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By: Max Lightstone

In the near future, Hamilton will be blessed with a light rail transit system, spanning the breadth of the city and allowing individuals to travel from McMaster University to Eastgate Square in just over half an hour. While that’s a great move for the city, it’s still lacking something.

Part of the LRT plan is to build an operations maintenance and storage facility at the McMaster Innovation Park. The OMSF would allow for nightly storage and any necessary servicing to the LRT trains, with tracks built along Longwood Road South for the trains to access Main Street West. If you’ve never heard of MIP, it is a large research facility on Longwood Road South beside the Ontario Highway 403.

MIP was proposed by the university in 2005 with the goal of fostering industry collaboration while progressing research and development. Following McMaster’s purchase of an old Westinghouse factory and warehouse on the site, the province announced a $10 million investment to advance development. As well, the federal government moved the CANMET Materials Technology Laboratory to the site.

The park finally opened in 2009, and currently hosts programs, startups and incubators including The Forge and a United Nations University program.

Many of the researchers at MIP are engaged in engineering research, particularly in the materials and automotive fields, but that is quickly changing. Just this year, a $33 million research facility in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology opened, and the university has plans for more expansions including an 80,000 square foot Emerging Technology Center. There is even a hotel in the works!

New buildings lead to more opportunities for people to obtain work. At the MIP, the individuals employed there are often associated with McMaster. The number of people traveling between McMaster’s campus and the MIP for meetings, conferences and classes is already listed as a concern in the park’s master plan, and this number is expected to increase with time.

There are currently only three options to make the trip by public transit: walking across a bridge that is completely exposed to the elements; transfer at King Street West and Longwood Road South to the infrequent Hamilton Street Railway 6-Aberdeen; or taking the route-15 Go Bus from the McMaster Go Terminal, which is also infrequent and expensive.

 It is evident that a more convenient transit system is needed to help facilitate the journey between campus and MIP. The city of Hamilton and McMaster have to plan with foresight to ensure that there is capacity in services to meet the demand.

In this particular case, there’s actually an inexpensive and easy answer: use the proposed LRT line on Longwood Road South. Adding occasional service between the MIP on Longwood and the McMaster stop would allow residents of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area to commute easily on public transit and would vastly ease the trip for those students, faculty and researchers who need to get between Mac and the MIP, some of whom currently need to do so several times a day.

This would also open up the city to out-of-town guests at the future hotel. It wouldn’t even be an expensive plan to implement since the track will already be installed for OMSF access.

A solution like this, however, would require extensive planning, and that's something that hasn’t happened as of yet. McMaster University and the city of Hamilton need to think towards the future when designing and building, and need to work together to make things happen.


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Photo by Kyle West

By Elliot Fung

This year, the faculty of engineering and the DeGroote School of Business partnered up to introduce a newly-minted innovation minor for McMaster students from all faculties. The minor offers a diversity of courses for students interested in innovation and entrepreneurship, with syllabus titles like “From Founder to CEO” and “Persuasion, Pitching Skills and Marketing.”

With enrollment far exceeding expectation, the brand-new innovation minor has started out on the right foot at the beginning of its inaugural year.

“The innovation minor is a nexus where academics meet startup culture,” says Monika Yazdanian, director of The Forge, a Hamilton-based startup incubator.

The Forge helps local startups to grow from an idea to a company. The Forge worked closely with the school of business and faculty of engineering to develop a unique curriculum and program structure.

The uniqueness and strength of the program can be attributed to the way the courses are taught. Classes are informed directly by successful local startups. In addition, chief executive officers and founders, such as Morgan Wyatt of Greenlid Envirosciences, are brought in to guest lecture about their experiences building companies from the ground up. Networking sessions allow students to talk directly with speakers and ask questions about startups.

The program becomes increasingly hands-on and experiential in the third and fourth year. For instance, students who pursue the minor have the opportunity to work directly with The Forge to develop and create their own startup.

Program enrollment far exceeded expectations, with the seventy five spots allocated for the first year course “The World of Entrepreneurship 1X03” filling within 48 hours of the open enrollment date. In light of the minor’s soaring demand, 1X03 will open up spots to 130 students in the winter term.

Nevertheless, as of yet, the program has not solidified any further plans to expand. Cameron Churchill, one of the directors of the minor and assistant professor of civil engineering, brings up the concern that larger classes might stymie intimate class conversation.

Although still early in the year, students seem to be engaging well with the courses. Students can be seen staying back after class to have conversations with instructors.

“Enthusiasm of students is high. They are insatiable for tips and love to chat,” said Churchill.

[spacer height="20px"]Third-year commerce student Darren Zhang, who is taking the first year 1X03 course, has been satisfied with the class so far as it provides him with the opportunity to learn about startups, something lacking from commerce and McMaster in general.

Although there have not been any major issues as of yet, Darren Zhang says that assignments and presentations could be a bit clearer. Another 1X03 student wishes there was a wider variety of startup case studies in more industries. The student also expected more hands-on experience in innovating products, delivering pitches and learning about tools to start businesses.

       Because the innovation minor is new, it is reasonable to expect some confusion from students as to what is taught in these courses and how they are evaluated. Courses will be refined with future iterations of the curriculum. Nevertheless, as of now, Churchill says the focus is on promoting the innovation minor to first and second year students before looking at any curriculum change.

The minor is open to all undergraduate students and includes specific innovation courses such as Innovate 1X03 and Innovate 2X03. Five second, third and fourth-year courses are going to be available within the next two years.  

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