MacChangers Banner

MacChangers is an extracurricular activity that provides resources, coaching and support to interdisciplinary teams of students as they work together to create innovative and realistic changes that will contribute to positive change both locally and globally.

This is your chance to develop skills while you collaborate with fellow Mac students: build professional skills in research, team work, project management and communication that will be useful in any future career.

It is also your opportunity to tackle one of the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges- the most complex and pressing problems confronting society – and create positive local change.

“The NAE Committee on Engineering’s Grand Challenges identified 14 grand challenges and opportunities for engineering during the world’s next few generations. It pointed to engineering or scientific research and innovation that look promising for addressing each challenge as well as suggested currently unmet research needs.” –

This grand challenge is relevant to work currently being done in Hamilton (see Hamilton Spectator article) as well as lending itself well to interdisciplinary collaboration on positive change. The 2016-2017 MacChangers program will focus on the Grand Challenge to Restore and Improve Urban Infrastructure with a focus upon improving transportation systems.

2016-2017 MacChangers Topics:

  • Big Data and Transportation
  • Social Inequalities and Transportation
  • Aesthetic and Design on Transit Infrastructure
  • Transportation Safety
  • Alternatives to the Automobile.

Your team will work on defining the scope and scale of your topic of choice so that a successful project can be completed by April of 2017.

MacChangers is a partnership between the Faculty of Engineering and MacPherson Institute.

You can contact us at:

Hamilton Hall Photo

Please make note of the following important MacChangers dates:

Fall 2016 Info Session:

September 21st, 2016
MDCL 3022
2:30pm – 3:30pm
4:30pm – 5:30pm

Bootcamp Training:
October 22, 2016- 9:30-1:30 (Lunch provided)
Register on Eventbrite 

We will have additional full group and team meetings throughout the year. Details will be announced once they become available.

Teams will present projects to: interested stakeholders both on campus and in the community.

Final Project Showcase: Early April.
Date and Location TBA

students working together outside

Students will be required to:

– Attend half-day bootcamp training sessions (September 21st Bootcamp training session) over the course of the school year which will offer training in topic development, team building, project management, research communication and other topics that will help you get off to a great start. Dates here.

– Provide monthly updates either by email or meeting with program coordinators.

– Network with subject matter experts at McMaster and in the Hamilton Community, and video-conference with peers at other institutions as they engage in their own projects to  address the Grand Challenges.

We anticipate that students will work on their projects for the entire academic year; depending on the project, it may become a project for a team to take up next year. Each team may apply for funding to cover the costs of your project.

Interested in learning more? Attend the MacChangers Info Session on September 21st, 2016. (2:30pm – 3:30pm OR 4:30pm – 5:30pm) at MDCL 3022

Here is what you need to do to get involved:

Step 1 – Put together a 5-member interdisciplinary team. The teams will ideally consist of three engineering students and two students from other Faculties.

Step 2 – Review the projects, and pick the one that most excites you and your team. Be realistic: can you successfully investigate and develop solutions for this project as an extracurricular activity over the course of the academic year? Also be realistic about the time you can commit: don’t forget that you still have all those classes to attend.

Step 3 – Send us your statement of interest! Click here for the application.

Students using laptop while having coffee at coffee shop

2016-2017 MacChangers Program: Topics, Themes, Questions

Transportation & Safety 

Complete Streets

  • Who uses roads and what factors impact how safe those roads are for them?
  • How can we design our streets to enable a diversity of transit modes safely?
  • How can geographical information systems and apps like Waze play a role in improving traffic safety in Hamilton?

Vision Zero

  • How can we make safety a part of infrastructure design?
  • What roles can regulators, providers, and users each take to improve transportation safety?
  • What technologies exist and how could they be implemented to deter traffic accidents cost-efficiently?


  • How can we build for safety without obstructing use?
  • Where is the balance between safety, economic impact, and functionality?
  • Compared to more bike-friendly cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam, what challenges do North American cities face when redesigning transit infrastructure?

Transportation & Social Inequities


  • Who currently has access to transportation (both private and public forms) and how can we increase accessibility with transportation infrastructure design?
  • How can we connect all regions of Hamilton to the transportation system?

Building for Change

  • Who will be impacted by the LRT? Who will be impacted by the construction of the LRT?
  • How can we minimize economic damage to local businesses during the construction phase of the LRT?
  • Socially just transport infrastructure has preliminarily shown results of lower crime rates. Along with implementing fair pricing for lower-income residents affording to rides, how could fair transportation lead to a reduction in negative outcomes?

Public Health

  • How can transportation connect distinct communities with a diversity of resources?
  • What impact does mobility and transit design have on physical and mental measures of health?
  • What are the social and economic ramifications of heavy congestion? Do long commute times to and from work affect richer or poorer citizens more disproportionately?

Aesthetics & Design of Transportation


  • What role can repurposed parking lots and integrative land-use play in transportation planning?
  • How can we optimize the use of transit nodes during and after LRT construction?
  • Should state sanctioned public art used in public transportation be inherently utilitarian? Just as calming jazz/classical music is used for phone “on-hold” services to calm down irritated customers, should public aesthetic serve a sort of purpose? How do you design for varied tastes of the general public? Is art for art’s sake compatible with limited government funding?


  • How does the visual design of transportation affect its use?
  • How can we design transportation infrastructure with accessibility in mind?
  • How can we engage citizens and the larger community in the process of designing transit infrastructure?

Culture and Integration

  • What cultural or community spaces can be built into, and around, transit nodes?
  • How can multi-modal transit be integrated into existing transportation infrastructure?
  • Musical swings and stairs have been incorporated into transit nodes in cities Montreal and Stockholm, how can Hamilton incorporate creative spaces into its transit nodes and to what end?
  • With new multimedia technologies in augmented reality, and other digital interactive installations — how could these technologies be appropriately implemented to improve public transportation’s aesthetic?

Transportation & Big Data

New Technology

  • What role can mobile apps play in transportation?
  • Can Big Data connect people with transportation and essential services or resources?
  • Think about the rise of the new sharing economy, how can principles and algorithms from flexible services such as Uber be applied to public transport?
  • How can emerging technologies be integrated with the Big Data framework to address individual and infrastructural transport needs?

Internet of Things

  • How can Hamilton’s transportation system be made “intelligent”?
  • How can we use existing open access data to improve transit? Both in the realm of user experience and infrastructure maintenance?


  • How do we collect data from users across different forms of transportation? What data do we need to collect and how will it be used to improve their experience?
  • How can Big Data and its past successes be made usable for a transportation system ?

Transportation Alternatives


  • How do we convince the public to reduce their single-user automobile dependency?
  • What new alternative transport could be introduced and how can old modes be promoted?


  • What alternative modes of transport exist and what obstructs their use?
  • How do we make alternative modes of transport as efficient and effective as single-user automobiles without building over automobile infrastructure?


  • What is the economic impact of using alternative modes of transportation? What about the social and cultural impact?
  • Some South American cities decree that 40% of vehicles can’t travel during peak hours (assigned randomly by last few digits of license plates) while others implement Pedestrian street days. Among these and other solutions, what are the factors that would lead to these working in certain cities? Which cities would benefit from pilots of these programs?

2016-2017 MacChangers Program: General & Specific Resources

General Information
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
“Long-Range Strategic Issues Facing the Transportation Industry”
European Parliamentary Research Service Blog
“Future Challenges for Transport Policy”
CityLab from The Atlantic
“The Future of Transportation”

Topic-Specific Information

Transportation & Safety
City Lab: Mapping how stressful streets can limit cycling
City Lab: Another bike safety win from the Netherlands : Light-up intersections
City Lab: The new, very visible way Vermont is fighting road deaths
City Lab: When D.C. flew the skull and crossbones for every traffic death
City Lab: Why Bike Share is really very safe
City Lab: California’s hiking trails just got safer thanks to a crowdsourced app
City Lab: Some bike infrastructure is worse than none at all
City Lab: Why red light cameras have big safety benefits but little support
City Lab: A nifty device to stop cars from driving too close to bikes
City Lab: In Singapore, senior citizens can now stop traffic
City Lab: A ‘Gateway drug’ for better bike infrastructure
City Lab: Compelling evidence that red light cameras do make roads safer

Transportation & Social Inequities
City Lab: The U.S. DOT’s newest plan to tackle transportation barriers
City Lab: Google will roll out new real-time transit tech in an underserved neighbourhood
City Lab: The London Urban cycle loan scheme is making bikes popular with women and minorities
City Lab:  Yet more evidence bike-share isn’t reaching the poor
City Lab: Why great transit is worth loads of money to local businesses
City Lab: The social costs of driving in Vancouver, in 1 chart
City Lab: The complete business case for converting street parking into bike lanes
City Lab: A soundtrack of income inequality along the new york city subway
City Lab: Why can’t public transit be free
City Lab: White privilege, on a bicycle
Mental Health Action Group: Mental Health & Public Transport
Public Health Reports: Urban Sprawl and Public Health
Canadian Mental Health Association: The Gold Standard – Transportation: A Vehicle for Mental Health
Seeker Daily [YouTube]: Why The U.S. Has The Worst Public Transit System
RMI Outlet: In Bogota, Creating Social Equality through Sustainable Transportation

Aesthetic & Design of Transportation
City Lab: Seattle Bus stops now feature rain-activated sea creatures
City Lab: Paris introduces car-free Sundays
City Lab: How college campuses are stepping up campus walkability (QR codes)
City Lab: How driverless cars could turn parking lots into city parks
City Lab: This swingin bus stop is Pittsburgh’s smallest jazz club
City Lab: How art creates a calmer commute
City Lab: Design your own fantasy bus system for real-world cities
City Lab: Nicer transit stations attract more riders
City Lab: Baltimore’s got some playful new ‘Hopscotch crosswalks’
City Lab: The Shanghai Metro has its own library
City Lab: Imagine a digital library in every bus or train
City Lab: How design can help build a transit culture
City Lab: 100 ideas for improving the New York City Subway in 100 days
Hofstra: The Geography of Transport Systems
City of Hamilton: Corridor Planning Principles and Design Guidelines
McKees Rocks: Penn State Architecture Students Design Concepts for Repurposed Vacant Lots
Downtown Idea Exchange: Repurposing Existing Parking Structure Pays Off

Transportation & Big Data
City Lab: Mapping how stressful streets can limit cycling
City Lab: An exhaustive and accessible transit database has finally arrived
City Lab: California’s hiking trails just got safer thanks to a crowdsourced app
City Lab: The next step toward a better transit app
City Lab: Where do locals go in major cities? Check out this interactive world map
City Lab: Design your own fantasy bus system for real-world cities
City Lab: Commuter hack of the Day : Help out researchers while you wait for the Bus
City Lab:  A digital mixing board for your street
City Lab: China crowdmaps pedestrian and cyclist problem areas
City Lab: How the new iPhone will expose cities lagging on open data
City Lab: 30 minutes on mass transit in 20 world cities
City Lab:  3 big time benefits of real-time transit data
City Lab: Crowdsourcing your commute
Miovision: The Internet of Things and Transportation
Supply Chain 247: How the Internet of Things is Improving Transportation and Logistics
Intel: Building an Intelligent Transportation System with the Internet of Things
Tea after Twelve: Big Data – Improving the Public Transport System

Transportation Alternatives
City Lab: Mapping how stressful streets can limit cycling
City Lab: Moving to a new home can break old habits of car commuting
City Lab: Paris introduces car-free Sundays
City Lab: Another bike safety win from the Netherlands : Light-up intersections
City Lab: Amsterdam is appointing a bike mayor
City Lab: An exhaustive and accessible transit database has finally arrived
City Lab: Some bike infrastructure is worse than none at all
City Lab: How to keep cyclists riding even in the frigid snowy winter
City Lab: Yet more evidence bike-share isn’t reaching the poor
City Lab: How college campuses are stepping up campus walkability
City Lab: Why DC will teach every kid how to ride a bike
City Lab: A super fun traffic game that belittles human drivers
City Lab: Please bring this to America : Heated Bike lanes
City Lab: Can light rail carry a city’s transit system?
Seeker Daily [Youtube]: What are the World’s Cleanest Cities?
The Guardian: How Curitiba’s BRT stations sparked a transport revolution

Large group of people with Ideas