Hamilton post-secondary students work with city to tackle real-world challenges

CityLAB Hamilton held its spring showcase to show off projects created by local post-secondary students to solve real challenges in the city. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

A partnership between the City of Hamilton and its post-secondary schools is producing some real solutions to real-world challenges.

CityLAB Hamilton held its spring showcase on Friday to show off the projects created by students from McMaster University, Mohawk College and Redeemer University to address problems and issues facing the city.

“We solicit challenges from city staff,” said Patrick Byrne, project manager for CityLAB. “Something they want to try that’s new, something they want student input on, potentially from experts in those different fields. They want to try something new, they want to be involved in moving something forward.”

One project displayed at Friday’s showcase was the Hamilton Culture Quest, which is the prototype for an augmented reality app designed to turn Hamilton’s public spaces into a virtual museum. Byrne said it came from a proposal from a museum interpreter who wanted to find a use for the many museum artifacts that are in storage.

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“She’s wanting to make an augmented reality app that connects those artifacts that they have in storage, but digital scans of them, that would be linked to people in a ‘Pokemon Go’ sort of scavenger hunt around the city that would enable us to tell Hamilton’s story.”

Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

Other projects are about finding more immediate solutions to problems that residents face on a daily basis, such as fighting chronic homelessness, helping university students cut down on food waste or reducing senior isolation.

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Some of those projects are already producing results. Since the partnership began in 2017, Mohawk College has been working with CityHousing to improve housing units in a number of ways, from renovations to improving waste management.

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Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann, who is on the board for CityHousing, said the partnership has been immensely valuable for the city.

“When you’re a governmental agency, you’ve got limited staff that are really focused on the service delivery,” said Nann. “And often you don’t get people who are able to provide more than the ‘corner of their desk’ attention to some problems that need some attention. So what’s great about this is that there have been tangible outcomes coming from this project that CityHousing can actually integrate.”

Nann also said she heard from a group of students that have found ways that the city can be more inclusive regarding the local Indigenous community and their involvement in climate change and environmental issues.

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The projects featured at Friday’s showcase are also displayed on CityLAB Hamilton’s website.

A ‘matchmaking’ event will be held on April 26 at the CityLAB headquarters in the old CFL Hall of Fame building, with the goal of pairing city staff with students and finding more challenges for those students to tackle.

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