elegantly… but especially for a more nascent tech community such as Hamilton, it was great to see technical talks with that added level of problem solving.

4) There was some kind of venue double-booking mix-up with GameDevDrinks, and the meetups chose to collaborate, with the Python meetup being followed by board game talks + fun!

 

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Hats off to organizer Colin Gorrie (@colingorrie) for the community leadership! There’s so many “technology areas and subareas” that could be catalyzed in Hamilton (e.g. JavaScript, AI, hardware, big data, etc.), and I hope others follow this leadership with even more meetup groups catalyzing new subareas. Make sure you join the Python Hamilton meetup group and/or follow them on Twitter for details on future meetups!

 

Talk by Denis Dyack this Thursday at McMaster

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When: Thursday April 28th 2016 at 1:30pm

Where: Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship (first floor of Mills Library @ McMaster University)

“The Most Important Factor In Video Game Creation” by Denis Dyack

If you are thinking about making a video game, it is critically important to understand what is the most important factor in creating something that will resonate with gamers. There are many factors to consider from audio, visuals, technology, game play, and story. This talk will examine each one of these areas and determine which of them is the most important. This talk will also attempt to forward a universal theory for game design that transcends technology, platforms, and devices. A fundamental foundation that creators can use for any gaming project, an “Aristotle’s Poetics” for the games industry if you will.

Denis Dyack is the Chief Creative Officer of Quantum Entanglement Entertainment.

A video game industry veteran of more than 25 years, he founded Silicon Knights in 1992 creating titles such as Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, and Too Human. Denis is responsible for the direction of the brands across all mediums.

In 2011, Denis was inducted into the Canadian Game Developers Hall of Fame. Denis was awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Character or Story Development by Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences for his work on Eternal Darkness. Denis is known for his unique approaches and understanding of the video game medium; and has garnered multiple industry and business awards.

Denis is moved by the positive potential of converging media forms and is inspired to creating content that is original, challenging and engaging. Denis is a firm believer in ties between academia and industry, and has consulted or been on several advisory boards such as MIT, Waterloo University, Wilfred Laurier University, Brock University, McMaster University, and others to work in this regard. He has spoken on a variety of provocative topics from Engagement Theory, One Console Future, to Cloud Computing at conferences such as GDC, GDC Europe, Games Con, and DIG.

Denis has a B. Physical Education, H. BSc in Computer Science, M. Sc in Computer Science. Denis recently graduated from Miskatonic University with full honors in Quantum Theory believing one can never be educated enough to deal with the unknown.

New Python meetup (with board game bonus)

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When: Wednesday April 27th 2016 7:00pm to 10:00pm

Where: The Pheasant Plucker @ 20 Augusta Street

Register: meetup.com/Python-Hamilton/events/230127426

Organizer: Python Hamilton (@PythonHamilton) by Colin Gorrie (@colingorrie)

 

For the inaugural meetup of Python Hamilton, we’ve got two presentations scheduled:

Brandon Aubie will talk about embedding Python within other applications using Boost.Python, with examples drawn from his project SpikeDB (a neuroscience data analysis platform).

Colin Gorrie will be giving a presentation on inflect, a string formatting package that makes plurals, verb-agreement, and spelling out numbers a breeze.

Danny will be showing us around an app called Wifi User Detection System, which was inspired by the need to alert you when zombies are approaching your house.

The rest will be an informal meet and greet. Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

 

Board Game Bonus

Due to a scheduling conflict, game development meetup GameDevDrinks actually got booked on the same night, at the same venue. The cool thing is the meetups have decided to work together, and following the Python talks, there will be a bit of a “fireside chat” with some great board game creators (Aron West of Catacombs, Thomas of Lynnvander, and Jason of Drinking Quest), followed by board game fun. Sounds like a great night to me!

 

WordPress meetup this Wednesday

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When: Wednesday April 27th 2016 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Where: CoMotion on King @ 115 King St East, Hamilton, ON

Register: meetup.com/WPHamOnt/events/230092608

Organizers: Adam Wills (@adamwillsdev) and Brian Hogg (@brianhogg)

 

Join us for our next meetup! Come and meet other WordPress users, developers, bloggers and more in and around Hamilton!

Presentation:

WordPress and Newsletters

Agenda:

6:30pm – doors open, networking
7pm-7:30pm – news, presentation
7:30pm-8pm – networking, discussing WordPress, Q&A
8:pm-? – Post-hangout beverage(s) – TBA

Grab a coffee, tea or soft drink before heading up at one of the nearby cafés.