DeltaHacks IV showcases student tech talent


The fourth annual DeltaHacks (@deltahacks) took place on Sunday January 28th at McMaster University.

The hackathon is unique amongst regional hackathons for emphasizing hacks for change, in other words, hacks with social good. This year’s event attracted over 300 students, not just from McMaster University, but from post-secondary institutions around Ontario (e.g. Waterloo, UofT, Guelph, etc.).

Check out all the finalist presentations from DeltaHacks IV below!


DoctorDM – a text message based app that allows users to request a diagnosis via SMS messaging


Safety First – an image recognition tool that identifies and provides information about safety issues given an image


Findr – an app to help users identify find out how many other people are checked in to different rooms (e.g. so students could find free space on campus)


Kobot – provides text recaps of previous novel chapters (inspired by Netflix episode recaps)


ReadRelax – an app to help users relax and read quicker


Aloud – an app to read aloud physical written text materials


Kobot won 3rd place, Findr won 2nd place, and the 1st place winner was Aloud, who mentioned they didn’t even know each other before the hackathon! Many awards were also given away for individual, special categories, from “best use of blockchain” to “IoT”.

It’s always so wonderful to see this event happen year after year and grow in scope and quality – congratulations to the organizers for yet another great hackathon!



Interview about DeltaHacks IV with Natalie Chin


Check out the interview below with Natalie Chin of the DeltaHacks (@deltahacks) hackathon team on what’s in store for this year’s hackathon and opportunities to get involved as judges/mentors! DeltaHacks IV will take place on January 27th – 28th on McMaster University campus.


Can you tell our readers about the history of DeltaHacks?

DeltaHacks was founded back in 2014 due to lack of hackathons in the area focusing on social change and social impact. It was a common instance, that projects were started during hackathons, and not continued and sustained afterwards. As a result, students from the McMaster Community banded together and created their own hackathon for change. DeltaHacks stands out from other hackathons by inviting industry professionals who know their field, to pitch ideas to our attendees. This allows our attendees to get a real world view of what’s missing in the field, and see what they can do to help.


What kinds of exciting creations have come out of past DeltaHacks events?

Generally, we’ve seen a really wide variation of hacks at DeltaHacks. We have a lot of social change and social impact projects. We’ve also had a variety of hardware and software projects at our event.

Last year, there was a really cool hardware hack called Lifeline that tracked tilts and changes in the head direction while driving, to prevent drowsy driving and prevent it. If the driver was getting continuously more and more drowsy as time went on, it would send audio feedback to try to keep the driver alert. Throughout the process, if the driver is still drowsy, the response would continue to escalate through texting and/or calling emergency contacts. The hack ended up winning the “Best Hardware Hack” and “Second Prize” Category. Seeing the implementation fully functional was really cool. It had an effect on the real world.

At a past DeltaHacks event, we saw Project Julius, which was created to prevent photosensitive epileptic seizures due to quick flashes in video content. The hack would essentially analyze the screen with historical analyses, looking for pixels which have changed very quickly to prevent seizures. Once the pixels change dramatically, the hack shows a window overlay covering all other windows on the screen, and show the warning. A hack like this is pivotal to social change.



What’s your role with the hackathon?

I am the Director of Supportive Relations. I always try to think of a descriptive name for my team – I’m not sure Supportive Relations does it justice. But ultimately, we handle the UX of the event, which consists of contacting mentors, judges, challenger (idea-generation) mentors for our event, which adds to the attendee experience. We make sure that participants have enough mentors so they can get their questions answered timely. We also reach out to not-for-profits in the community, government organizations, startups, and and student chapters, inviting them to an idea generation session. We essentially give challengers 3-5 minutes to talk about their project, and provide time for participants to discuss with mentors afterwards.


What’s new and exciting for DeltaHacks IV?

In our past iterations of DeltaHacks have mainly focused on health-care related hacks, and the idea-generations typically came from doctors, physicians and pharmacists. We’ve expanded that this year, to include a variety of other fields, and reached out to not for profit organizations, student chapters at McMaster, and leveraging our professors and hacks that they may benefit from. Our list is currently located here:, so our participants know what the challenges are before coming to the event. The list is going to be continuously updated until the event, as we finalize the mentors.

Another exciting thing that we’ve got in store is a focus on blockchain development. It’s been a pretty hot topic recently, and has been brought up quite a number of times in the HamOnt Conference Series for Internet of Things. DeltaHacks is super happy to welcome a few local and international organizations that focus on crypto, namely STACK, Parity, and Oraclize. This is the first time that we’ve put aside funds for a specific cryptocurrency prize category, and is the first time that we’re inviting small and large companies for mentorship. I can’t wait to see the hacks that are created once the hackathon is done.



How many participants are you expecting? Where do the participants come from?

We’re expecting 400 attendees. Participants are coming from all over Ontario. Most of our participants are coming from Waterloo or the Toronto Area.


What do you hope students get out of participating in DeltaHacks?

I don’t expect our participants to fly themselves in a spaceship to Mars (though that would be really cool) after DeltaHacks. All I want is for our participants to leave, feeling like they have learnt something. There’s nothing more rewarding than the feeling after you’ve created something that you never thought you’d finish, be it understanding classes, or full implementation of a feature.

This year, 52% of our attendees are beginner hackers – who have been to 0-1 hackathons in the past. As an application rate, this is nearly unheard of. I hope that the beginners feel welcomed at DeltaHacks, and feel comfortable to ask for help when they need it. I would encourage anyone to take advantage of this opportunity, to ask for help from mentors and help with implementing your ideas.


What’s your own personal favourite hackathon creation?

My personal favourite hackathon creation would probably be one created at ETHWaterloo, a hackathon based on Ethereum Development, called the Decentralized Autonomous Charity (or DAC for short). It was a transparent way for people to donate funds to charities, and see the flow of funds, to see how it was broken down, and what it was used for. This was my favourite hackathon project because it had such a large social impact and use-case. Blockchain in itself was a new concept, not to mention being able to apply it in the real world in such an important way.


Though it’s getting better, there’s always been a bit of a disconnect between Hamilton and McMaster (e.g. the “pop the bubble” initiative at McMaster a few years back). What do you think we can do to better bridge the gap, pop the bubble, etc, between the awesome students and innovations happening at McMaster and the civic renaissance happening in Hamilton?

Stepping in and out of the bubble with an interchange of ideas, is most useful. I think the HamOnt Conference Series does it well, in providing discounted student tickets to events, and of course, free food. I find that it gets quite a few Mohawk and Mac students out to the events in the Hamilton area. I think information flow in our bubble, and continuous propagation between the campus borders will continue to better bridge the gap.

I, myself, have pushed the Machine Learning HamOnt Conference to a course that I TA’d, and was met with great enthusiasm, as many of my students had wanted to learn about Machine Learning. Continuous flow of information in and out of the bubble, convinces students to leave campus and explore the community outside it; while events like DeltaHacks help pull the Hamilton Community into our bubble.

With these events – like the Hamilton Conference Series and DeltaHacks, students at McMaster get to network and talk to industry-leaders in the Hamilton Area. They get to find mentorship, advice, tips, guidance, and are introduced to a really unique atmosphere. With the Hamilton Conference Series, we have students leaving the “bubble,” to learn about Internet of Things, or Machine Learning; and we have industry-leaders in the Hamilton Area coming to mentor for DeltaHacks. Having events like these, make many people willing to “pop” and/or willing to leave the bubble.



How can the Hamilton technology community help and engage with DeltaHacks?

We have a lot of different roles available.

Hacking is 1pm on Saturday to 1pm Sunday, so if you are comfortable with showing and teaching technologies, mentoring would likely be a good fit for you. The role of a technical mentor is to help with development environments, helping debug code, and more generally, help with problems participants may have while implementing something. We don’t specify a time that you have to be available, nor do we have requirements on what you’re mentoring. A question that we get a lot from people who want to mentor, is what technology they should choose. My answer – whatever you’re comfortable with. There are no boundaries for what you can mentor in, and we have never said no to mentorship before. In the past, our mentorship was mainly based on web development, android development, and IOS development – but we’re more than happy to open up the doors to anything this year. If you are interested, you can sign up at

You can also help out by judging at our hackathon, from 1pm to 4:15 pm on Sunday. Essentially, at the end of the hackathon, we hold a science-fair style expo, to show off everyone’s projects that they made during the course of the hackathon. As a judge, you get to look at the creativity and innovation of our students, and get to see their final projects. You can sign up at


deltaHacks continues to impress


deltaHacks (@deltahacks) took place for the 3rd year running at McMaster University this past weekend! The hackathon again did not fail to impress, with hundreds of students and 19 teams spending 2 days working on “building real world applications that create positive change”.

This “hack for change” aspect of the competition really sets it apart from many other hackathons and similar events. The quality of the work accomplished in what essentially amounts to 24 hours is always mind blowing (check out Holo Body below). Perhaps equally important, volunteers tell me that teams of first year students will show up not knowing how to program on Saturday morning and leave on Sunday with a working Android application and an ability to use GitHub!


Here are the six finalists that demo’d at the closing ceremonies…


Holo Body – an edtech solution that allows students to view 3D augmented reality holographs of the human anatomy using their smartphones.




Lifeline – a hardware solution to detect when a driver is falling asleep and alert them in order to prevent an accident.





Voice of Reason – a mobile application that allows users to check if purchases will keep them within their budget (i.e. is it affordable), meant to prevent poor impulse purchase decisions.




VATS – stands for Very Awesome Tipping Solution, a hardware solution to detect whether an elderly person has fallen over.





Phonetic English – a Google Chrome extension that translates webpage text into an encoding that makes words easier to pronounce for those learning English (the mismatch between spelling and pronunciation can be a barrier to learning).




Cardio Protect – a hardware solution to detect cardiac arrest and report it to allow for earlier treatment.




The final winners were: 3rd place – VATS, 2nd place – Lifeline, and 1st place – HoloBody.

The event is basically a recruiter’s dream. So it’s no surprise the competition was well sponsored and supported from private sector and public sector partners alike, with a ton of give-aways and special category prizes.

It’s wonderful to see what this event has blossomed into, and it’ll be exciting to see where it goes next.

CHCH covered the event in a report on Saturday.



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.



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.




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.




DeltaHacks co-founder Alyssia Jovellanos wins prestigious Anita Borg award



Editor’s Note: Big congratulations to Alyssia Jovellanos (@alyssiacodes), very well deserved for her leadership in the McMaster community!


PALO ALTO, Calif., Mar 22, 2016: The Anita Borg Institute (ABI), a nonprofit organization focused on the advancement of women in computing announces the winners of the 2016 Women of Vision ABIE Awards, which highlights three women in computing for their achievements as a technical leader, an entrepreneur and student.

Michele D. Guel, Distinguished Engineer and Chief Security Architect of Cisco’s Security & Trust Organization and Pooja Sankar, CEO and Founder of Piazza, are the recipients of the Leadership and Technology Entrepreneurship ABIE Awards respectively. Alyssia Jovellanos, a computer science student at McMaster University, is the Student of Vision ABIE award winner.

“Michele, Pooja and Alyssia have each made remarkable contributions to the technology industry, and I’m excited to honor their achievements at the Women of Vision Awards Banquet,” said Telle Whitney, President and CEO of ABI. “ABI is committed to recognizing exceptional women in computing and elevating their accomplishments on a global stage through the ABIE Awards.”

Alyssia Jovellanos, Winner of the Student of Vision ABIE Award, presented by Capital One

Alyssia Jovellanos is an aspiring software engineer, highly motivated computer science student and advocate for women in technology who is passionate about the interdisciplinary nature of software engineering applications. Alyssia is the co-founder and co-director of one of Canada’s largest student hackathons, DeltaHacks, and was elected as both the youngest and first female Computer Science Society President. She recently founded McMaster University’s first Women in CS group.

Michele Guel, Winner of the Leadership ABIE Award, presented by eBay

Michele joined Cisco in 1996 as the founding member of Cisco’s internal security team, and in 2010, she was promoted to Distinguished Engineer, one of eight women in that role across the company. She recently co-founded the Cisco Women in Cybersecurity Community, which focuses on developing the next generation of women cybersecurity leaders. Michele is also an avid participant, speaker, teacher, influencer and evangelist in the cybersecurity industry for nearly 30 years.

Pooja Sankar, Winner of the Technology Entrepreneurship ABIE Award

Pooja Sankar is the founder and CEO of Piazza, a college collaboration and recruiting platform that serves over one million students around the world. Prior to founding Piazza, Pooja was a software engineer at Oracle, Kosmix and Facebook. Piazza was born out of Pooja’s passion for social collaboration, which she tapped into as one of three women studying computer science at IIT.

About Women of Vision

ABI’s Women of Vision Awards Banquet honors women making significant contributions to technology. The event will take place on May 5, 2016 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. The event will feature a keynote from Dr. Mary Lou Jepsen, Executive Director of Engineering at Facebook and Head of Display Technologies at Oculus. Ana Pinczuk, ABI Trustee and Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer at Veritas, will emcee the awards banquet.

Sponsorship opportunities for the Women of Vision Awards Banquet are available through Wednesday, March 23.

Registration for the Women of Vision Awards Banquet is now open — reserve your seats today!

Current event sponsors include: ADP, BNY Mellon, Capital One, Cisco, eBay, Facebook, HP, Juniper Networks and Symantec.

About ABI

The Anita Borg Institute (ABI) connects, inspires and guides women in computing and organizations that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative. Founded in 1997 by computer scientist Anita Borg, our reach extends to more than 65 countries. We believe technology innovation powers the global economy, and that women are crucial to building technology the world needs. ABI is a not-for-profit 501(c) 3 charitable organization.

Follow the Anita Borg Institute on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.

Media Contact

Vicki Cook
Email Contact

deltaHacks featured on CHCH

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Check out the video on!

deltaHacks (@DeltaHacks) is a hackathon for change, organized by HackItMac (@HackItMac).

“We want to encourage students in all fields of study to come together to build real world applications that create positive change. The difference between DeltaHacks and other hackathons is that we embrace elements of design thinking to make “hacks” that solve real world problems.

The ultimate goal behind this hackathon is to include, not only the engineering and computer science students, but all talented individuals from all backgrounds to collaborate, create, and bring ideas to life.”

With over 500 attendees and top teams building 1st rate applications that solve real problems, deltaHacks is the largest tech event to take place in Hamilton and a great success story.


deltaHacks signals big change



deltaHacks (@deltaHacks) organized by HackItMac (@HackItMac) took place this weekend on McMaster campus. The event brought in 200+ students, not just from the McMaster community, but from around Southern Ontario – University of Waterloo, University of Toronto, University of Guelph, Mohawk College and others. The students formed teams and worked on building real-world applications for social change in a 24-hour time period.

I was a judge on the Sunday portion of the event and was able to walk around and check out the different projects. The projects ranged from web apps, to mobile apps to wearables. The nature of the event meant that many if not most projects were either medical or educational in nature. However there were a bunch of really cool non-profit and ‘social good’ ideas – for example applications to help foodbanks tell prospective donors what types of food exactly they are running short on, or applications to help people find items they have lost.




The teams were filtered down to 5 finalists on the Sunday who gave presentations before the top 3 winners were selected. The top prize went to Project Julius, an app that detects and blocks seizure inducing content, and included a flight/hotel to a hackathon taking place in South Korea!

The fact that the hackathon included students from outside the McMaster community was excellent. Making it more than a McMaster event builds awareness and brings connections to McMaster. Some of the better projects were done by students from outside McMaster and that’s OK too – that’s inspiration and education for everyone. A lot of the teams seemed to include students from a mixture of institutions. A hackathon is taking place at Western soon. It’s great for the broader region to see this happening.




deltaHacks really does signal a big change on McMaster campus. I’ve been at McMaster in one form or another since 2002. After the 2000 dotcom crash enrolment in computing programs plummeted for the early to mid 2000s. In terms of community activities, I think we had a bowling night or something, maybe a meet the profs night and a 40-person ‘programming challenge’ night? It was great fun, but nothing at this scale.

Around 2009 regular enrolment increases began (as did higher entrance averages). A hackathon at a scale like this would have been completely unthinkable 10 years ago… even 5 years ago. It was surreal walking around the student centre seeing table after table of students working on cool projects. Those enrolment increases have continued through to today and are, last I saw, expected to continue into the future.

deltaHacks signals a critical mass of talent has arrived on McMaster campus. A critical mass that could do some very great things in the years ahead. This was an amazing start.

Check out the top 5 finalists present at deltaHacks below:


Project Julius – 1st place


Android sWear – 2nd place


Chameleon – 3rd place


Intuit (honourable mention)


MyoBlinds (honourable mention)