(Un)Hacking Downstream Consequences

February 22 - March 3, 2022

About    |    Agenda    |    Meet the Team     |    FAQ



About (Un)Hacking Downstream Consequences

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.


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.



We have scheduled synchronous events based on applicants’ and speakers’ indicated availability during February 22 through March 3, 2022.

The event will include an opening and closing ceremony, 3 workshops, 1 keynote speaker and panel event, meetings with problem holders and mentors, as well as synchronous (synch) and asynchronous (asynch) 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.

Below is the confirmed agenda. The time noted for each day (synch or asynch) is the required time to participate in events and actions on those days. Note that student teams are expected to schedule and dedicate working time throughout the event, and that dedicated working time is not scheduled by the McDonald Institute (Un)Hackathon Team.


2022 (Un)Hackathon Agenda

Agenda Text

Day 1 – Tuesday February 22

Synch: Opening remarks (11:30am – 11:45am EST), Workshop 1 (2:00 – 3:30pm EST)
Asynch: IceBreaker, thesis selection, workshop preparation (1 hour)

Day 2 – Wednesday February 23

Synch: Meeting with Problem Holder and introduction to mentors, teams attend one (SATCON: 10:00 – 11:00am EST, SNOLAB: 1:00-2:00pm EST, VML: 2:00 – 3:00pm EST)
Asynch: Review of resources (1 hour)
Milestone: Thesis stream confirmed

Day 3 – Thursday February 24

Synch: Keynote Speaker and Panel Discussion (2:00 – 3:00pm EST)

Day 4 – Friday February 25

Synch: Workshop 2 (9:30 – 10:30am EST), Workshop 3 (10:30 – 10:45am EST)

Day 5 – Saturday February 26

Milestone: Downstream consequences and solution type confirmed

Day 6 – Sunday February 27

No Commitments

Day 7 – Monday February 28

No Commitments

Day 8 – Tuesday March 1

Synch: Review solution and analysis with Mentor (1 hour, scheduled by teams and mentor)

Day 9 – Wednesday March 2

Milestone: Submission of solution

Day 10 – Thursday March 3

Synch: Closing ceremony (5:30 – 6:00pm EST)


Meet the McDonald Institute (Un)Hackathon Team

Alexandra Pedersen

(Un)Hackathon Team Lead

McDonald Institute Business Development Officer


Alexandra Pedersen is the Business Development Officer for the McDonald Institute. In this position, she facilitates, coordinates, and sustains innovation efforts by member organizations of the Institute through the development of partnerships for technology assessment, knowledge transfer, venture creation, and innovation-skills development. Alex holds a Doctorate in Geography (Queen’s University), a Master’s in International Studies (University of Northern British Columbia), and a Bachelor’s (Honours) in International Development Studies (University of Guelph). In her spare time, Alex is an executive member and volunteer with several local and national non-profit organizations, an energetic beekeeper, swimmer, yogi, and gardener.

Sarah Dawson

(Un)Hackathon Event Coordinator & Mentor Trainer


Sarah completed her PhD in computational soft condensed matter (squishy) physics at McMaster University in December 2021 before getting involved with the McDonald Institute as the event coordinator for the (Un)Hackathon. During her PhD she wrote code to model the properties of various materials, and also taught and mentored new physics students.

Terry Bridges

(Un)Hackathon Mentor Trainer & Mentor Support

Professor, Okanagan College


Terry Bridges is currently in his 6th year as a professor at Okanagan College in Kelowna, BC, where he teaches first- and second-year physics and astronomy courses. Terry has PhDs in Astrophysics and Education from Queen’s University and has previously worked as a research astronomer in the UK, Australia, and Canada, and as a high school physics teacher in Ontario and Istanbul. His astronomy research interests were originally around the study of elliptical galaxies, but more recently he has become very interested in the outer solar system through the RECON citizen science project. Terry also has long-standing interests in science outreach and social justice. 

Charles J. Woodford

(Un)Hackathon Event Logistics & Support

McDonald Institute Knowledge Translation Specialist


CJ is the Knowledge Translation Specialist for the McDonald Institute. He completed his PhD in physics at the University of Toronto in 2020, specializing in theoretical astrophysics and numerical simulations at CITA. CJ’s background in physics, astrophysics, and programming make him a good fit for the role of translating scientific content for the astroparticle physics community and developing the McDonald Institute’s digital spaces. In his spare time, CJ works on astronomy outreach initiatives with Discover the Universe, playing open-world video games, and spending quality time with his dog, Chip.


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

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.