Convocation | August 31, 2016

On Wednesday, August 31, 2016, UMass Lowell welcomed nearly 2,600 new freshmen and transfer students at convocation. That is the largest incoming class to date!

DifferenceMaker welcomed new students with a fun and interactive pitch contest where students themselves were the judges! With simple text-voting, everyone attending convocation was able to vote for the team they thought pitched the best! Three DifferenceMaker teams pitched at this year’s convocation.


eNABLE Lowell took 1st place and won $1,500! eNABLE Lowell is a chapter of the larger, national eNABLE organization that helps provide low cost prosthetic hands to children in need.


Flaire won 2nd place and a prize of $1,000! Flaire is a wearable device that sits discretely within a piece of jewelry that when activated, alerts predetermined contacts, as well as the emergency services that the individual wearing Flaire has been attacked and is in danger.


Happy Heart Cart won 3rd place and a prize of $500! Happy Heart Cart is an initiative to help bring fun activities to patients in hospitals. Keeping a mind and heart happy while in the hospital leads to better recovery and shorter stays!

After convocation, DifferenceMaker, along with the three teams that pitched, spoke to students about the program at the tables at Club Fair! Students interested in the DifferenceMaker program were able to ask more questions with our Co-Op students and sign up to hear from our Newsletter! We also had lots of free give-aways and trinkets for students who visited our table!

14102665_1254510344594846_6395330010162056225_n 14212175_1254510374594843_5555637093992332005_n

Share Button

Demo Day | June 30, 2016


On Thursday, June 30, DifferenceMaker teams, faculty fellows, alumni, and mentors gathered at the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub for the 2016 Demo Day. Demo Day presents an opportunity for student teams to network with potential mentors and other interested parties. After the networking session, each team presents their project to the audience consisting of many mentors from all different backgrounds and careers. After each presentation, there is also a Q&A period where student teams answer any questions from the audience to help them learn more about the goals of each team. DifferenceMaker staff then help to pair up student teams with willing mentors to help further the DifferenceMaker projects.




Share Button

Summer Boot Camp Session 4

As the summer boot camp series comes to an end, student teams spent the last session participating in in-depth discussion on capturing value and cost consideration. Teams discussed questions like

  • What are the costs to find customer?
  • What are the costs to make the solution? To deliver the solution?


Teams also had the chance to learn from and speak with a past DifferenceMaker team, Nonspec, who won the Campus-Wide DifferenceMaker award in 2013.


A big thank you to this session’s special guests!

  • Yi Yang, Professor, Manning School of Business
  • Nancy Saucier, Director, New Venture Development
  • Tom ODonnell, Director, Innovation Hub
Share Button

Summer Bootcamp Session 3

The last boot-camp session also yielded great results for teams and advisors. Teams participated in an in-depth discussion about the presentation of their “Solution”, the third step in the DifferenceMaker Method. Each team presented their findings from their homework on Customer and Value Proposition and received comments and suggestions from advisors and fellow DifferenceMaker teams for improvement.


There was also a “Round Robin” Advisory Session where each team was able to spend 10 minutes with each alumni mentor for advice and comments on their project’s business model so far.

We look forward to next week’s session with all of our DifferenceMaker teams, faculty fellows, alumni, and mentors!

A big thank you to this session’s special guests:

  • Yi Yang, Professor, Manning School of Business
  • Rekha Paleyanda, Director, Office of Technology Commercialization
  • Ainat Koren, Professor, College of Health Sciences
  • Anshuman Chadda, Global Entrepreneurship in Residence
  • Josh Entner, Entrepreneur, UMass Lowell Alumni
Share Button

2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit – Hack Your Creative Culture!

by Stephen Kender

From June 22nd to June 24th, I was invited to attend and help facilitate a workshop at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Hosted by the White House, this summit brings together hundreds of innovators from all over the world, and is held in a different location every year. This year, President Obama brought the event to the heart of Silicon Valley at Stanford University, a place known globally for its ability to cultivate incredible entrepreneurial talent.


I was invited through the University Innovation Fellows program, an organization dedicated to spreading entrepreneurship throughout higher education, who are based in Stanford University. Their training connects university students across the continent and empowers them to be effective agents of change on their campuses, putting a special focus on working with administrations and communities to create cultures and landscapes that spur the next generation of big thinkers. The program is in its 5th year and is 600-strong (and counting). I went through the training this past year and have already benefitted incredibly from it, starting the university’s first hackathon (called Hawkathon) and being more aware of the ways I can help my university flourish.

2 3

The program submitted a proposal for a workshop to the State Department titled “Hack Your Creative Culture” in partnership with the Stanford and Google. The event emphasized the idea that students and young entrepreneurs have the abilities to reshape their nations academic, industrial, and community organizations, and it is up to those communities and institutions to cultivate the skills and mindsets necessary for them to be changemakers. It challenged attendees to imagine how they would go back to their homes and design a culture that spurs such boundless ideation and creativity and brings out the best in their nation’s entrepreneurial talent. The program then invited 10 University Innovation Fellows to help facilitate the event, and I was honored to be among those selected.

The workshop was laid out in 4 major segments – people, place, process, and purpose – which are important to keep in mind when designing a culture for creativity and innovation. Each segment of the event would include activities and presentations from the Fellows in the unique form of ignite talks. Ignite talks are pitches of ~15 slides which automatically advance every 15 seconds. This means that the presenter has to distill their message down to the core concepts, which is beneficial to the learning of both the presenter and the audience.

My talk was about place, and it was titled “Thinking Like Birds: Spaces for Creativity”. Weird, right? After lightly confusing my audience for the first 45 seconds as I talked about space design, I made the connection between birds and people on the creative process. Like birds, someone looking to innovate needs to find a good spot to create a team and an environment to build their idea. This spot can be called a “branch” and the environment is the “nest” where the idea (egg) can be incubated. When the idea is brought through to market viablility, it is hatched out onto the rest of the world. And much like birds, a true entreprenuer is always looking for the next spot to build a nest. In addition, I spoke to the ability of most birds to be extensively adaptable and incredible problem-solvers, both of which are qualities seen in successful innovators. I then went on to stress the importance that communities and universities build those branches for young entrepreneurs to plant their stake in.

stephen kender

Being able to not only attend but speak at such a presitigious event was completely unexpected yet so exciting. It was invigorating to see my eccentric metaphor stick with people, and the workshop and summit overall were fantastically organized. I feel extremely lucky for having the opportunity to do this, and I look forward to getting everyone on the UMass Lowell campus to start thinking more like birds! It’s a good thing we’re already River Hawks.

To learn more about the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, visit their website here:

To learn more about the University Innovation Fellows program, visit their website here:


Share Button

Summer Boot Camp Session 2


In preparation for the second session, all the teams were instructed to target their ideal customers and ask them questions about their product. This would give the teams a greater understanding of their target market’s opinions such as whether they would buy the product, how much they would value it, and their ideas on what could improve the product. When the teams presented at the Lowell Innovation Hub, they introduced their findings and how they plan to evolve with their customers’ feedback. For example, the creator of Security Top, a device to prevent someone from drugging one’s drink, found that his customers would not want to be the only one out of their friends using the device. Therefore, it might be a better idea to sell the product to bars and clubs rather than individuals. After the presentations, Paul Schor a lawyer at Gallagher & Cavanaugh LLP, gave a presentation on intellectual property and the use of patents, trademarks, etc. Within the first week of bootcamp the teams have already made great strides and improvements to their business models!


A big thank you to all of this session’s special guests!

  • Yi Yang, Professor, Manning School of Business
  • Rekha Paleyanda, Director, Office of Technology Commercialization
  • Todd Morgan, Professor, Manning School of Business
  • Theresa Chadwick, EforAll, Program Coordinator
  • Paul Schor, Attorney, Gallagher & Cavanaugh LLP
  • Nancy Saucier, Director, New Venture Development
Share Button

Summer Boot Camp Session 1

On Thursday, June 2nd, DifferenceMaker teams gathered at the Innovation Hub at 110 Canal St to attend the first session of the 2016 Summer Boot Camp. Teams discussed their projects among their peers as well as several mentors, and talked more in depth about how to target customer markets and get a foot in the door in the business world. Teams will continue to gather together with DifferenceMaker staff and mentors throughout the month of June to further discuss their projects!


A big thank you to all of this session’s special guests!

  • Yi Yang, Professor, Manning School of Business
  • Rekha Paleyanda, Director, Office of Technology Commercialization
  • Franky Descoteaux, Executive Director, EforAll 
  • Todd Morgan, Professor, Manning School of Business
  • Ralph Jordan, Professor, Manning School of Business
  • Paul Schor, Attorney, Gallagher & Cavanaugh LLP
Share Button

Save the Date!

Please save the date for the DifferenceMaker Demo Day and Mentor Matching event being held on Thursday June 30 from 5:30-8:00pm. This event will take place on the 3rd floor of the Innovation Hub located at 110 Canal Street in downtown Lowell.

DifferenceMaker teams will attend a summer boot camp. Then on June 30, they will present their progress, business model and business strategy. Please see our website for a list of DifferenceMaker teams. On the left hand side of the page you will find tabs for the 2013-2016 finalist teams.

These teams will need your guidance, expertise and mentorship after the boot camp. If you are interested in seeing what our student teams are up to and/or want to become a mentor or advisor, please RSVP to

I hope that you can make it. I will send out more information as the event nears. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact Holly Butler, Entrepreneurial Initiatives Program Director, 978-934-6444


Share Button

Savannah Marshall, Founder of Fresh Beets, Travels to Texas Part II!

Savannah Marshall studied community music at UMass Lowell and is a DifferenceMaker student. She won First to Market, a $4,000 prize at the 2014 Idea Challenge. Fresh Beets is a food truck and music venue that unites three discrete areas that the Greater Lowell community values highly into one vehicle of change. By combining food, music and education, Fresh Beets will turn any street corner, park, festival, or parking lot in Lowell into a total experience which feeds the mind, body and soul.

Savannah is currently in Texas where there is a vibrant food truck community.  She is learning more about the industry and how to launch her business. She will return to Lowell next month with the knowledge she gained from her research trip.

Here are more photos and captions of her trip:

Apple of my eye (2)

Apple of my Eye – Just a cool shot I took one morning eating an awesome apple for breakfast waiting for my manager to open the truck up. Breakfast at the truck, either before it opens or right before customers arrive after I’ve set up, has become my favorite part of my morning ritual!

Edible Austin (2)

Edible Austin – I took this photo after making some tacos for dinner that I was especially proud of. I distinctly remember that it was a Friday night, one of my first Friday’s in Austin and I was very happy to have a nice dinner and adult beverage for myself after a long but exciting week. After assembling, photographing, and eventually EATING the tacos, I realized how passionate I am about tacos in general… and then it hit me clear as day that I should strongly consider tacos for the truck! I texted Professor John Morgan immediately, and started brainstorming more flavor profiles and combinations, and I’ve been working on that ever since!

Goofie Selfie (2)

Goofie Selfie – Working on the food truck!

second shift at Arlos (2)

2nd shift @ Arlos – Well, that’s when this was taken! I was a little too shy to ask my co-worker to take my picture on day 1, but I braved up and asked him on the second. :)

We are excited to hear about Savannah’s trip and the plans for her business when she returns in May.

Share Button

2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival | April 16 & 17, 2016


Over the long weekend, DifferenceMaker traveled to Washington DC with a group of students and faculty from the Francis College of Engineering and UMass Lowell for the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival. On both Saturday the 16th and Sunday the 17th, over 120,000 people visited the Walter E. Washington Convention Center where the festival was held. Visitors to the DifferenceMaker table were challenged to find a solution to help students cross the Merrimack River over a map of Lowell. With lots of Legos and creativity, we saw some great ideas!

13043523_1167702926608922_7721345014270355428_n 13043718_1165963536782861_3502720229168964339_n

We were happy to be a part of this great festival and look forward to participating again in 2018!

Share Button