2016 Idea Challenge Kick-off and Idea Hack

DifferenceMaker’s 2016 Idea Challenge Kick-off and Idea Hack was held on Thursday, January 28th in Moloney Hall at University Crossing. We were expecting around 50 guests and nearly 100 attended! This included students, faculty, and staff. The event turnout was amazing! Guests enjoyed refreshments while networking with other attendees from the six UMass Lowell colleges.

Professor Steve Tello, Associate Vice Chancellor for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development and Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney kicked off the evening by introducing the DifferenceMaker Program, as well as the 2016 4th  12524037_1114454268600455_6607906130671311564_nAnnual $35K Idea Challenge. Following the introduction, Holly Butler, Entrepreneurial Initiative Project Director, interviewed a panel of real-life DifferenceMaker teams. The two teams that participated in the panel were Playable Therapy, represented by Mark McGrotty and Hannah St. George and Zhuum, represented by Andy Lau and Darin Eidens. Attendees also had an opportunity to ask the student panel their own questions.

Next, guests broke off into groups that were formed on problems they wanted to solve. At the beginning of the event, each student wrote down a problem they wanted to solve12508738_1114455138600368_5481223707337916415_n. These problems were then categorized into similar groups. These groups focused on specific areas such as education, innovative technologies, global warming and climate change, and more. In these groups, team members worked together to clearly identify problems. Then each group had the chance to pitch their problems. Next, students began to think about possible solutions to solve those problems. Most students stated that they wanted to apply to the Idea Challenge with these problems and ideas.

The Kick-off and Idea Hack was a wonderful event where creative minds worked together on real-world problems.

Announcement: Please apply to the 2016 Idea Challenge by this Friday, February 5th!

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College Competition Winners 2015

Engineering Prototyping Competition

The Prototyping Competition took place on December 1st, from 3-9 in the Saab ETIC Atrium on North Campus. There were three rounds, including an initial judging round, a public voting round, and the final judging round. The final judges for the competition were Bill Geary, partner at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C., Chad Lafrance, Business Unit Manager at Texas Instruments Inc., Udi Laska, partner at REINS Management, Lynne Samuelson, Senior Scientist at U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center, Ram Sudireddy, Senior Vice President, IC Product Development at International Rectifier, and Marc Thomas, engineer at New Power India.

The winners from the competition are below:

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People’s Choice Award of $250 – EZ Removal
An automated snow removal system for solar panels.
Team Members: Hamid Mohseni (Renewable Solar Engineering, M.Sc.), Soma Hajian (Renewable Solar Engineering, M.Sc.), Norman Hallissey (Renewable Solar Engineering, M.Sc.), and Peyman Poozesh (Mechanical Engineering, Ph.D.).

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Third Place Award of $500 – invisaWear Technologies
A wearable safety device system connected to Bluetooth.
Team Members: Raymond Hamilton (Electrical Engineering) Rajia Abdelaziz (Electrical Engineering/Computer Science), and Erin Graceffa (Electrical Engineering)

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Second Place Award of $750 – SolHydrAir
An individual solar/wind/water turbine powered charger.
Team Members: William Tate (Mechanical Engineering), Sanjeev Mehta (Mechanical Engineering), Marcel Belperron (Mechanical Engineering), and Joseph Suy (Mechanical Engineering)

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First Place Award of $1,000 – Lorebooks
A Fanfiction website where authors can earn scholarships for their work.
Team Member: Alan Foster (Mechanical Engineering)

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Graduate Level Winner of $1,000 – Top-A-Can
A product to help safely dispose of tobacco products.
Team Members: Justin Lozier (Mechanical Engineering), Jonathan Benefiel (Mechanical Engineering), and Wilmer Ventura (Business)



DCU/MSB Innovation Contest

Digital Federal Credit Union and the Manning School of Business partnered with DifferenceMaker once again to put on this year’s Innovation Contest. The event was held on December 2nd, in the Saab ETIC Atrium on North Campus from 6-9PM. Interim Dean of the Manning School of Business welcomed the event’s attendees. The judges for the contest were Jim Regan, President and CEO of Digital Federal Credit Union, Bill Jacobson, CEO of Workbar, and Leticia Porter, Director of Graduate Programs at the Manning School of Business.

Bank PR

First Place Award of $500 per team member – Jonny and David, Banking BR
A mobile application that allows users to track, manage, and monitor their spending.
Team Members: Jonathan Burgin and David Rocca

Lets Talk Money

Second Place Award of $250 per team member – Let’s Talk Money
A podcast that teaches listeners the basics of managing personal finances.
Team Members: Kreg Kaminski, Kevin Kwiatek, and Peter Larsen



FAHSS Creative Venture Competition

The FAHSS Creative Venture Competition took place on December 4th, at O’Leary Library Auditorium. The judges for the contest were Glenn Morgan, co-owner and a partner at Skyworld Interactive, John J. Ford III, the principal and owner of JF3 Consulting, and Danielle McFadden, the CEO of the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce.

Girls Get Going

First Place Award of $5,000 – Get Girls Going
A program to empower teenage girls through mentorship, education, and wellness.
Team Members: Nana Younge (Plastics Engineering) and Matilda Matovu (Political Science and Biology)

Finalists Awards of $250 per team: 

The 104

The 104 Ticket
A low-cost, highly user-friendly subscription ticket service that delivers high quality live classical music access and experiences on a reliable basis.
Team Member: Nicholas Quigley (Music Business)


An online-based service that allows students to trade, rent, and donate textbooks.
Team Members: Brittany Morris (Business, MIS), Christopher Tribu (Business Marketing), Daniel Santos (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science), and Nina Petropoulos (English)

AM Women Magazine

AM Women Magazine
An online lifestyle, fashion magazine for American Muslim women.
Team Members: Ayah Awadaliah (English) and Sherin Aygun (Psychology)

BMX Our Heroin

BMX-Out Heroin
A program that will provide bus/train tickets to use to transport candidates for substance treatment to existing help facilities in the area.
Team Members: Patty Burris (Legal Studies and Writing), Emily Catanzano (Education and Psychology), and Hannah Judkins (Environmental Studies and Gender Studies)

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Global Idea Connection

This week DifferenceMaker held its first ever Global Idea Connection! The event was held from 9:00am to 11:00am at DifferenceMaker Central. UMass Lowell students attended the event and Skyped with students from B.V. Bhoomaraddi College of Engineering and Technology (BVB) in Hubli, India.

The Idea Connection was organized by Ashwin Mehta, Lecturer at UMass Lowell’s Manning School of Business, and Nitin Kulkarni, an Associate Professor in BVB’s Department of Management Studies. The two universities have a study abroad program where students from the U.S. visit Hubli and vice-versa. The Idea Connection fits hand-in-hand with the study abroad program, of which the idea is to promote a global thought process when approaching innovation and entrepreneurship.

During the Idea Connection, students were encouraged to share their entrepreneurial ideas and share with the other college where they needed help. The goal is to create global and interdisciplinary teams for a pitch contest, or for the students to team up and participate in DifferenceMaker’s 2016 Idea Challenge. Photos from the event are below.

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Student & Alumni Mixer | October 21, 2015

On the evening of Wednesday, October 21st DifferenceMaker held its first Student and Alumni Mixer. Roughly 130 people were in attendance, including about 50 students, and about 80 faculty, staff, and alumni. The event was a way for alumni who fund the program, serve as mentors to student teams, and who have interest in the program to meet and network with students and DifferenceMaker teams.


The evening began with networking and continued with a student panel and an alumni panel. Student teams, Biobubbler, Love of the Game, and Nonspec, answered questions about their experience with the DifferenceMaker program and the current status of their projects. Afterward, alumni took the stage sharing their insight on the success of the program.


Rachel Paquette from DifferenceMaker Team Biobubbler.

The night concluded with the keynote speaker, Ron Insana. Insana is an Analyst and Commentator at CNBC. He enlightened the crowd with his input on the United States’ current economic status and some input on the business world.


Steven Tello, Associate Vice Chancellor for Entrepreneurhip and Economic Development, and Ron Insana, Senior Analyst and Commentator at CNBC.

Thank you to everyone who attended and to everyone who made the event such a success! To view all of the photos from the event, click here.

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Love of the Game Expanding on Campus


Love of the Game won the Significant Social Impact category in our 2015 DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge and was awarded $4,000. Team members include Jessica Dion (Exercise Physiology, class of 2016), Lucas Parsons (Exercise Physiology, class of 2016), Jennifer Pisarik (Exercise Physiology, class of 2017), Marissa Richards (Psychology, Class of 2018), Tyler Richards (Psychology, class of 2018), Rachel Silk (Junior, Business Marketing and Entrepreneurship, class of 2016), Matthew Short (Exercise Physiology, class of 2019), and Daniel Schmith (Freshman, Business Finance and Entrepreneurship, class of 2018).

Since winning in the Idea Challenge, this team has been hard at work at DifferenceMaker Central and the community to reach their goal of becoming a nonprofit organization that partners with local universities to teach sports to individuals with developmental disabilities. Since winning funding in the Idea Challenge, they have expanded their team and developed a presence on campus, planned and held their first event, pitched at Convocation and won $1,000, connected with local schools and similar nonprofits, and are currently working on establishing a Love of the Game club on the UML campus. They have also been fortunate enough to connect with a mentor, Tammy Concannon who works at Corporate Technologies and has helped the team develop their finances and operations.

The group held their first event on Sunday October 18th at the UMass Lowell Campus Recreation Center on East Campus. Roughly 15 local students with developmental disabilities attended the event and the UMass Lowell Men’s Varsity Basketball team led them through basketball training. The event was educational, fun, and rewarding for all in attendance. Love of the Game plans to expand their presence on campus to hold several events a semester while they apply to become a nonprofit organization. Below are photos from their first event.

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You can learn more about Love of the Game by watching this video from the Lowell Sun. If you want to help Love of the Game reach their monetary goals, you can donate through Hawk Hatch by clicking here. Anything helps! 

If you want help the team by volunteering or mentoring, you can email them at loveofthegamesports@gmail.com.

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Container Park Demonstrates Innovative Retail Possibilities

Hi DifferenceMakers – Several Faculty Fellows just returned from the Pathways to Innovation Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.  While our hosts from Venture Well made sure to keep us busy in Strategic Doing sessions, we did have a chance to visit an innovative retail center built from used trucking containers – yes, those ugly steel boxes stacked up in seaports and shipped cross-country by truck. But Container Park, located in the downtown Fremont district, really brings new life to the containers and to the district.

Entrance to Container Park

Entrance to Container Park in Las Vegas, Fremont District.

Container Park hosts a number of retail shops, restaurants and cafes, as well as a very fun climbing structure/tower to keep children and parents quite busy.

Container Park Shops

List of shops on the second and third floors of Container Park.

The containers are stacked up to three high and there is an elevator (built in containers of course) and stairways.

Container Park Elevator

Three stories of container retail are serviced by an elevator (hidden in a clock tower) and stairs.

In the center of Container Park is a wheelchair accessible, climbing structure for children and parents.

Climbing structure for kids and parents.

Climbing structure for kids and parents.

The park is part of the revitalization of the downtown Vegas area, an area that has weathered some challenges as the massive development of the Vegas Strip has drawn tourists and resources ways from the downtown area. When we visited Container Park in the middle of a Saturday, it was quite busy, with tourists and locals shopping and enjoying the day.

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Fall 2015 Kick Off Event

Last week on Wednesday, September 30th we kicked of the entrepreneurship calendar for the fall 2015 semester! We held our Fall 2015 Kick Off event in the Saab Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center Atrium on North Campus. Roughly 100 people, ranging from students, faculty, staff, and alumni, attended the event which took place from 6:00pm to 8:30pm.


DifferenceMaker Co-op employees, Thalia and Paul, welcoming guests to the Saab ETIC Atrium.

Steven Tello, Associate Vice Chancellor of Entrepreneurship & Economic Development and DifferenceMaker Founder, started the event by introducing the program’s mission. Following his introduction were three representatives from each of the three DifferenceMaker College Competitions. Stephen Johnston, Assistant Professor of Plastics Engineering and DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellow, introduced the Francis College of Engineering Prototyping Competition. Next, Glenn Morgan, Co-owner of SkyWorld Interactive and member of the UMass Lowell class of 1986, announced the Fine Arts Humanities and Social Sciences’ Creative Venture Competition. Lastly, Scott Latham, Acting Dean and Associate Professor of the Manning School of Business, announced the Digital Federal Credit Union Innovation Contest.


Steven Tello, Associate Vice Chancellor of Entrepreneurship & Economic Development and DifferenceMaker Founder, welcoming attendees.

Following the College Competitions announcement, Holly Butler, the DifferenceMaker Program Director, led a brainstorming activity where students had the opportunity to brainstorm solutions to big problems surrounding topics such as banking, social responsibility, healthcare, and more. Students had the opportunity to network and meet potential team members and mentors.


Student attendees brainstorming about solutions to problems regarding social responsibility.

To view photos from the event, click here. To view a full list of DifferenceMaker events this semester, click here. Thank you to everyone who participated in the Fall 2015 Kick Off event. We look forward to seeing more of you this semester!


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Health Sciences & Engineering Mixer

On Monday, September 28th we held our first ever Health Sciences & Engineering Mixer. The College of Health Sciences and The College of Engineering partnered for this event where honors students were invited to participate in a DifferenceMaker ideation activity with staff and faculty fellows.


Tom O’Donnell, Management and Entrepreneurship Professor and Director of UML’s new Innovation Hub, working with student teams.

Students formed groups and used Tinker Toys to create a model vehicle to transport sick patients for miles on rough terrain to the nearest hospital in a hypothetical situation. Steven Tello, Associate Vice Chancellor for Entrepreneurhip and Economic Development and Founder of the DifferenceMaker Program, tested the vehicles on a steep ramp around the room and building.

The goal for the event was to educate students from the two colleges about the DifferenceMaker Program, problem solving, and about the advantage of forming an interdisciplinary team for entrepreneurial ventures. To learn about our other fall 2015 events, please click here. To view photos from the Mixer, you can click here.



Steven Tello, Associate Vice Chancellor for Entrepreneurhip and Economic Development and Founder of the DifferenceMaker Program, testing out student teams’ model vehicles.


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Reebok’s Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at UMass Lowell


Kathleen Tullie, the Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Reebok is coming to UMass Lowell! She is giving a talk on socially responsible brands this Thursday, September 17th at 11:00am in O’Leary 222. This event will serve as a terrific opportunity for students to learn from a member of Reebok’s leadership team while also learning about social responsibility among businesses and corporations. All students are welcome to attend!!

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Demo Day 2015

Last night, DifferenceMaker® held its first, ever Demo Day at UMass Lowell’s newest addition, the Innovation Hub on Canal Street downtown Lowell. Demo Day was the final part of a four-week boot camp in which several of our 2015 Idea Challenge finalist teams participated. During the boot camp, teams delved more into their business plan and reached out to potential customers in the community to learn more about opportunities and solutions surrounding their idea. The goal of the boot camp was to accelerate finalist teams’ progress in developing their ventures.


DifferenceMaker Co-op student, Paul, welcomed guests into the Innovation Hub for the event.

Demo Day, which took place last night, was an opportunity for the teams that participated in the boot camp, along with other finalist teams, to showcase their progress and to connect with mentors. Attendees included Steven Tello, Associate Vice Chancellor for Entrepreneurship and Economic, Jacqueline Moloney, Executive Vice Chancellor, UMass Lowell alumni, and local business professionals and owners.


Dan and Jennie shared their DM project, Love of the Game, which is a nonprofit program where students with cognitive disabilities have the opportunity to play sports at UML facilities and with UML equipment, with the help of UML athletes.


Anthony and Mark share their DM project, Playable Therapy, which is a product where participants can complete their physical therapy routines through a video game that tracks their movement for the use of their doctor.

The event included brief presentation by the six teams in attendance, a question and answer session for each team, a poster session where attendees could learn more about the teams, and a networking portion where alumni and local business professionals connected with the teams to potentially mentor them.

To learn more about the DM Mentor Program or to get involved, click here.

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