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.

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The program submitted a proposal for a workshop to the State Department titled “Hack Your Creative Culture” in partnership with the Stanford d.school 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.

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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: ges2016.org

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


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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!


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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!


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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 Holly_Butler@uml.edu.

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


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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:

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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!

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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!

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Goofie Selfie – Working on the food truck!

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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.

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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!

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

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2016 Idea Challenge Winners

On Wednesday, April 13th, the 2016 Idea Challenge event was held in Moloney Hall at University Crossing. 10 finalist teams pitched to a panel of judges to compete for $35,000 and many semifinalist teams presented to attendees about their projects in competition for the Fan Favorite award. Thank you to all of our sponsors, judges, participants, and guests! A special thank you to Chancellor Moloney for supporting both the DifferenceMaker program and all of its teams!


Campus Wide DifferenceMaker

eNable Lowell – $6000: A chapter model to help expand eNABLE – an international volunteer organization that produces 3D printed prosthetic hands for kids around the world.


Katherine Bilodeau, Senior, Exercise Physiology
Allison Dunbar, Junior, Exercise Physiology
Kreg Kaminski, Senior, Biology
Craig Kelly, Sophomore, Mechanical Engineering
Peter Larsen, Senior, Biology
Shannon Maguire, Sophomore, Business Administration
Alexander Peters, Senior, Mechanical Engineering

Significant Social Impact

Veteran’s QRF – $4500A web platform that will simplify the application process for Veteran service connected disability benefits. 

Henry DeLima, Alumni, Psychology
Terry Fox-Koor, Sophomore, Plastics Engineering
Brian Holt, Junior, Criminal Justice
Ann McGill, Alumni, Adjunct Professor
David Tetreault, Senior, Management

Contribution to a Healthier Lifestyle

OmniSense – $4500: A specialized device to track the bar path of a barbell when it is in motion. This device will sync to a smartphone so users will have real time access to their lifting data such as bar path and acceleration.

Bolutife Anifowose, Senior, Marketing
Michael Dollogono, Graduate, BioMedical Engineering and Biotechnology
Martin Lee, Senior, MIS

Innovative Technology Solution

Flaire – $4500: A wearable device that connects to a smart phone via Bluetooth. With the simple push of a button, it sends help messages and location information to predetermined emergency contacts.

Rajia Abdelaziz, Senior, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Erin Graceffa, Senior, Electrical Engineering
Raymond Hamilton, Senior, Electrical Engineering

First to Market

TopaCan – $4500A product – Can Ashtray that turns any empty can into a environmental friendly way to dispose of your cigarette butts. 

Justin Lozier, Junior, Mechanical Engineering

Honorable Mention

BASH – $2000: A new waste management system for the city of Les Cayes, Haiti that would improve the quality of water sanitation while creating job opportunities. 

AgMohd AgmohdTahir, Senior, BioChemical Engineering
Michael Doane, Senior, Chemical Engineering and Biology
Andrew Koplove, Senior, Plastics Engineering and Business Administration
Shaquilla Terry, Senior, Public Health

Happy Heart Cart – $2000: A program that provides advanced therapeutic and holistic practices to improve patient stays in adult hospitals through an activity cart that can either be wheeled between rooms, or stationary and present in every room. 

Irtiza Khtar, Graduate, Mechanical Engineering
MaryKate McDonough, Junior, Business Administration
Olivia Vieira, Senior, Nursing

Security Top – $2000: A reusable bottle cap for the purpose of increasing the prevention of contaminates that enter a bottled beverage. 

Cleveland Atkinson, Senior, Plastics Engineering
Joshua Desrochers, Junior, Plastics Engineering
Travis Goodrum, Junior, Plastics Engineering
Tabatha Ferreira, Junior, Plastics Engineering
Craig Frigon, Junior, Plastics Engineering
Malinna Pheng, Junior, Plastics Engineering
Andy Polanco, Senior, Plastics Engineering
SmartEater – $2000: An Automated Diet Monitoring (ADM) System designed to help people to manage their dietary behavior. 

Yang Gao, PhD, Computer Science

WordPro – $2000: A vocabulary builder – Digital flashcards – aimed at high school students learning a second language. 

Ruban Isagolov, Freshman, Business Administration
Yovaldi Venter, Graduate, MSITE

Fan Favorite

Expect – $1000: An application that facilitates communication between referring facilities/emergency medical services and accepting inpatient/emergency units.

David Machado, Computer Science
Emily O’Brien, Nursing, Senior
Amanda Reardon, Nursing


Also, a special thank you to all of our judges!

– Lorna Boucher, Head of Branding and Strategy, KCG Holdings, Inc.
– Don LaTorre, President, L&G Management Consultants Inc.
– Joan Marchessault, Prinipal and Founder, Strategic Leadership Group
– Rich Miner, General Partner, Google Ventures, Inc.
– Kevin Murphy, City Manager, Lowell
– Brian Rist, President and CEO, The Smart Companies
– Mark Saab, Chief Technology Officer, Vention Medical
– Jack Wilson, President Emeritus UMass System

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2016 Idea Challenge Preliminary Pitch-off | Friday, April 1st

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On Friday, April 1st at 3:30p.m., 26 student teams began pitching their ideas to several panels of alumni judges. Of the 26 teams, 10 became 2016 Idea Challenge finalists, who will compete for $35,000 on April 13th.

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Congratulations to Biodigestor-Aided Solution in Haiti (BASH), eNABLE Lowell, Flaire, Happy Heart Cart, OmniSense, Security Top, SmartEater, TopaCan, Veterans QRF, and WordPro Mobile App!

A huge thank you to the alumni judges — Carly Burson, FAHSS ’05, Rob Busch, John Cadigan, Kennedy College of Sciences ’87, Cheryl Callahan, College of Health Sciences ’82, James Clancy, Francis College of Engineering ’81, Jason Cronin, FAHSS ’94, Lisa Dana, Graduate School of Education ’92 ’01, Janet Dellea, Manning School of Business ’84, Ken Dipoto, Manning School of Business ’78, John Doherty, Graduate School of Education ’83 ’92, Josh Entner, FAHSS ’94, Jonathan Geanakos, Manning School of Business, ’73, Steven Geyster, Francis College of Engineering ’83, Dr. Charles Gobron, Graduate School of Education ’06, Amy Hoey, College of Health Sciences ’88, Michelle Holland, College of Health Sciences ’87, Christopher Ianelli, Kennedy College of Sciences ’89, France Lampron, Kennedy College of Sciences ’90, Brenda Maille, FAHSS ’78, Elkin McCallum, Chris McKenna, Francis College of Engineering ’89, Glenn Morgan, FAHSS ’86, John Norden, FAHSS ’73, Ed Roberts, Graduate School of Education ’89 ’90, Martin Schedlbauer, Kennedy College of Sciences ’88 ’91 ’06, Bhupen Shah, Francis College of Engineering ’92, Andrew Sutherland, Manning School of Business ’94, Jack Swartz, Manning School of Business ’72, Annita Tanini, Manning School of Business ’92 ’00, Anne Veilleux, College of Health Sciences ’85.

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Please join us again on April 13th in University Crossing, Moloney Hall, at 5p.m. to watch and support the 10 finalist teams as they pitch off for $35,000!

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UMass Lowell Hawkathon | Friday, March 26th – Saturday, March 27th

UMass Lowell held its first Hackathon on Friday, March 25th starting at 5p.m. The problem-solving competition lasted until Saturday, March 26th at 7p.m.


Over 80 participants from several schools, including UMass Lowell, MIT, Simmons, Wellesly, RISD,Olin, WNE, Brandeis, and many more attended and worked in teams to solve problems that matter to them. A number of different companies sponsored the event and networked with students before the event started. 78 participants made it to the end of the competition. Winners of the competition were awarded 6 prizes in 4 different categories. Nearly $10,000 worth of prizes were awarded, $6,000 in cash and $4,000 in additional prizes!

Graphic In Numbers

Most Technically Complex: Robo Gym Metal Cobras
– Team Members: Josh Smolinski, Tyler Alterio, Hannah Gorman, Eric Marcoux, Yuetlong Leung
– Innovation: Gear Pong – Cell phone-controlled beer pong playing robot
– Award: $1000 + $500 Kloudless API Credit

 Biggest Community Impact (1st): Cardanos
– Team Members: Alex Pereira, Shawn Persaud, Shen Gao, Rodrigo Toste Gomes
– Innovation: Multilingual chat platform to increase connectivity across the globe
– Award: $1000 + 4 Dell Venue 10 Tablets

Biggest Community Impact (2nd): Just Cheese
– Team Members: Tony Ventura, Yusuf Yildiz, Samir Khoulani
– Innovation: Text message service to increase usability when dealing with SiS
– Award: $1000 + 3 Months Membership for the Innovation Hub

 Biggest Community Impact (3rd): Awkward Coders
– Team Members: Emma Morrison, Hannah Pastagal
– Innovation: App connecting volunteers to non-profit organizations
– Award: $500

Best Internet of Things Innovation: A Tribe Called Success
– Team Members: Andy MacGregor, Jeff Amari, Iman Nandi, Thomas Hsu
– Innovation: Low-cost text message-controlled door lock to make keys/RFID tags obsolete
– Award: $1000 + 5 Myo Armbands

Most Revolutionary Idea: Mocha Thunder
– Team Members: Michael Bowe, Cullin Lam, Son Nguyen, Bunchhleng Soth
– Innovation: Smart fridge application that knows what’s in your fridge, creates recipes, and notifies you of expiration
– Award: $1500


Thank you to everyone who supported the first UMass Lowell Hawkathon! From faculty to staff and sponsors, it could not have been as successful without your support. The team looks forward to running another one again soon!

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

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, stake park, festival, or parking lot in Lowell into a total experience which feeds the mind, body and soul.

Savannah wanted to do research and learn more about the food truck industry so she used some of her winning funds to travel to Texas where there is a vibrant food truck community.  She has spent 6 months learning about the industry, inside and out. She is returning to Lowell in May and will begin implementing her creative business with the skills and knowledge she acquired in Texas.

Here are some photos and captions from her trip thus far:

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Newspaper! This is an article that ran in the Daily Texan, a newspaper put out by the University of Texas at Austin, describing the new truck on campus, featuring yours truly. :)

Inspiration (2)

Inspiration – I would pass by this incredible graffiti on my bike ride home from work every day when I lived at my first apartment. I still pass it sometimes. The sun would hit it in a really special way… and it was like a sign that I was on the right path with my aspirations.

Happy FRYday (2)

Happy FRYday! – We sell vegan burgers and fries primarily at Arlo’s, and one Friday night at the beginning of a shift I made myself some fries and put this picture on social media to get some Austin friends to visit the truck… and make my northern friends a little jealous.

Brainstorming sesh (2)

Brainstorming Sesh – One day I was out for several hours on my bike, enjoying nature, and enjoying some quality “me time.” Though, to be honest, the first few weeks of my trip were loaded with “me time” when I didn’t have too many friends or hours at work yet. I tried to stay positive about this time, and on this afternoon I found myself sprawled out at a Starbucks table I found along the bike trail, with coffee and a snack to fuel my furious pen hand. It made me so pleased to realize that I want to work on my project intrinsically.

My first bike (2)

My First Bike – I’ve been biking every day here in Austin because I don’t have a car. Such a blessing! It’s been really fun to ride everywhere, and while it’s definitely a hassle sometimes and certainly tiring, I love the simplicity, not buying gas, and love the environmental sustainability bikes promote. This bike was lent to me by my friend James! I’ve recently returned it and am on a bike my boyfriend bought on his visit down here. He found it to be cheaper to spend $100 and buy one than to rent one for several days, so I lucked out again with that!

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Arlos Burger – This is a bac’n cheeze burger from Arlos! SO GOOD

Nature (2)

Nature – Just one example of how beautiful it is down here! I found a lot of peace here at Ladybird Lake, a body of water that reminds me a lot of the Merrimack!

Reseach (2)

Research – Got a few books in the mail one morning in February. Made great companions to my cup of coffee. I still carry one or two around in my backpack everyday!

Thank you for sharing Savannah and keep up the great work! We are excited to hear from you when you return in May.

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