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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Faculty Winter Workshop | January 11, 2017

On Wednesday. January 11, 2017, DifferenceMaker hosted the Faculty Winter Workshop at the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub at 110 Canal St.


Fifteen faculty members from different colleges throughout UMass Lowell attended in order to integrate elements of the DifferenceMaker ideology into their courses and to prepare their students for the $50K Idea Challenge this spring!


Thank you to all those could attend!


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FAHSS Creative Venture Competition | December 8, 2016

On Thursday, December 8, 2016, the College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at UMass Lowell hosted the annual Creative Venture Competition.

Five student teams were selected from a pool of applicants to pitch their idea in front of community and alumni judges at this year’s competition. On the panel of judges were Danielle McFadden, Glenn Morgan, and Stacie Hargis.

The five student teams chosen to pitch at this year’s competition were Cyborg, LoreBooks, Royal Bear Wear, SEAable, and Share the Sound. After pitching, the judges deliberated and provided feedback to each team prior to announcing the winner.

Team LoreBooks won first place, a $5,000 prize!


LoreBooks: Alan Foster, Hannah St. George, Sean Berubee, Nathaniel Cowing, and Nicole Nachef

Each of the other teams, Cyborg, Royal Bear Wear, SEAable, and Share the Sound were awarded $250 each.


Cyborg: Jishnu Menon Asokakumar, Ram Das, Adam Ferguson, ChandraSekhar Kolli, and Dhiren Rathod


Royal Bear Wear: John Travis and Matthew Houston


SEAable: Chrisna Khuon and Selena Tran


Share the Sound: Chanelle Cruz, Tyler McMillan, Martha Robertson, Denise Brito, and Andrew Schuster

Congratulations to all participants!

We encourage any interested students to apply to the 2017 $50,000 DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge! Applications are now open and close on February 13.


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Engineering Prototyping Competition | December 7, 2016

On Wednesday, December 7, 2016, UMass Lowell’s Francis College of Engineering hosted the Engineering Prototyping Competition in the Saab ETIC on North Campus.

Student teams who developed prototypes over the course of the fall semester presented their projects to several alumni judges. During the preliminary round, judges visited the presentations of each team and then deliberated to decide which teams would compete in the next round where pitches were made to another panel of judges.

The 1st place winner of the Graduate Award was team Cyborg consisting of Jishnu Menon Asokakumar, Ram Das, Adam Ferguson, Chandra, and Chiren. The team was awarded $1,000!

At the undergraduate level, the 1st place winner was Project Starfish consisting of team members Travis Kessler, Christopher Johnson, Gregory Dorian, Maxwell Roy, and Roma Aurora. The team was awarded $1,000!

The 2nd place winner of $750 was Breezy with team member Anne Faber and advisor Scott Stapleton.

The 3rd place award was team BASH – Biodigestor Aided Solution in Haiti with team members Michael Doane, Nicole Belanger, Owen Gannon, Alanna Grondine, Kayla Dooley, Maureen Kelly, and Jeff Beck.


The Honorable Mention winner of $250 was a team that developed a Multi-Dose Auto-Injector!

Congratulations to all winning teams!


Also, we would like to thank all of the judges that provided their thoughtful insight and expertise!

First Round Judges:

Jim Pinzano, BAE

Paul Crew,

Tony Qualiette, Skyworks

Harrison Frye ’15, Innovation Hub

Linda Barrington, SLICE

Ray Lam, Skyworks

Final Round Judges:

Chris McKenna, Foley & Lardner

Mark Yates, New England Keyboard

Bill Geary, Mintz Levin

Nirav Patel ’00, ’02, G&F Medical

Steve Tello, DifferenceMaker


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DCU/MSB Innovation Contest | December 1, 2016

On Thursday, December 1st, Digital Federal Credit Union and the Manning School of Business hosted the annual DCU/MSB Innovation Contest. Earlier in the semester, student teams applied to the competition with an idea they had related to banking. Over a dozen teams applied and five were selected to compete and pitch their ideas to a panel of judges.

We had three judges for the competition: Bill Jacobson – CEO, Workbar, Jim Regan – President & CEO, DCU, and Sandra Richtermeyer – Dean, Manning School of Business.

Semifinalists competing in the DCU/MSB Innovation Contest were Finance for All with team member Nikquania Gamble, “PiggyAPP” for Kids with team member Yomar SalazarReyes, Student Financial Advising with team members Brandon Luitweiler, Joshua Masse, and Will Puduski, and Student Financial Finesse Made Easy with team members Mirkens Paul and Aaron Tam. Each team member was awarded $100.


Team PiggyApp for Kids


Team Student Financial Advising


Team Student Financial Finesse Made Easy

The winner of this year’s competition was team Digibank and their idea to help rid consumers and the environment of loose change by having leftover change from a transaction deposited directly into a bank account! Team members included Channou Aing, Virath Chea, Siven Hang, Cullin Lam, and Chanmary Lau. Each team member was awarded $500!


Team Digibank


$3,700 was awarded to student teams overall! Great job to everyone who participated and congratulations to this year’s winners!

A special thank you as well to our judges!


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America East Hackathon!

Hacking for a Better World!

Hack AE was a 24-hour civic hackathon designed to bring America East undergraduate students together, to build software and hardware projects that encourage civic engagement and/or address the real-world challenges facing our neighborhoods, cities, states and country. This event was managed by Juliette Kenny, Executive Director, Academic Consortium.


This Hackathon took place from November 5-6 at Binghamton University’s Innovative Technologies Complex, located in Vestal, NY. Holly Butler, DifferenceMaker Director, joined 18 UMass Lowell students (with just 3 having been to a Hackathon before) on the exciting trip! The UMass Lowell Hackletes left Lowell, MA at 5:30am on November 5 and arrived to Binghamton just for the start of lunch, at 11:45am. The team was welcomed by Juliette, Binghamton faculty and staff, and students from across the academic consortium. At 12:30pm, the Hackathon kicked-off with introductions from Major League Hacking (MLH), Juliette, and Binghamton staff. After welcoming remarks, the hacking began!


Students immediately ran into rooms, built teams, and began brainstorming ideas. The 18 UMass Lowell students formed 5 teams, one being with 3 Binghamton students, which was great! Holly helped the teams brainstorm ideas, using the DifferenceMaker method: Problem, Opportunity, Solution, and Resources. After several hours, the teams had ideas and began hacking…all night long! The excitement and enthusiasm throughout the night was incredible.

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24 hours later, at 1:30pm on November 6th, the projects were submitted, and the judges began scoring the teams. All of the student teams, from across various AE Universities, had innovative ideas that they were passionate about. After being judged, the awards were announced.

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It was an exciting moment for UMass Lowell! Two teams won in two categories!

Project Title: Superhero

Project Description: An application that connects helping volunteers to those who may be in trouble or need help.

Prize Category: Beginner Hack Category

UMass Lowell Student Information: Sanskriti Sharma, Freshman, Computer Engineering

Team: She built a team with 3 Binghamton students


Project Title: Generation 2U

Project Description: Research proves loneliness leads to depression. Generation 2U solves this problem by connecting baby boomers & millennials through a website and phone application network.

Prize Category: Health and Wellness Category

UMass Lowell Student Information: Lesa Duval, Junior, Electrical Engineering, Andrew MacGregor, Junior, Computer Engineering, Sohit Pal, Junior, Computer Science and Krin Yongvongphaiboon, Senior, Computer Science

Team: UMass Lowell students


Prizes: Each student could choose from the following:

Echo Dot

Google Chromecast

Skullcandy Wireless Headphones

Sony Noise-Canceling Headphones

Logitech Stereo Speakers

$50 Amazon Gift Card

This was an exciting event that brought together various schools and students. UMass Lowell was happy to be a part of it, and all teams learned from the experience. UMass Lowell looks forward to future AE Hackathons and events.


To view more photos, please visit the DifferenceMaker Facebook Page, American East Hackathon photo album.

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