Workshop 4: Delivering Your Rocket Pitch

Workshop 4: Delivering Your Rocket Pitch was held on Wednesday, February 27th, in Lydon Library. As over 30 students arrived, they made their way over to serve themselves fresh salad and a delicious lasagna dinner.

Professor Michelle Veilleux, DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellow in Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Professor Michael Ciuchta, Faculty Fellow in the Manning School of Business, led our fourth workshop with a focus on how teams should properly and effectively pitch their ideas to the judges at the upcoming Preliminary Pitch-off and Idea Challenge. Professor Veilleux and Professor Ciuchta emphasized the importance of clearly stating the problem, opportunity, and value of each teams’ solutions. Students were even shown videos of DifferenceMaker teams’ pitches at past years’ Idea Challenges and were able to work together to analyze what each team did well and what they could have improved on.

To end the night one brave team volunteered to practice their pitch to the rest of the audience. After the pitch, the audience was able to give valuable feedback and ask questions that may be brought up by the panel of judges!

We would like to thank all the students, faculty, and speakers who made our 2019 Workshop Series fun, engaging, and very informative! We hope that everyone learned some valuable information and advice for the upcoming Idea Plan, which is due on March 4th!

Please join us at our upcoming competitions!


Preliminary Pitch-off:

April 4, 5- 6p.m.

O’Leary Library, Mezzanine, South Campus

$50,000 Idea Challenge:

April 25, 5- 8:30 p.m.

University Crossing, Moloney Hall




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Workshop 3: Developing Business Models

On Monday, February 25th, we held the third part of our Workshop Series, Developing Business Models. As over 45 students arrived, they made their way over to the baked potato bar to serve themselves some delicious baked potatoes with a variety of different toppings.

Innovation Initiatives Senior Director, Tom O’Donnell, and Professor Hunter Mack the DifferenceMaker® Faculty Fellow from the Francis College of Engineering, led this workshop. As they helped guide student teams through developing their business models, they often gave examples of companies whose business models failed due to their lack of research in a certain area.

To end the night, student teams worked together to develop their own business model by first determining many of the key factors that must be considered before finalizing any business model.

Thank you to everyone who joined us and made Workshop 3 our best turnout yet! We hope to see everyone at the final part of our Workshop Series, Delivering Your Rocket Pitch, which will be held Wednesday, February 27th, at 5:30 in Lydon Library room 110! Come hungry – dinner will be served!

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Workshop 2: Assessing Opportunities and Value Proposition

The second event in our Workshop Series was held Thursday, February 21st, from 5:30PM to 7:30PM in Lydon Library Room 110. This workshop was focused on Assessing Opportunities and Value Proposition. As over 30 students arrived, some delicious fajitas were being served.

The night began with Faculty Fellow, Professor Brent Shell, from the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences, presenting about what “Assessing Opportunities” really means. He stressed to the students that there is a market for practically everything, but the question is if there is an opportunity or a need within that market.

To finish of the night, Faculty Fellow, Professor Neil Shortland, from the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, presented about the importance of value in a product or service provided. Both Professors kept it a very fun and engaging night, often asking questions and opening the floor to DifferenceMaker® student teams to share how their product and service ideas can bring value to the consumer.

We would like to thank everyone who made it to Workshop 2 and we hope to see you all at our final two workshops:

Developing Business Models: Monday, Feb. 25th

Delivering Your Rocket Pitch: Wednesday, Feb. 27th

 All workshops will be held in Lydon Library, Room 110, North Campus from 5:30 – 7:30PM!

 Dinner is served at each workshop, so please come hungry!

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Workshop 1: Identifying Problems

We kicked-off our Workshop Series Tuesday evening, Feb. 19, 2019, in Lydon Library, Room 110 with Identifying Problems! Over 40 students and faculty arrived at 5:30PM to engage in Workshop 1. Fresh salad, pizza, chips and cookies were served. Entrepreneurial Initiatives Program Director, Holly Butler, began the night by introducing our guest speakers and giving a brief overview of the DifferenceMaker Workshop Series.

Guest speakers, Professors Iman Chahine and Mazen El Ghaziri, led the workshop and described the questions that needed to be answered in order to identify the significance of each team’s problem. After the presentation, students broke off into new or existing teams to brainstorm problems they were passionate about solving. Students were able to work together and come up with some great problems that needed to be dealt with, ranging from children with disabilities to safe medication disposal systems. By the end of the night, students had created or joined teams, found out the significance of their problem, and gained an understanding of what steps to take next in order to move on with their projects.

We want to thank everyone who came out and shared your amazing ideas with us!

We hope to see even more students at the remainder of our Workshop Series:

Assessing Opportunities and Value Proposition: Thursday, Feb. 21st

 Developing Business Models: Monday, Feb. 25th

Delivering Your Rocket Pitch: Wednesday, Feb. 27th

 All workshops will be held in Lydon Library, Room 110, North Campus from 5:30 – 7:30PM!

 Dinner is served at each workshop, so please come hungry!

 Don’t forget to keep working hard to prepare for the $50,000 Idea Challenge!

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2019 Idea Challenge Kick-Off and Idea Hack

On Wednesday, January 30th, we began our spring semester with the 2019 Idea Challenge Kick-off and Idea Hack! This event was held from 5:30PM to 7PM in the Saab ETIC, Perry Atrium located on North Campus. As the students, professors, and mentors arrived, the night began with a variety of delicious foods and some networking. As over 90 students crowded into the atrium, Tom O’Donnell, Senior Director of Innovation Initiatives welcomed the audience by briefly introducing the DifferenceMaker® Program and providing his own experiences.

Shortly after, the Entrepreneurial Initiatives Program Director, Holly Butler, interviewed a panel of past DifferenceMaker Teams. The panel included Kierra Walsh from UML Green Roofs and Tyler Cote from Operation 250. They described their experiences with the DifferenceMaker Program, where it has gotten them today, and answered a few questions from the student audience.

To end the night, Ha Pho, Entrepreneurial Initiatives Program Manager led our Idea Hack Activity and Discussion. Students stood and explained their ideas for real world problems, involving Health and Wellness, Social Responsibility, and Mobile Applications. Then, others joined teams based on their interests of the ideas. Next, teams brainstormed and added to the ideas. Lastly, they presented their solutions to the audience.

We are extremely grateful for everyone who came Wednesday night to make the 2019 Idea Challenge Kick-off and Idea Hack an informative and engaging event! We hope to see many of the students pitch their ideas at our Idea Challenge event later this semester. Don’t forget, applications are due February 12th! Please apply today:

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2018 Francis College of Engineering Prototyping Competition

On December 6th the Francis College of Engineering Prototyping Competition was held at Perry Atrium in the Saab Center on North Campus. For the first few hours of the contest, teams were set up throughout the lobby of the building, showcasing and explaining their prototypes to the public, as well as the preliminary judges as they filtered in.

A big thank you to our preliminary judges:

  • Mark Dyment ’86, ’87 Francis College of Engineering
  • Carol Devellian’85 Francis College of Engineering
  • Rich Rossetti ’83 Francis College of Engineering
  • Dave O’Brien’80 Francis College of Engineering
  • Dan McCormick’83, ’84, ’91 Francis College of Engineering
  • Doug Browne’85 Francis College of Engineering
  • Matt McBride Associate Director, Development, Francis College of Engineering
  • Michelle Veilleux ’93 FAHSS and DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellow

The preliminary judges selected 5 teams as finalists to pitch their idea in a presentation to the panel of finalist judges. Before the pitches began, Joseph Hartman, Dean of the Francis College of Engineering, introduced the judges, and gave an overview of the format for the contest.

A big thank you to our final judges:

  • Jack Wilson, President, Emeritus, University Distinguished Professor
  • Mark Saab’81, ‘13 Francis College of Engineering
  • Cindy Conde’87, ‘91 Francis College of Engineering
  • Rajia Abdelaziz Rajia Abdelaziz ’16 Francis College of Engineering. Rajia is the co-founder of invisaWear which won the Francis College of Engineering Prototyping Competition in 2015 and the Innovative Technology Solution prize at the 2016 $50,000 Idea Challenge.

The first team to present was Pyramid pack consisting of Sean Roche, Brett Wadman, and Patrick Drummey Jr. Their idea was to create a weight-distribution backpack that relieved some of the strain that backpacks put on the body.

They were followed by Cameron Edmonds of Project SASS. The idea here was an automated satellite and GPS beacon that can call for help from remote locations. Project SASS was also a winner at the 2018 $50,000 Idea Challenge.

Next up was Benjamin McEvoy of Benji Ball, fresh off of his win at the Creative Venture competition the night before. Benji Ball is a game similar to wiffle ball that takes the baserunning out of it, to cater to children with disabilities, as well as make it easier to play in confined space.

The next team was yet another group presenting on back to back nights. Air Align also took part in the Creative Venture Competition the night before. This group consisted of Daniel Garfinkel, Alexander Barr, Dennon Audette, Alex Higgins, Joe McDonald, Kevin Truong, Michael Hoppe, Nick Dean, and Patrick Pang had the idea of a soft robotic suit that corrects people’s posture.

The final presentation was from Sid Iyer of EnvivoMed. His idea was creating a painless blood extraction device.

Sid Iyer fields questions from the judges

At the conclusion of the presentations, the judges gathered to determine the winners of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, as well as the top biomedical device prize and People’s Choice award.

The results were:

1st Place, $2,500: Benji Ball

2nd Place, $1,500: Air Align

3rd Placec, $1,000: Project SASS

Best Biomedical Device, $1,500: EnvivoMed

People’s Choice award, $500: Air Align

Air Align accepts their 2nd place and fan favorite prizes

Thank you to everyone who made this event possible, and to the teams and judges. Job well done by everyone!

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2018 FAHSS Creative Venture Competition

Last Wednesday, December 5th, the FAHSS Creative Venture Competition was held at O’Leary Library on South Campus. Six teams pitched their creative and innovative ideas to a panel of two alumni judges. The panel consisted of Keith Neal, Class of ’93 and Glenn Morgan, Class of ’86, both alumni from the College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

To begin the night, Luis Falcone, Dean of the College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, introduced the judges, and thanked everyone who made the event possible. He then gave a brief overview of the format of the competition, and then the presentations ensued.

Frank Talty, Assistant Dean, emceed the competition. The first team to pitch was A New Look at Life Coaching. This team, led by Jack Travis and consisting of Josiah Gennell, and Nisarg Jhaveri, pitched their idea to help those affected by mental illness overcome the personal and financial barriers to recovery, wellness, happiness, and fulfilment in life.

The second group to present was Voter Engagement App, consisting of Emily Yormak, Brendan Clarke, Justin St Louis, and Yonatan Tsivkin. This team’s goal is to create an app with absolutely no political agenda that keeps people posted on politics, so voters can be more knowledgeable and less biased.

The next team to take the stage was Juan Boungou, and Anastasia Forcucci of Innovate Lowell. This group sought to address the lack of opportunity for underprivileged children to learn business skills by implementing them into after-school programs.

Innovate Lowell was followed by Benji Ball, presented by Benjamin McEvoy. His idea was a game similar to wiffle ball that took the baserunning out of it, to cater to children with disabilities.

Benajamin McEvoy pitching Benji Ball

The next team up was Air Align. The team consisted of Daniel Gurfinkel, Alex Barr, Dennon Audette, Frederick Higgins, Alex Infantino, Joe McDonald, Kevin Truong, Michael Hoppe, Nick Dean, and Patrick Pang. This team is creating a soft robotic suit that corrects peoples bad posture habits.

The final team to present was Magnetic Textbooks. This team consisted of Jasmine Bell, Conrad Nelson, and John Lesack and aims to prevent students from having to lug multiple large textbooks to school every day. Their product is a magnetic textbook that students can insert and remove sections of different books, based on what material they will need on that particular day.

After deliberation, the judges selected Benji Ball as the grand prize winner, winning $5,000!

There were many great ideas pitched and we all look forward to seeing the progression of each project.

The judges posing with the New Look at Life Coaching team

A big thank you to the judges for their time, sponsorship and effort, and to everyone who came out and made this night a great success!

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On Tuesday, December 4th, the DCU/Manning School of Business Innovation Contest was held in Moloney Hall at UCrossing from 6 to 9PM. Six teams competed with their innovative banking and finance ideas. Each team left with $100 per team member as a cash prize and the winning team received an additional $500 per team member. The event began with food and networking.

Once the audience was settled in, Sandra Richtermeyer, Dean of the Manning School of Business opened the event by thanking everyone who put in hard work to make this all come together. She then introduced the judges; Jim Regan, President & CEO of DCU, Michelle Silveira, Senior VP & CMO of Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union, and Vasilios Roussos, Managing Director at Fintech Innovation Center.

Once the judges were introduced, the team pitches ensued. The first team to go was Asset Tracker. Their team consisted of Chris Bradley, Michael Gergley, Jared Girourd, Zachary Palmer, and Michael Rivers. The team pitched their idea of an integrative finance app that can keep track of all of the user’s accounts and assets in one place.

The judges listen in to the first pitch of the night.

The next group was ATM fast App by John Lesack, and Conrad Nelson. This duo pitched an app that can improve your ATM experience easier by making the majority of your transaction remotely before using an ATM, while maintaining the utmost security.

Next to the stage was Chip Away, consisting of William Hanna, George Le (2018 Idea Challenge winner), Peter Maitland, and Hannah Wright. Their idea, Chip Away, was a creative solution to helping people pay off student debt.

Finance 4 Life was the next team up. Members included Brett Battaglia, Brian Conneely, and Stephen Sarrouf. Their idea was an interactive Finance app targeted for High School and College students that taught Finance in a fun way.

Brett from Finance 4 Life displays the layout of their app

Finance 4 Life was followed by another team with a Finance app; Proactive Student. Siddhant Iyer, and Sourabh Kulkarni demonstrated how their app would work and fielded questions from the panel of judges.

The last team to pitch was Universal Cash Deposit ATM. This team consisting of Keegan LaPierre and Aidan Kilgannon pitched their idea of innovative ATM software to make depositing cash anywhere easier.

At the conclusion of the presentations, the judges exited the room to deliberate, then returned to announce their decision. The winning group was Chip Away! The team won a total of $2,400 in cash prizes.

In total, DCU awarded $3,800 to the teams at the competition.

The Grand Prize winners, Chip Away

Thank you to the judges, teams, attendees, DCU and the Manning School of Business. We can’t wait to see how these innovative ideas develop!

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The Opioid Challenge

Circle Health has generously sponsored $5,000 as part of the 2019 DifferenceMaker® $50,000 Idea Challenge, for the Contribution to a Healthier Lifestyle category. They are particularly interested in solving the opioid epidemic. On November 8, 2018 from 5-7 p.m., the Opioid Challenge event was held at the O’Leary Library, Mezzanine on South Campus. Representatives from Circle Health teamed up with DifferenceMaker and the Zuckerberg College of Health Science to encourage students to come up with ideas to solve the opioid epidemic.

DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellows, Professor Brent Shell and Professor Mazen El Ghaziri, managed and promoted this successful event, as well as acted as the emcees for the evening. After kicking off the evening with food and networking, Shortie McKinney, Dean of the Zuckerberg College of Health Science, welcomed everyone to the event and introduced the guest speakers. The first two speakers were Diane Maltais and Paulette Viera of Circle Health and Lowell General Hospital. Together, they discussed the causes and effects of opioid abuse and revealed some alarming statistics. Then Holly Butler, DifferenceMaker Program Director, discussed the 2019 DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge, and how students can get involved and win funding to move their ideas forward.

Dean of Zuckerberg College of Health Science, Shortie McKinney

Elizabeth Lydstone and Danielle Dolan of Lowell General Hospital, and Kerrie D’entremont from the Greater Lowell Health Alliance, further discussed the opioid epidemic and presented the students with the challenge and activity. Considering the stated challenges involved with the opioid epidemic, the students were asked to come up with creative ideas to stop the abuse of opioids.

Students brainstorm creative solutions

After brainstorming ideas, the teams pitched to the experts from Circle Health, as well as our Faculty Fellows. The teams were given feedback on their ideas, and advice on how to move forward. All students were encouraged to bring their ideas to DifferenceMaker and to apply to the $50,000 Idea Challenge (applications open Dec. 1, 2018 and close Feb. 12, 2019).

The event was very successful with a huge turnout! There were about 70 students, faculty and staff that attended.

Thank you to everyone who made this event a great success!

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2018 DifferenceMaker Celebration

The Annual 2018 DifferenceMaker® Celebration was held Wednesday, October 10 in Moloney Hall, University Crossing. The purpose of this event was to celebrate and support the success that our UMass Lowell alumni and students have experienced in our DifferenceMaker program. The event introduced alumni who have served as mentors and judges, as well as showcased the work of our student DifferenceMaker teams.  The ultimate goal of the evening is to showcase our students and engage more alumni in supporting their efforts both as mentors and as donors. The highlight of the evening was keynote speaker Ron Insana, Senior Analyst and Commentator for CNBC.


After the 140+ attendees enjoyed dinner and networking, Steven Tello, Vice Provost of Innovation & Workforce Development introduced the DifferenceMaker program, related activites and successful teams. Dr. Tello emphasized how grateful he was for all of the amazing people who have made DifferenceMaker what it is today, especially the sponsors, judges and mentors. A big thank you to Ed Gallagher and Comcast for sponsoring Ron Insana.


Chancellor Moloney then took the stage to kick-off the event with RiverHawk pride! Then, a panel of DifferenceMaker students, judges, and mentors discussed their projects and what kind of impact they’ve made, as well as the process they went through in moving their ideas along. DifferenceMaker Program Director Holly Butler moderated this panel. She was joined by Craig Kelly, engineer on the DifferenceMaker team eNable Lowell, Roma Aurora of Project Starfish, Danielle Thibodeau of Operation 250, Gary Ainsworth, Principal Consultant of Arc Completa, Inc, and Richard Juknavorian, Vice President of Product Startegy & Business Development at Casenet.


Holly Butler leads the discussion panel

After the panel commenced, Holly introduced guest speaker, Ron Insana. Ron insisted that Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, say a few words before him. Dean was passionate in spreading his message that people should choose a career path that they will want to stick with and not worry about their “exit strategy” from their job.

Ron Insana watches on as Dean Kamen addresses the audience

When Ron took over, he captivated the audience with stories of how he got his unusual start on television. He then spoke on how highly he thinks of UML, and the type of students the school produces. After his speech, he fielded questions from the audience on a variety of topics, from finance to politics.


The event was a huge success, and we’d like to thank all of the students, alumni, faculty, and guests who attended for making it so enjoyable!

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