News & Events

(Un)Hacking Downstream Consequences

Event Details


Location: Online

Date: February 22, 2022

Time: 9:00am - 12:00am

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Event Dates: February 22 – March 3, 2022


Applications Closed!

Application Process & Event information    | Speakers |    FAQ


The McDonald Institute is pleased to partner with Experience Ventures for unique virtual student placements that focus on building innovation networks, future preparedness, and making an impact. This is a paid opportunity for up to 35 full- or part-time undergraduate students enrolled from 2nd year and above in any discipline at Queen’s University. Students will receive a $325 honorarium for their 16 hours of participation.

(Un)Hacking Downstream Consequences is a deconstruction of the typical hackathon. The event will occur online over 10 days between February 22, 2022 to March 3, 2022 with both synchronous and asynchronous pieces. The goal of the experience is to develop and apply entrepreneurial thinking and skillsets for resiliency, opportunity recognition, action orientation, risk management, systems thinking, and trans-disciplinary thinking.


Why should you participate in this event?


This is a non-competitive event, and is focused on championing collaboration and good-will amongst participants. Unlike a traditional hackathon, this event encourages solutions of any type, such as policy changes or product design. Computing experience and skills are not a requirement for this event, and students from all programs are encouraged to apply.

Students will apply as individuals, and will be grouped into cross-disciplinary teams once accepted. Teams will work together to create a policy or product based solution that will target a thesis stream within one of three problem sets:


Megaconstellations of Satellites (SATCON)

How can we ensure access to the night sky with rapid increases in satellite launches and satellites in low Earth orbit? How can we mitigate unforeseen downstream consequences of megaconstellations of artificial satellites?

The archiving, preservation, and creation of datasets for audio/visual media

How does access and preservation of art created by marginalized people affect marginalized groups? How can we address unforeseen downstream consequences of maintaining and characterizing art media?

PPE and clean room requirements for physics experiments at SNOLAB

How does increased use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) affect people, cultures, the planet, and science? How can we address unforeseen downstream consequences of current and future PPE needs and use?

Thesis streams will be revealed during the event, and include focuses on downstream consequences for the environment, culture, quality of life, and specific research fields.



Application Process & Event Information

Application materials and questions

The application process is supported by Qualtrics through Queen’s University. The applications closed at 11:59pm on January 23, 2022.

All of the questions found in the application form are outlined here, including options, answer types, and limits where applicable. Question numbers are included, and “skipped” question numbers are descriptions included elsewhere on this page. You can leave the application at any time and resume where you left off as long as you return to the application on the same browser and device.

All specific personally identifying information (name and email) is anonymous during the evaluation period to remove as much unconscious bias as possible from the evaluations. All optional self identification information is kept anonymous and aggregate, such that it is separate from the applications themselves and only used for statistical purposes. Self identification information is required for Experience Ventures events. If you require an alternate format for the application, please contact us at unhackathon@mcdonaldinstitute.ca and we will work with you to ensure you are able to apply.

Required Information

The following information is required to complete your application. In order of request:

Personal Identification

  • (Q2.1) Full Name, as it appears on your student transcript [text]
  • (Q2.2) Preferred name, if different from above (we will use this for all communications regarding and during the event should your application be successful) [text]
  • (Q2.3) Your QueensU email address [email]
  • (Q2.4) What is your current year of study and selected specialization, major, minor, and/or program? Please be as specific as possible and only include programs that you are enrolled in. Enter “undeclared” if applicable.
    • Year of Study [text]
    • Program [text]
    • Major/Specialization [text]
    • Minor (use N/A if you do not have one) [text]
  • (Q2.5)Are you an international student? This question is not used for individual evaluation or team selection and is only relevant for budgeting purposes. Please note that the McDonald Institute will solely be funding international students, whereas Experience Ventures is funding domestic students. [radio buttons: yes or no]
  • (Q2.6) Attach your most recent unofficial transcript (i.e. including courses from Fall 2021). Your transcript and GPA will not be used for evaluation to participate in the event. Transcripts will only be used for team selection. [file upload]

Personal Reflection and Intent

  • (Q3.1) Rate the following problem sets from your most preferred to tackle (1) to least preferred (3). You may rate the problem sets with the same value if you have an equal interest level between them.
  • (Q3.2) Megaconstellations of Satellites (SATCON) [Dropdown, options: 1,2,3]
  • (Q3.3) The archiving of past vulnerable media and the showcasing of expanding media datasets [Dropdown, options: 1,2,3]
  • (Q3.4) PPE and clean room requirements for physics experiments [Dropdown, options: 1,2,3]
  • (Q3.5) Please provide a a written reflection describing why you are interested in the (Un)Hackathon. If appropriate, please discuss what you would bring to your team, and how your knowledge, experiences, and ways of knowing will help create a meaningful solution to any one of the problems presented. [text, 3000 character limit (approximately 500 words)]

Optional Information

The optional information requested in the application is regarding your availability and self-identification in one or more equity deserving groups.

In the Personal Identification section, there are 2 optional questions regarding your availability. You are requested to fill out one or the other based:

  • (Q2.6) What is your availability during the event (February 22, 2022 through March 3, 2022 inclusive)? Please indicate all times that you are AVAILABLE by selecting options in the below matrix (Q2.6) or by specifying your availability in the subsequent text field (Q2.7). We will use this data to schedule synchronous parts of the events as well as to match you with team members that have similar availability. Availability is assumed to be in the Eastern (EST) time zone (i.e. the time zone for Kingston, Ontario). If you do not complete one of these questions (i.e. the matrix or text fields), we will assume you are available for all times between 8:30 – 21:30 EST on February 22, 2022 to March 3, 2022 inclusive. [matrix, 1 hour slots from 8:30 – 21:30 on February 22, 2022 through March 3, 2022]
  • (Q.7) If you cannot access the matrix above, please specify all periods of availability between 8:30am – 21:30 EST on each day between February 22, 2022 and March 3, 2022. You only need to fill out ONE of these questions regarding availability (i.e. either Q2.6 or Q2.7, not both). [text form fields, one for each day between February 22, 2022 through March 3, 2022]

There is one question in this section, which states:

  • (Q4.2) Do you consider yourself to be part of any of the following groups? Indigenous, Visible Minority, Gender Minority, Person living with one or more disabilities, New Canadian, Have grown up in a rural or remote community [Radio buttons: Yes, No, Unsure]

Below are parameters for discerning these equity deserving groups.


Indigenous is an umbrella term for First Nations (status and non-status), Métis and Inuit. Indigenous refers to all of these groups, either collectively or separately, and is the term used in international contexts. Other groups of Indigenous peoples from outside of Canada and Turtle Island are included here as well.

Visible Minority

Examples: Black (e.g. African, American, Canadian, Caribbaen), Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Indigenous person from North America, Indigenous person from outside North America, South Asian/East Indian (e.g., Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian from India, East Indian from Guyana, Trinidadian, Sri Lankan, East African), South East Asian (e.g., Burmese, Cambodian/Kampuchean, Laotian, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian), Non-White West Asian (e.g., Iranian, Lebanese, Afghan), Non-White North African (e.g., Egyptian, Libyan), Arab, Non-White Latin American (including indigenous persons from Central and South America), Person of Mixed Origin (with at least one parent in one of the visible minority groups listed above)

Gender Minority

Anyone who identifies as a woman, Two-Spirit, Non-Binary, Transgender, Transmasculine, Transfeminine, Gender variant, Gender non-conforming, Genderqueer, or other minority gender identities.

Person living with one or more disabilities

Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.

Examples of disabilities include: Psychiatric disability and/or mental health disorder (e.g., bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder) ; Physical, functional and/or mobility disability (e.g., amputation, arthritis, paraplegia, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries, spina bifida) ; Blind and/or low vision ; Deaf, deafened and/or hard of hearing ; Speech disability (e.g., stuttering) ; Chronic medical condition disability (e.g., diabetes, chronic pain, HIV/AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome, kidney disease, seizure disorders) ; Developmental disability (e.g., Autism, ADHD, ADD, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders) ; Neurodivergent ; Learning disability (e.g., dyslexia, auditory processing disorder) ; Head injury/cognitive disorder (e.g., dementia, amnesia)

New Canadian

A recent immigrant to Canada, including permanent residents and asylum seekers.

Having grown up in a rural or remote community

Rural: the population living in towns and municipalities outside the commuting zone of larger urban centres (i.e. outside the commuting zone of centres with population of 10,000 or more). Or, less than 10,000 in the town/municipality and >70% of the working demographics work in the municipality and do not commute to a larger urban centre. (i.e. job opportunities of large urban centres are not accessible to the majority of inhabitants). ex. Vernon, Cumberland, and West Kootenay in British Columbia; Claresholm, Alberta; Moose Jaw, Estevan in Saskatchewan; Brandon and Rhineland, Plum Coulee, Gretna, Altona (RPGA), Selkirk in Manitoba; North Bay, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, and Timmins, Ontario; Bridgewater, East Hants in Nova Scotia; Sexton, Clarenville in Newfoundland

Remote: isolated and only accessible by air for most of the year, where alternative means of travel for essential needs (e.g., medical visits and personnel, food, first responders, or laboratory samples) are non-existent, impossible or impractical. Some communities may have limited access to seasonal ice roads or long and unreliable gravel roads, ferries or remote railway. ex. Yukon (15): Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing, Carcross, Carmacks, Dawson, Eagle Plains, Faro, Fort Selkirk, Keno, Mayo, Old Crow, Pelly Crossing, Ross River, Watson Lake, Whitehorse; Northwest Territories (22): Aklavik, Colville Lake, Deline, Fort Good Hope, Fort McPherson, Fort Simpson, Fort Smith, Gamèti, Hay River, Inuvik, Lutselk’e, Nahanni Butte, Norman Wells, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Sambaa K’e, Tuktoyaktuk, Tulita, Ulukhaktok, Wekweeti, Whatì, Wrigley; Newfoundland and Labrador (8): Black Tickle, Hopedale, Makkovik, Nain, Natuashish, Postville, Rigolet, Williams Harbour; Quebec (26): Akulivik, Aupaluk, Chevery, Chisasibi, Eastmain River, Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Inukjuak, Ivujivik, Kangiqsualujjuaq, Kangiqsujuaq, Kangirsuk, Kuujjuaq, Kuujjuarapik, La Romaine, La Tabatière, Port-Menier, Puvirnituq, Quaqtaq, Saint-Augustin, Salluit, Schefferville, Tasiujaq, Tête-à-La-Baleine, Umiujaq, Waskaganish, Wemindji; Manitoba (21): Berens River, Brochet, Churchill, Cross Lake, Elk Island, God’s Lake Narrows, God’s River, Island Lake, Lac Brochet, Little Grand Rapids, Norway House, Oxford House, Pauingassi, Poplar River First Nation, Pukatawagan, Red Sucker Lake, Shamattawa, South Indian Lake, St. Theresa Point, Tadoule Lake, York Factory First Nation; Nunavut (25): Arctic Bay, Arviat, Baker Lake, Cambridge Bay, Chesterfield Inlet, Clyde River, Coral Harbour, Gjoa Haven, Grise Fiord, Hall Beach (Sanirajak), Igloolik, Iqaluit, Kinngait, Kimmirut, Kugaaruk, Kugluktuk, Naujaat, Pangnirtung, Pond Inlet, Qikiqtarjuaq, Rankin Inlet, Resolute, Sanikiluaq, Taloyoak, Whale Cove; Ontario (27): Attawapiskat First Nation, Bearskin Lake First Nation, Cat Lake First Nation, Deer Lake First Nation, Eabametoong First Nation, Fort Albany First Nation, Fort Severn First Nation, Kasabonika Lake First Nation, Kashechewan First Nation, Keewaywin First Nation, Kingfisher First Nation, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation (Big Trout Lake First Nation), Marten Falls First Nation, Muskrat Dam Lake First Nation, Neskantaga First Nation, Nibinamik First Nation (Summer Beaver Band), North Caribou Lake First Nation (Round Lake First Nation), North Spirit Lake First Nation, Peawanuck, Pikangikum First Nation, Poplar Hill First Nation, Sachigo Lake First Nation, Sandy Lake First Nation, Slate Falls First Nation, Wapekeka First Nation, Webequie First Nation, Wunnumin Lake First Nation; Saskatchewan (5): Camsell Portage, Fond-du-Lac, Stony Rapids, Uranium City, Wollaston Lake; Alberta (3): Chipewyan Lake, Fort Chipewyan, Fox Lake; British Columbia (30): Ahousaht, Alert Bay, Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Dawson’s Landing, Dease Lake, Echo Bay, Ehattesaht, Fort Nelson, Fort Ware, Hartley Bay, Hot Springs Cove, Iskut, Kingcome Village, Kitasoo, Kitkatla, Klemtu, Kyuquot, Masset, Minstrel Island, Ocean Falls, Oona River, Port Simpson (Lax Kw’Alaams), Sandspit, Sullivan Bay, Telegraph Creek, Tsay Keh, Uclucje / Ucluelet, Wuikinuxv Village, Yuquot

Expanded problem set statements

There are three problems identified for the (Un)Hachathon event occuring February 22 – March 3, 2022. Each problem set will have at least 3 thesis streams that will be revealed within the first day of the event. Each team will choose a thesis stream within a problem set to focus on. Below is some context for each problem set.

Megaconstellations of Satellites (SATCON)
Increased satellite traffic and mega-constellations over the next two decades, regardless of purpose or intent. Planned satellite launches will add tens of thousands more satellites and space junk to orbit, in addition to the associated launches for these satellites.

The archiving, preservation, and creation of datasets for audio/visual media
Management and accessibility of digital-born and analog audio/visual media from marginalized populations is a priority of the Vulnerable Media Lab at Queen’s University. Accessibility here is two-fold: accessible to the general public, approved research groups, and/or approved community groups through a convenient means, as well as accessible to everyone of varying ability.

PPE and clean room requirements for physics experiments at SNOLAB
SNOLAB hosts several research experiments that require low background and very clean environments. Maintaining a class-2000 clean room environment requires specialized equipment including personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning protocols for ​personnel as well as equipment.

More about the (Un)Hacking Downstream Consequences event

The McDonald Institute is pleased to partner with Experience Ventures for unique virtual student placements that focus on building innovation networks, future preparedness, and making an impact.  The event will occur completely online starting on February 22, 2022 and ending March 3, 2022. This is a paid opportunity for up to 35 full- or part-time undergraduate students enrolled from 2nd year and above in any discipline at Queen’s University. This placement will enable students the opportunity to:

  • Apply in-class learning to the challenges and opportunities facing ventures.
  • Explore Canada’s evolving innovation economy.
  • Network and meet industry leaders and employers.
  • Discover the latest technologies being incubated in Canada.
  • Enhance your resume with a unique experience.
  • Develop your work-ready skills.
  • Receive compensation for your placement.

What’s an (Un)hackathon experience event?
The (Un)hacking Downstream Consequences event positions diverse student groups to tackle real world challenges for innovative outcomes. Traditional hackathon features – like long-hours, pre-selected teams, gender imbalance, narrowly applied skillsets, or minimum viable product (MVP) completion, as examples – will not be part of this experience. Instead, students from all disciplines are encouraged to apply, and will be placed in small cross-disciplinary groups to brainstorm unique solutions to problem sets held by Institute-identified problem holders. Students will be able to participate while attending full-time or part-time studies and other positions – the program is designed with flexibility in mind to incorporate a wide-diversity of student experiences.  The event will be hosted completely virtually. Students who identify as visible minorities, gender minorities, Indigenous, persons with disabilities, new Canadians, or coming from rural and remote communities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Solution outcomes will vary by each group’s collaborative skills, problem orientation, and priorities for future innovations.  In particular, no coding experience is required and solutions need not feature any coding whatsoever. Each team will have synchronous and asynchronous access to mentors, problem holders, keynote speakers, and Institute staff. Student teams will choose one problem-set and define a solution as a team over 16 hours spread across 10 days.

The goal of the experience is to develop and apply entrepreneurial thinking and skillsets for: resiliency, opportunity recognition, action orientation, risk management, systems thinking, and trans-disciplinary thinking. This is a non-competitive event, and is focused on championing collaboration and good-will amongst participants. Student teams will present their final work to a panel of cross-disciplinary judges and teams whose solutions have next step applications will be encouraged to pursue their ideas with support from the McDonald Institute and its partners.


We will be scheduling synchronous events based on applicants’ and speakers’ indicated availability during February 22 through March 3, 2022, and will post a formal schedule in late January 2022.

The event will include an opening and closing ceremony, 3 workshops, 1 keynote speaker event, meetings with problem holders and mentors, as well as synchronous and asynchronous time to work on solutions. Approximately 10 hours out of the total 16 hours will be dedicated time for teams to work on their solutions, with the largest time commitment per day being 3 hours and most days being 1 hour.

Mentors (Graduate students, Postdoctoral Fellows, and early career personnel)

If you are interested in the (Un)Hacking Downstream Consequences event but are not an undergraduate student, we encourage you to consider applying as a mentor.

We are providing teams with access to mentors during the event so that they can ask questions, receive feedback, and to assist in judging at the end of the event. Mentors will be assigned to each problem set, essentially filling the role of “TA” but have the flexibility to assist with any student team regardless of problem set. The time commitment for mentors would be between 16 and 18 hours in total; 2 hours of training 1-2 weeks before the event and up to 16 hours during the event to attend workshops, meet with the teams, and participate in judging the solutions. You will be paid for your time preparing and participating in the event as a mentor through an honorarium of $325, and you will receive a certificate of leadership that you may add to your professional development portfolio.

Mentors will need to be available remotely for all 10 days of the event between February 22, 2022 to March 3, 2022. You do not need to be available during all hours of these days, but you should be able to respond to requests within a 6 hour window at most.

To apply to be a mentor, please write a 300 word maximum personal statement explaining why you are interested in being a mentor, highlighting any skills or relevant previous experience in similar mentoring scenarios. Send your statement to unhackathon@mcdonaldinstitute.ca with the subject line “(Un)Hackathon Mentor Application” by 11:59 pm EST on January 21, 2022 to be considered.

If you have questions or concerns about the event, Experience Ventures, the McDonald Institute, or the application, please consult the FAQ below. If your question or concern is not addressed in the FAQ, please reach out to us at unhackathon@mcdonaldinstitute.ca.



Below are confirmed speakers for the (Un)Hackathon, with more to be revealed closer to the event.

Workshop Leads will engage teams in synchronous and asynchronous sessions to build their knowledge of systems thinking and failure modes. Problem Holders are experts who will meet with each team interested in their problem and will judge the solutions at the end of the event.


Jim McLellan, Academic Director of DDQIC

Workshop Lead

Jim (Sc’81, PhD’90) is the Academic Director of the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre, Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Queen’s and a co-founder of the Queen’s Summer Innovation Initiative. Jim is committed to building innovation and entrepreneurship programming at Queen’s and to growing a vibrant entrepreneurial culture in the Kingston region, working with many groups in the Kingston entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Edward Thomas, Interim Managing Director of the McDonald Institute

Workshop Lead

Edward Thomas is the Interim Managing Director and Associate Director of External Relations for the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute. He supports partnerships, communications and business development between the McDonald Institute and the broader astroparticle physics community, academia, government, business, NGOs and the Canadian public. He is a masters graduate in chemical engineering and more than 20 years of experience in technology development, research administration, innovation support and business journalism.

Samantha Lawler, Assistant Professor at the University of Regina

Problem Holder & Judge

Samantha Lawler is a dynamical modeler with a strong background in observational astronomy. Much of her work involves “observing” imaginary planets and dust using computer code, and comparing her predictions with real data from real telescopes. A passion of Samantha’s is artificial satellite visibility and mitigation, and she works on the observation and modelling of the visibility of megaconstellations of artificial satellites.

Susan Lord, Director of VML

Problem Holder & Judge

Susan Lord holds a PhD from York University. She is Professor in the Department of Film and Media at Queen’s University, jointly appointed to the Departments of Art and Gender Studies, and currently serving as the Director of the Graduate Program in Cultural Studies. She is the Director of the Vulnerable Media Lab. Her research interests have landed in the areas of cinema and media arts, archives, gendered spaces and the city, and Cuban cinema and visual culture.

SNOLAB, Research Facility

Problem Holder & Judge

SNOLAB is Canada’s deep underground research laboratory, located in Vale’s Creighton mine near Sudbury, Ontario Canada. At 2km, SNOLAB is the deepest cleanest lab in the world. It provides an ideal low background environment for the study of extremely rare physical interactions. SNOLAB’s science program focuses on astroparticle physics, specifically neutrino and dark matter studies, though its unique location is also well-suited to biology and geology experiments.


Eligibility and Compensation

Students will be paid $325 CAN each upon the completion of the experience. Any student from any discipline or faculty registered at Queen’s University is eligible to apply if they are:

  • A Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person on whom refugee protection has been conferred under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.*
  • Legally entitled to work in Canada in accordance with relevant provincial or territorial legislation and regulations.
  • Enrolled in any full- or part-time program of post-secondary study at Queen’s University.
  • Enrolled in their 2nd year of study or above.**

*International students are welcome to apply. The funding for international students will not come from Experience Ventures, but from the McDonald Institute directly.
**For the McDonald Institute’s Experience Ventures: (Un)hacking Downstream Consequences, only 2nd year full- or part-time students and above will be considered for teams.

What is the McDonald Institute?

The McDonald Institute is the Canadian centre for astroparticle physics research; uniting researchers, theorists, and technical experts within one organization. Located at and led by Queen’s University, the McDonald Institute is proud to have 13 partner universities and research institutes across the country, all of which are key players in Canada’s past and future innovation in astroparticle physics. Recently in the innovation space, the Institute responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by collaborating with the Mechanical Ventilator Milano (MVM) Consortium to deliver a ventilator on mass scale. Canada’s particle physics community and their collaborators in medicine, engineering, computer sciences, manufacturing and fund-raising have demonstrated their flexibility and adaptability by pivoting from their search for Dark Matter to committing their knowledge and skills toward solving a most pressing global problem.

What is Experience Ventures?

Experience Ventures creates paid entrepreneurial thinking placements for college and university students with innovative companies in Canada. Our goal is to inspire your creativity, resiliency and future vision – so you can seize your future with the right skill set. Experience Ventures was created at the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking at the University of Calgary. This group is proud to work with schools to onboard students and companies, and support evaluation of this innovative new program. The goal is to scale Experience Ventures after this pilot period ending in March 2022.

See the one-pager on Experience Ventures here.