2017 Idea Challenge Winners

On Wednesday, April 19th, the 2017 DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge event was held in Moloney Hall at University Crossing. 10 Finalist teams pitched to a panel of judges to compete for $50,000 and many semifinalist teams presented to attendees about their projects in competition for the Fan Favorite award. Thank you to the sponsors, participants, and guests! A special thank you to Chancellor Moloney for supporting the DifferenceMaker program and all of its teams!

Campus Wide DifferenceMaker

Operation250 – $6000: An online platform focused on educating both young adolescents and parents/educators on how to prevent online radical extremist recruitment.

Tyler Cote, Senior, Political Science and Criminal Justice
Jaime Keenan, Junior, Criminal Justice
Jonas Pierribia, Senior, Criminal Justice
Nicollete SanClemente, Sophomore, International Business
Danielle Thibodeau, Senior, Criminal Justice and Psychology

Significant Social Impact

Guardian – $4500: A sensor platform that attaches to commercially available drones for use in search and rescue operations.

Julie Pham, Senior, Business
Yomar Salazar, Senior, Business
Austin Stevens, Junior, Electrical Engineering
Kyle Stuart, Senior, Electrical Engineering

Contribution to a Healthier Lifestyle

QBell– $4500: A mobile app nursing call bell system allows patients to request nurse assistance, and nurses to manage and prioritize lists of requests through mobile/tablet devices.

Jeremy Arzuaga, Graduate, Computer Science
Vivien Chow, Graduate, Computer Science
Theresa Fullerton, Senior, Nursing
Gao Gao, Graduate, Computer Science
Andriana Kanellos, Senior, Nursing
Renee Vigneault, Senior, Nursing
Stephany Wilson, Senior, Nursing

Innovative Technology Solution

Project Starfish – $4500: A non-invasive and cost-effective prosthetic hand using a combination of cutting edge technology including 3D printing and advanced machine learning software.

Roma Aurora, Junior, Marketing
Gregory Dorian, Junior, Mechanical Engineering
Christopher Johnson, Junior, Accounting
Travis Kessler, Junior, Computer Engineering
Maxwell Roy, Junior, Electrical Engineering
First to Market

Breezy – $4500: A real-time air quality monitoring device which can be tracked with phone or online.

Anne Faber, Senior, Mechanical Engineering

Honorable Mention

Bioprinting with Multimedia Curriculum – $2000: A cost effective 3D bioprinter with multimedia curriculum and optional homework module for early STEM education in high schools.

Siddhant Iyer, Freshman, Chemical Engineering
Venkatesh Manikantan, Junior, Electrical Engineering
Bala-Ji Sathyamoothy, Graduate, Robotic and Computer Engineering
Vaishnavi Srinivasan, Junior, Biotechnology
Stephanie Stroll, Junior, Biotechnology

Clot Catch – $2000: A new designed clot filter to eliminate the risks of current filters such as shifting, vessel puncture and strut fracture.

Alexander Anthony, Senior, Plastics Engineering
Terry Fox-Koor, Junior, Plastic Engineering
Elena Mottola, Junior, Nursing

Cyborg – $2000: A hybrid musical instrument, designed to transform any object into a touch sensitive musical instrument.

Jishnu Menon Asokakumar, Graduate, Computer Engineering
Ram Das, Graduate, MSITE Adam Ferguson, Graduate, Sound Recording Technology
ChandraSekhar Kolli, Junior, Mechanical Engineering
Dhiren Rathod, Junior, Mechanical Engineering

Digibank– $2000: A digital financial transaction system that allows consumers to directly deposit change obtained from cash transactions at retailer point of sale system into a designated account via an issued card and/or mobile app..

Siven Hang, Junior, Business
Cullin Lam, Alumni, Computer Science and Biology
Bun Soth, Alumni, Computer Science
Kody Thach, Sophomore, Computer Science
Daniel Uk, Senior, Political Science

Spread The Love – $2000: A website for lesson plans that would be given to schools with 50% or more students with free or reduced lunch.

Julie Bornstein, Junior, Accounting
Autumn Sacramone, Senior, History

Fan Favorite

UML Green Roofs – $1000: A program to implement safe and ecologically friendly outdoor study spaces into UMass Lowell’s campus by designing and building green roofs for buildings such as libraries and dorms.

Rachel Papazian, Freshman, Biology
Mike River, Freshman, Biology
Meagan Timmins, Freshman, History
Kierra Walsh, Freshman, Biology

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

-Mark Boden, Boston Scientific
-Mary Burns, Splash Media Group Boston, LLC
-Jon Geanakos, Capital Markets, Americas JLL
-Don LaTorre, L & G Management Consultants Inc.
-Joseph Lerner, Cycle Power Partners
-Taniya Nayak, Taniya Nayak Design LLC
-John Pulichino, Group III International Ltd.

And a thank you to our sponsors!

Jim Dandeneau
Joseph C. Day Chancellor’s Fund
Digital Federal Credit Union
Foley and Lardner LLP, Corporate Sponsor
Joseph P. Donahue Charitable Foundation
Nancy L. Donahue Endowed Fellowship in Values & Ethics
Enterprise Bank
Mitchell Kertzman Endowed Discretionary Fund
Robert J. Manning Endowment Fund (Robert and Donna Manning)
Francis L. McKone Chancellor’s Discretionary Endowment Fund
Glenn Morgan, Class of 1986, FAHSS
Pernick Chancellor’s Endowed Discretionary Fund
James Regan, Class of 1988, Manning School of Business
Spinola Angel Investment Fund for Entrepreneurship
Jack Wilson Endowed Presidential Entrepreneurship Award Fund

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2017 Idea Challenge Preliminary Pitch-Off | Wednesday, April 5th

On Wednesday, April 5th at 2:00p.m., 29 student teams began pitching their ideas to several panels of alumni judges. Of the 29 teams, ten became 2017 Idea Challenge finalists, who will compete for $50,000 on April 19th.

Congratulations to our ten finalist teams, Bioprinting with Multimedia Curriculum, Breezy, Cyborg, Digibank, Guardian, IVC Cloth Filter, Operation 250, Project Starfish, Qbell, Spread The Love! Also thank you to all the teams who competed in the preliminary pitch off!

A huge thank you to the alumni judges – David Ameen, Gino Baroni, Janet Benvenuti, Ron Boudreau, Wayne Coll, Cindy Conde, Kerry Costello, Laura Deming, Matthew Donahue, John Dowling, Bob Dudley, Josh Entner, Steve Geyster, Michele Holland, Patricia Karl, Wendy LaBate, Jay Lang, Richard Lynch, Brenda Maille, Joanne Mavroides, Chris McKenna, Jeff Mead, Glenn Morgan, John Norden, Ed Roberts, Steve Schultz, Andrew Sutherland, Jack Swartz, Ira Turner, Joseph Vaillancourt, Bill Yelle.

And thank you to our guest speaker, Dave Heller, Owner of the Lowell Spinners!

Please join us again on April 19th in University Crossing, Moloney Hall, at 5:00p.m. to watch and support the 10 finalist teams as they pitch for $50,000!

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The 2017 $50K Idea Challenge Semi-Finalists Announced!

The 2017 $50K Idea Challenge is quickly approaching! Make sure to attend the both the Preliminary Pitch Off and the Idea Challenge and cheer on your peers. Congratulations to all these hardworking teams that have made it to the semi-finalist round:


  1. Artemis Child Safety Seat: Joshua Kraunelis, Naveen Ravi, Ryan Fitzpatrick
  2. Breezy: Anne Faber
  3. CareBit: Michael Shorey, Vishwasini Vageesh, Daniel Quigley, Maria Mara
  4. Credit Cash: Sary Nhet
  5. Cyborg: Jishnu Menon Asokakumar, Ram Das, Adam Ferguson, ChandraSekhar Kolli, Dhiren Rathod
  6. DigiBank: Cullin Lam, Emily Seto, Kody Thach, Daniel Uk, Kevin Hoan, Siven Hang, Bunchhieng Soth
  7. Disaster Guard: Dave Machado, Darrien Glasser
  8. DreamSteam: Michael Kierman
  9. Get Girls Going Inc: Nana Younge, Queenly Amankwah
  10. Hight Scanner: Dean Little, Giovanna Pereira, Eryka Murphy, Pranim Magar, Sim Dy, John Kilgo
  11. InstaBlood: Rohan Girase, Sameer Khan, Apruv Mager, Omkar Salunke
  12. InstaFreeze: Lucas Kessler
  13. IVC Clot Filter: Alexander Anthony
  14. LoreBooks: Alan Foster, Hannah St. George
  15. Mountain Bike Hazard Training: Anirban Mookherjee, John Cavalieri, Nicholas Conlon
  16. Open Source Bioprinting with Curriculum: Stephanie Stroll, Siddhant Iyer, Venkatesh Manikantan, Christianto Putra, Balaji Sathyamoorthy, Kreg Kaminski
  17. Operation250: Danielle Thibodeau, Jaime Keenan, Jonas Pierribia, Nicolette Sam Clemente, Tyler Cote
  18. Project Starfish: Travis Kessler, Christopher Johnson, Gregory Dorian, Maxwell Roy, Roma Aurora
  19. Qbell: Gao Gao, Jeremy Arzuaga, Renee Vigneault, Steph Wilson
  20. Safe Guard: Esther Mawhinney, Olivia Musialowski, Jack Naman, Narasimha Reddy
  21. Sensor Platform for Drone Search and Rescue: Kyle Stuart, Vinh Pham, Yomar Salazar, Austin Stevens
  22. Share the Sound: Chanelle Cruz, Denise Brito, Martha Robertson, Tyler McMillan, Andrew Schuster
  23. Smart Masks: Shaun Sichoumphonh, Charles Tran, Brian Horman, George Kubai
  24. Spread the Love: Autumn Sacramone, Julie Bornstein
  25. Stranger Eat In: Hung Nguyen, Tan Huynh, Thanh Hoang
  26. Textrade: Christopher Tribou, Daniel Santos, Frank Kamayou, Brittany Morris
  27. UML Green Roofs: Kierra Walsh, Meagan Timmins, Mike Rivers, Rachel Papazian
  28. Uneefy: Yaovi Ayeh
  29. UTEC Mattress Recycling: Gerry Casaletto
  30. Value Investing: Nathaniel Friedman
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Workshop 4: Delivering Your Rocket Pitch

Our last workshop of the 2017 series, Delivering Your Rocket Pitch, was held this past Wednesday, March 1st from 5:30-7:30p.m. in Lydon Library, Room 110 on North Campus. Holly Butler, Director of the DifferenceMaker Program, introduced Steven Tello, Associate Vice Chancellor Entrepreneurship & Economic Developement, as the guest speaker for the evening. While students enjoyed the potato bar, Professor Tello lead student through exercises on how to deliver their Rocket Pitch. After demonstrating a sample rocket pitch, students were given a chance to deliver their own, as well as asking any more questions on how to improve their DifferenceMaker projects!

Thank you Professor Steven Tello for attending the workshop!

And don’t forget to attend the $50K Idea Challenge this Spring to hear your fellow students’ DifferenceMaker Projects!

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Workshop 3: Developing Business Models

Our third workshop of the 2017 series, Developing Business Models, was held this past Monday, February 27th from 5:30-7:30p.m. in Lydon Library, Room 110 on North Campus. Tom O’Donnell, Director of the Innovation Hub in downtown Lowell, was the guest speaker for the evening. While students enjoyed refreshments, Tom lead student through exercises on how to develop their business models and their value chains. Tom also discussed his knowledge nonprofit companies and intellectual property with the students.

Thank you Tom O’Donnell for speaking at the event!

Please attend the last workshop “Delivering your Rocket Pitch” this Wednesday March 1st!

Food and drinks will be served!

All workshops are held in the Lydon Library, Room 110 on North Campus, from 5:30-7:30p.m.

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Workshop 2: Assessing Opportunities and Value Proposition

The second workshop of the 2017 series, Assessing Opportunities and Value Proposition, was held on Wednesday, February 22nd from 5:30 to 7:30p.m. in Lydon Library, Room 110 on North Campus. Ha Pho, Project Manager at the DifferenceMaker Program, led the discussion about how students can continue to advance their DifferenceMaker projects. During the workshop, while they enjoyed food and beverages, students worked in their teams to explore the opportunities associated with their projects and with their project’s value proposition.

Please attend the last two workshops! Food and drinks will be served!

February 27th – Workshop 3: Developing Your Business Models

March 1st – Workshop 4: Delivering Your Rocket Pitch

All workshops are held in the Lydon Library, Room 110 on North Campus, from 5:30-7:30p.m.

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Workshop 1: Identifying Problems

The first workshop of the 2017 series, Identifying Problems, was held on Wednesday, February 15th from 5:30-7:30p.m. in Lydon Library on North Campus. Holly Butler, Entrepreneurial Initiatives Project Director, led the discussion in helping students identify the problems that they were interested in solving and how the DifferenceMaker program can help them. Working together, students discussed their problems and helped each other develop a greater understanding of the problems they are trying to solve with their DifferenceMaker projects.

We hope you all can make it to the rest of our Workshop Series!

Food and drinks will be available!

All workshops are held in the Lydon Library, Room 110 on North Campus, from 5:30-7:30p.m.

February 22- Workshop 2: Assessing Opportunities and Value Proposition

February 27- Workshop 3: Developing your business model

March 1- Workshop 4: Delivering your Rocket Pitch

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UMass Features Nonspec!

Nonspec is Truly Making a Difference! 

The 2013 Campus-wide DifferenceMaker team, Nonspec, has been working diligently on developing low cost, adjustable, expandable prosthetic limbs for children in developing nation’s. Since being awarded $5,000 at the 2013 DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge, Nonspec has gone on to raise over $250,000, secure a patent, and travel to India twice, to being product testing.

This hardworking DifferenceMaker team is a wonderful example of what UMass students are capable of. Nonspec is now being recognized by the UMass System for the positive impacts they have had and are making on the community and world. UMass is very proud of what these students are doing and has featured them on their website and in a promotional video! This team is truly an example of what UMass students are capable of. Co-founder of Nonspec, Erin Keaney remarks, “What we learn at UMass really can contribute to larger global solutions.” UMass students are here to make a difference!

Thank you for making a difference in the world, Nonspec!

Nonspec team, from left to right: Jonathan de Alderete, Erin Keaney and Brendan Donoghue

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Team BASH Goes to Haiti

Written by BASH member, Nicole Belanger. This is a summary of her and Maureen Kelly’s trip to Haiti on January 15 – January 22, 2017.

BASH students who participated in this trip: Nicole Belanger, Maureen Kelly, Laura Magee and Mike Stockwell.

BASH’s Journey to Haiti! 

A biodigester is a device that converts waste (human, animal, etc.) into methane gas and slurry. With Haiti’s lack of sewer systems, the spread of disease from a polluted water supply is incredibly common. The biodigester provides a way to cure the sanitation problem, as well as producing two valuable bi-products. The methane gas can be used as an alternative fuel source (i.e. for cooking or refrigeration), which is a more cost efficient source than diesel and other types commonly bought in Haiti. The slurry is no longer harmful once micro bacteria break down all the harmful elements through natural processes. The slurry can be used for fertilizer, as farming is one of the most common sources of income and food for families in Haiti.

On Wednesday, Maureen and I went to Project Hope (Pwoje Espwa), an orphanage located in Les Cayes, Haiti. We met with the director, Cameron Parker, about an existing biodigester located on the site.There is an existing biodigester that was connected to two showers and two bathrooms previously. Unfortunately, the amount of use at those sites was not as frequent as it should have been and not enough substrate was being produced. We knew at this point that this was going to be a rebuild project. This meant we were going to have to find the perfect site to build a new one because the existing one was not a good option. After speaking with Cameron, he told us that the Haitian culture would not accept using human waste as an input, but wouldn’t be opposed to using pig/cow manure for fertilizer. He suggested that we use the pig waste from the pigs located at Pwoje Espwa as an input product and we could build a new biodigster near the pig pens. There were approximately 20 pigs on site when we were there. Currently, the pig waste is pushed out of a tiny pipe located on the side of the pens, and it falls into a hand dug trench. From there, workers can move it and compost it in the composting pile located right next to it. Although these were not the results we were expecting, it was nice that Cameron gave us truthful answers and provided us with an alternative solution/plan for the biodigester.

Cameron also asked us if we would be willing to design a septic system for new housing units he is putting in. We, of course, accepted. Students in Civil Engineering, Kayla Dooley, Owen Gannon, Alanna Grondine, and myself, as well as other active BASH members, are planning on turning this project into our senior capstone.

Our team is already brainstorming the designs and materials we will need to fulfill his request for a pig waste biodigester. We are excited to take on this challenge and help Haiti in as many ways as we can!

Here are some pictures we captured on our trip:

A picture of the existing biodigester at Pwoje Espwa (Project Hope) located in Les Cayes surrounded by overgrown banana trees.

The engineering team in front of the pig stalls. In front of the team is the composting pile.

Here you can see the small pipes that the pig waste travels through and the trench that it stays in until the farmers are ready to compost it.

One of the student’s favorite meals; white rice, mixed vegetables, conch in a delicious sauce, and potato fries – All homemade! Top it off with some fresh juice and we were in heaven. The conch was interesting to try especially because we found so many conch shells at the beach! It was SO TASTY!!

International student, Ralph, and UML alum, Maureen, looking at the destruction in Port Salut after the hurricane. It was very sad and emotional for those like Ralph who knew what the area looked like before the destruction.

Students got to enjoy a beach day at a beautiful beach in Port Salut. It was very clean and the water was like bath water and crystal clear. It was the perfect way to end our trip. Unfortunately, most of the scenery around this beach was greatly altered or destroyed by Hurricane Matthew, as this was one of the hardest hit areas.

The staff and students at the Haiti Development Studies Center together with staff and students from UML. Pictured here; Back Row (from right-left) Nicole Belanger, Mr. Adme, Mr. Stevenson, Mr. Anus, Dayana (international UML student), Maureen Kelly, Ralph (international UML student), Professor Giles, Mike Stockwell. Front Row (right-left) Ms. Olna, Laura Magee, Professor Joseph, Professor Weeden, Ms. Innocent. Not pictured: Connie Barna, director of the HDSC in Les Cayes and camera woman for this picture.







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2017 Idea Challenge Kick-Off and Idea Hack

The DifferenceMaker semester has officially begun! We kicked off the semester last night at our Spring 2017 Kick-Off and Idea Hack event at the Saab ETIC Atrium. Over 50 students, varying from freshman year through graduate school, attended. Attendees included students, faculty and staff, from various UMass Lowell colleges. 16174789_1401974719848407_8331833293423487928_n

Steven Tello, Associate Vice Chancellor for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development and Founder of the DifferenceMaker Program, and Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney, kicked the night off with a brief introduction to the Program and the Spring 2017 Idea Challenge. Then, Holly Butler, Entrepreneurial Initiative Project Director, interviewed the DifferenceMaker teams, e-Nable and InvisaWear, to share with attendees the opportunities that come with winning the Idea Challenge. Afterword, attendees spent time discussing problems they want to solve, and shared some tentative solutions and strategies.


Refreshments were served, entrepreneurial ideas were brainstormed, and teams were built. This is just the start of an eventful, creative, and innovative Spring 2017 semester!

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