Mac grad students trying to solve Hamilton immigration integration

News Dec 14, 2015 by Joel OpHardt The Hamilton Spectator

Engineers are trained to solve countless problems, but immigration integration is usually not among them.

That's exactly what three international students from India who are taking their engineering master's degree at McMaster University are hoping to do through a project drawing from their experiences immigrating to Canada.

Transportation, accommodation, language barriers, paperwork, SIN numbers, drivers' licences and banking can all be a confusing mess for immigrants, said project member Hashmeen Bains, who came to Canada at the beginning of this semester.

Bains, who is in the Master's of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation stream, says when she arrived in Canada a few months ago it was surprisingly difficult to balance the challenges of a transitioning into her academic endeavours while she dealt with relearning things as simple as banking, which differs from her home country.

What she and fellow group members Arshpreet Malhi and Binal Solanki noticed is that these experiences were far from unique — whether their interview subjects came from India, China, Japan, Mexico or Egypt, the basic functions of Canadian society presented a more difficult transition than expected.

"A major problem was accommodation," said Bains, adding that more than 70 per cent of respondents experienced problems finding places to stay. A Chinese student the team interviewed had to stay in a hotel for about a month because of errors in communication between him and a landlord.

That's when the team came up with the idea of GSIS (Global Student Immigration Services) — a simple app or web portal that would serve as the central hub for combining all of the services a Canadian newcomer would need.

GSIS would also help to address some of the other problems immigrants encounter, such as fraud and deception. Whether it's banking, accommodation applications or SIN number applications, the instructions and information from GSIS should benefit consumers, businesses and the country as a whole, said Bains.

When the group approached their professor with the idea of submitting this for the W. Booth School of Engineering innovation challenge, they were pleasantly surprised to hear supportive feedback.

The project is in its opening stages, with the first phase of research completed.

A willingness to pay for this kind of technology was among the data from the group's survey of more than 60 international students at about 10 Canadian academic institutions across the country. In fact, 60 per cent said they would be willing to pay more than $200 for a platform providing them with settling-in services.

"The whole idea for these projects is that nothing can happen behind closed doors, and they have to engage the community," said McMaster engineering professor Robert Fleisig.

Though Fleisig admitted this project was less geared toward a physical product than most of the others, he said the 16-month real-world innovation challenge was designed to "mix entrepreneurship, engineering design and public policy."

Past examples of projects from the challenge include alternative funding models for complete streets, drone technologies to monitor roofing systems, protection of underground gas lines, feasibility of state of the art district energy projects, and innovative approaches to low impact development in fragile waterfront settings.

"We all come from an engineering background, so understanding each and every stage of launching the business will be the new and challenging part for us," said Bains, adding that the next step for the group is to talk to the individual stakeholders and find a business mentor to help them through the project.

The crucial component for the group is that "if their assumption is incorrect, they do a pivot" to respond to what the market needs, said Fleisig.

So far, indications are that the team should focus on the 300,000 international students generating more than $8 billion per year in revenue in this country, said Bains. But the project could easily be adapted for immigrants in general or even incoming refugees, she added.

"If we have a good response at this, we could target immigrants on work visas or families coming in, but at this stage we're keeping it small."

jophardt@thespec.com

905-526-3408

Mac grad students trying to solve Hamilton immigration integration

News Dec 14, 2015 by Joel OpHardt The Hamilton Spectator

Engineers are trained to solve countless problems, but immigration integration is usually not among them.

That's exactly what three international students from India who are taking their engineering master's degree at McMaster University are hoping to do through a project drawing from their experiences immigrating to Canada.

Transportation, accommodation, language barriers, paperwork, SIN numbers, drivers' licences and banking can all be a confusing mess for immigrants, said project member Hashmeen Bains, who came to Canada at the beginning of this semester.

Bains, who is in the Master's of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation stream, says when she arrived in Canada a few months ago it was surprisingly difficult to balance the challenges of a transitioning into her academic endeavours while she dealt with relearning things as simple as banking, which differs from her home country.

What she and fellow group members Arshpreet Malhi and Binal Solanki noticed is that these experiences were far from unique — whether their interview subjects came from India, China, Japan, Mexico or Egypt, the basic functions of Canadian society presented a more difficult transition than expected.

"A major problem was accommodation," said Bains, adding that more than 70 per cent of respondents experienced problems finding places to stay. A Chinese student the team interviewed had to stay in a hotel for about a month because of errors in communication between him and a landlord.

That's when the team came up with the idea of GSIS (Global Student Immigration Services) — a simple app or web portal that would serve as the central hub for combining all of the services a Canadian newcomer would need.

GSIS would also help to address some of the other problems immigrants encounter, such as fraud and deception. Whether it's banking, accommodation applications or SIN number applications, the instructions and information from GSIS should benefit consumers, businesses and the country as a whole, said Bains.

When the group approached their professor with the idea of submitting this for the W. Booth School of Engineering innovation challenge, they were pleasantly surprised to hear supportive feedback.

The project is in its opening stages, with the first phase of research completed.

A willingness to pay for this kind of technology was among the data from the group's survey of more than 60 international students at about 10 Canadian academic institutions across the country. In fact, 60 per cent said they would be willing to pay more than $200 for a platform providing them with settling-in services.

"The whole idea for these projects is that nothing can happen behind closed doors, and they have to engage the community," said McMaster engineering professor Robert Fleisig.

Though Fleisig admitted this project was less geared toward a physical product than most of the others, he said the 16-month real-world innovation challenge was designed to "mix entrepreneurship, engineering design and public policy."

Past examples of projects from the challenge include alternative funding models for complete streets, drone technologies to monitor roofing systems, protection of underground gas lines, feasibility of state of the art district energy projects, and innovative approaches to low impact development in fragile waterfront settings.

"We all come from an engineering background, so understanding each and every stage of launching the business will be the new and challenging part for us," said Bains, adding that the next step for the group is to talk to the individual stakeholders and find a business mentor to help them through the project.

The crucial component for the group is that "if their assumption is incorrect, they do a pivot" to respond to what the market needs, said Fleisig.

So far, indications are that the team should focus on the 300,000 international students generating more than $8 billion per year in revenue in this country, said Bains. But the project could easily be adapted for immigrants in general or even incoming refugees, she added.

"If we have a good response at this, we could target immigrants on work visas or families coming in, but at this stage we're keeping it small."

jophardt@thespec.com

905-526-3408

Mac grad students trying to solve Hamilton immigration integration

News Dec 14, 2015 by Joel OpHardt The Hamilton Spectator

Engineers are trained to solve countless problems, but immigration integration is usually not among them.

That's exactly what three international students from India who are taking their engineering master's degree at McMaster University are hoping to do through a project drawing from their experiences immigrating to Canada.

Transportation, accommodation, language barriers, paperwork, SIN numbers, drivers' licences and banking can all be a confusing mess for immigrants, said project member Hashmeen Bains, who came to Canada at the beginning of this semester.

Bains, who is in the Master's of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation stream, says when she arrived in Canada a few months ago it was surprisingly difficult to balance the challenges of a transitioning into her academic endeavours while she dealt with relearning things as simple as banking, which differs from her home country.

What she and fellow group members Arshpreet Malhi and Binal Solanki noticed is that these experiences were far from unique — whether their interview subjects came from India, China, Japan, Mexico or Egypt, the basic functions of Canadian society presented a more difficult transition than expected.

"A major problem was accommodation," said Bains, adding that more than 70 per cent of respondents experienced problems finding places to stay. A Chinese student the team interviewed had to stay in a hotel for about a month because of errors in communication between him and a landlord.

That's when the team came up with the idea of GSIS (Global Student Immigration Services) — a simple app or web portal that would serve as the central hub for combining all of the services a Canadian newcomer would need.

GSIS would also help to address some of the other problems immigrants encounter, such as fraud and deception. Whether it's banking, accommodation applications or SIN number applications, the instructions and information from GSIS should benefit consumers, businesses and the country as a whole, said Bains.

When the group approached their professor with the idea of submitting this for the W. Booth School of Engineering innovation challenge, they were pleasantly surprised to hear supportive feedback.

The project is in its opening stages, with the first phase of research completed.

A willingness to pay for this kind of technology was among the data from the group's survey of more than 60 international students at about 10 Canadian academic institutions across the country. In fact, 60 per cent said they would be willing to pay more than $200 for a platform providing them with settling-in services.

"The whole idea for these projects is that nothing can happen behind closed doors, and they have to engage the community," said McMaster engineering professor Robert Fleisig.

Though Fleisig admitted this project was less geared toward a physical product than most of the others, he said the 16-month real-world innovation challenge was designed to "mix entrepreneurship, engineering design and public policy."

Past examples of projects from the challenge include alternative funding models for complete streets, drone technologies to monitor roofing systems, protection of underground gas lines, feasibility of state of the art district energy projects, and innovative approaches to low impact development in fragile waterfront settings.

"We all come from an engineering background, so understanding each and every stage of launching the business will be the new and challenging part for us," said Bains, adding that the next step for the group is to talk to the individual stakeholders and find a business mentor to help them through the project.

The crucial component for the group is that "if their assumption is incorrect, they do a pivot" to respond to what the market needs, said Fleisig.

So far, indications are that the team should focus on the 300,000 international students generating more than $8 billion per year in revenue in this country, said Bains. But the project could easily be adapted for immigrants in general or even incoming refugees, she added.

"If we have a good response at this, we could target immigrants on work visas or families coming in, but at this stage we're keeping it small."

jophardt@thespec.com

905-526-3408