A McMaster University student initiative seeks to unlock the full potential of the Hamilton community while fostering a slick competitive vibe.

Hack the City is an interdisciplinary case competition centred around bringing students closer to the city by raising challenges pertaining to three main sectors: health and technology, transportation and energy sustainability.

The initiative is the brainchild of Daniel “Tuba” D’Souza, a fourth-year Biochemistry student and founder and Co-Director and Sarah Saliba, McMaster alumna and Co-Director.

“The idea sprung around nine months ago—going through my own educational experiences, I realized that there weren’t really enough opportunities for me to apply my education to situations that occur in the real world,” said D’Souza.

In its inaugural year, the project aims to give a chance for students to apply the content they have learned in the classroom to relevant, real-life scenarios.

The delegate application process ends Oct. 21, with 100 students from McMaster and 20 from Mohawk/Redeemer College to be selected for the competition. Teams of four to five students will be formed in January and will be given a month and a half to devise an innovative strategy for the multi-round case competition later in March.

“One of the exciting things about Hack the City is that it is interdisciplinary in nature. The cases themselves are focused around developments in Hamilton, so not only will students be interacting with businesses in a mentorship and learning capacity over the two months before the actual event, the cases themselves will all be Hamilton focused… requiring perspective from all faculties,” said Mithunan Ravindran, a third year Health Sciences student and the Logistics Coordinator.

Hack the City is partnering with some of the most prominent organizations in the city, notably Hamilton Health Sciences, IBM, Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and Hamilton Utilities Corporation. The case competition revolves around addressing challenges that these institutions are currently facing.

One of the biggest challenges that executive team faced in achieving Hack the City was the need to make the city of Hamilton more appealing to students.

“Working within the McMaster bubble, it can be very difficult to appreciate the amazing things that are going on in Hamilton more generally,” D’Souza said.

Ravindran added that the contrary is true with Hamilton businesses as well, citing that institutions do not take students seriously in their ability to contribute to society.

“One of the biggest challenges [with Hack the City] was establishing enough support and gathering enough important partners within the community for people to realize that this initiative is something that we are taking very seriously and can have an outcome,” he said.

“During the case competition, [students] are going to be thinking very critically about these issues, and at the same time understanding how they are making the city better in a really tangible way.”

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