2017 Hack AE

On the weekend of November 4th, UMass Lowell hosted the annual Hack AE (America East Hackathon), a 24-hour competition with a focus on developing technological solutions to real-world problems. The focus of the event was on “Hacking for a Better World.” The event was held on South Campus in O’Leary Library. Activities started at around 11 AM on Saturday, and went all the way to 4 PM on Sunday, November 5th.

There were more than 120 students from 8 universities. UMass Lowell teams took 3 of the 6 top prizes at the hackathon (Digital Health, Best Education, and Best Beginner Hack), while teams from the University of Maine took home the Cleantech Prize, University of Maryland Baltimore County won the Opioid Epidemic Challenge Award, and Binghamton took home Best Cyber Security Hack.

There were also many great speakers at the event. Juliette Kenny, Executive Director of the America East opened the Hackathon with the rules and expectations, Provost Michael Vayda welcomed the students at the opening, and Steve Tello, Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Entrepreneurship & Economic Development, spoke at the closing event on Sunday.

Thank you to everyone who attended and made this event a success!


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2017 Annual DifferenceMaker Celebration

On October 11th from 5:30-8P.M., DifferenceMaker held their 3rd Annual Celebration in Moloney Hall in University Crossing. Many alumni, students, and faculty were invited to learn about the success of the program, and share their own experiences with DifferenceMaker. Food and drinks were served, and there was lots of mingling throughout the night!

Professor Steve Tello with opening remarks and introduction to DifferenceMaker

Professor Steve Tello opened the event with remarks and demonstrated the different areas where DifferenceMaker has succeeded in the numbers and showed the growth we have had over the years. He then introduced President Marty Meehan, Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney, and Jack Wilson, President Emeritus of UMass. Professor Tello presented Jack Wilson with the Wilson Center of Entrepreneurship in MSB.

Professor Steve Tello, Jack Wilson, President Emeritus of UMass, President Marty Meehan, & Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney

Next, our 2017 Faculty Fellows were announced: Michelle Bazin, Neil Shortland, Guanling Chen, Mazen El Ghaziri, Brent Shell, Deborah Finch, and Hunter Mack. We thank them for their support in helping our teams!

Ha Pho, Project Manager at DifferenceMaker then led a Student Showcase and Q&A with Jaime Keenan with Operation250 and her mentor Michelle Bazin, and Rajia Abdelaziz with Invisawear, and her mentor Ray Southworth. Some great questions were asked, and even better responses, with some awesome audience participation.

Some Alumni also were on stage for a discussion and Q&A led by Holly Butler, Director of DifferenceMaker. Alumni included Chris McKenna (’89), Brenda Maille (’78), Susan de Mari (’98 ’90), Glenn Morgan (’86), & Richard Juknavorian (’98). They talked about their involvement in DifferenceMaker and the impact you can have in getting involved.

We thank everyone for joining us, and making this celebration such a success!

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Fall Open House 2017


On October 1st, DifferenceMaker was a part of the fall 2017 Open House located at the Tsongas Center. Thousands of prospective students came!

From 8:30-11:30 A.M., DifferenceMaker informed parents, and potential future students about the program, how to get involved and the impact it has had on campus. Many participants had questions about DifferenceMaker, and by providing them with real-life examples of successful teams, helped them to better understand the value in getting involved. Lots of cool DifferenceMaker swag was given out in the process!

We hope to see you at the next open house on October 29th in the Tsongas Center from 8:30-11:30am!



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DifferenceMaker Kick-off | September 26, 2017


On September 26th at approximately 5:30P.M., DifferenceMaker hosted their Fall Kick-off in the Perry Atrium of the Saab ETIC! There, students and faculty gathered to hear Professor Steve Tello tell more about the program and the opportunities DifferenceMaker presents, and hear professionals talk about three of the upcoming college competitions.



Udi Laska, Class of 1975, introduced the Francis College of Engineering Prototyping Competition. Neil Shortland, Lecturer and Project Manager at the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies, pitched the FAHSS Creative Venture Competition. Jim Regan, President and CEO of DCU spoke about the MSB/DCU Innovation contest. Juliette Kenny, Executive Director of the America East Academic Consortium, announced the Hack AE competition. Lastly, Holly Butler, Director of DifferenceMaker, led an ideation activity to get students to express their ideas in groups, and engage in entrepreneurial thinking!

To close the night, students had the opportunity to network with faculty, mentors, advisors, and alumni.






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2017 Demo Day

On Thursday, July 13, 2017, DifferenceMaker teams gathered in Umass Lowell’s Innovation hub to pitch their final ideas to alumni, faculty fellows, and mentors. The four-week bootcamp the teams attended this summer prepared them for Demo Day. This event was an opportunity for teams to showcase their solutions to potential mentors. During their pitches, they explained their business plans, potential customers and described in depth the qualities and skills they are searching for in order to strengthen and improve their opportunities along with their product. Many of the teams even displayed their prototypes. The main focus of the event is to advance teams’ progress with the help of mentors. The teams were able to receive insightful feedback during the time given for Q&A. They were given the opportunity to network with alumni and local business professionals.

Student co-ops Cody Weimar, Perla Ponce, and Amy Ward greet professor Steven Tello.




Large crowd consisting of alumni, faculty fellows, and mentors in UML’s IHub.






The event was catered by Aramark. There were many options to choose from, varying from spinach dip, to egg rolls.





Team QBell presents their hospital experience improving software.






Team Cyborg displays their prototype to potential mentor.






Thank you to all those who attended. We hope to see you again next year.

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2017 Summer Boot Camp Session 4

Summer Boot Camp Session 4 was bittersweet; us at DifferenceMaker are thrilled to see what the teams have to accomplish, but we will miss meeting with the students every Thursday! The session began with a Mad Libs activity. Each team filled in the blanks regarding the problem they’re solving, their goal, and product. The results were outstanding, everyone was creative and willing to share. The teams presented hypothesis’ that were followed by answers and solutions. The teams received insight from eight different advisors during the Round Robin Advising. Each team introduced their idea to an advisor and received feedback. They moved to a different advisor every seven minutes. Since all the teams were present for all four sessions, they received permission to use $1,000 of the funding they won at the DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge. The students left with homework to work on for Demo Day.


DifferenceMaker would like to thank Michelle Bazin, Jack Wang and Hunter Mack for their undivided support and attention these past four weeks. Their efforts were greatly appreciated!

  • Michelle Bazin
    • Professor – College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
    • Co-Director of Legal Studies and UML, Lawyer, Non-profits
    • DM Guest Speaker – Entrepreneural Speaker Series
  • Jack Wang
    • DifferenceMaker and EforAll Mentor
    • Business development, finance/accounting, Non-profits
  • Hunter Mack
    • Professor – Francis College of Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
    • DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellow, Francis College of Engineering

Thank you to our Round Robin Advising guests!

  • Gary Ainsworth
    • UML New Venture Fellow
    • Business dev. and strategy, engineering, sciences
  • Stephen Powell
    • UML MSB Faculty, Market research and intelligence, product management, strategic pricing
  • Michael Ciuchta
    • UML MSB Faculty, finance, strategy
  • Deb Finch
    • UML MSB Faculty and DM Fellow, non-profits
  • Steven Geyster
    • UML Eng. Alumni, entrepreneur, med-device
  • Nancy Saucier
    • UML Staff, New Venture Development
  • Ira Turner
    • UML Sciences Alumni, Lawyer, Patent Law
  • David Vatalaro
    • UML Eng. Alumni, software engineering
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2017 Summer Boot Camp Session 3

The 3rd Boot Camp of the summer was the most exciting session yet! Multiple teams brought in their prototypes to share with their advisors and peers. Up to date, many individuals in the room had only heard each other’s ideas, but seeing physical products gave the teams a boost of enthusiasm! Once again, the session was focused on their target market and the stages necessary for their products development. In previous sessions, the teams were advised to interview individuals and contact professionals in their field. During their presentations, they explained the information they found and the changes they made to their business model canvas. Like always, the advisors were impressed by the progress each team made. At the end of the session, teams were given the task to research customer relationships, key resources, and their cost structure. We can’t wait to see what they bring next session!

UML alum Chris McKenna and Dave Kantaros from Foley & Lardner LLP informed the teams about the multiple types of patents and corporations, as well as receiving funding.




Thank you to the sessions special guests!

  • Michelle Bazin
    • Professor – College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
    • Co-Director of Legal Studies and UML, Lawyer, Non-profits
    • DM Guest Speaker – Entrepreneural Speaker Series
  • Jack Wang
    • DifferenceMaker and EforAll Mentor
    • Business development, finance/accounting, Non-profits
  • Hunter Mack
    • Professor – Francis College of Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
    • DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellow, Francis College of Engineering
  • David W. Kantaros
    • Foley & Lardner LLP Partner
  • Christopher J. McKenna
    • Foley & Lardner LLP Partner


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2017 Boot Camp Session 2


The DifferenceMaker teams met on June 8, 2017 with a whole new perspective of their projects. Since the first Summer Boot Camp, the teams have made it their mission to interview and speak to as many individuals as possible. Ha Pho advised that they avoid “yes or no” questions. Asking the right questions gives them ideas of what they should work toward and what they should leave behind in order to move forward. Many of these teams revealed that they received different insight from individual’s opinions. Their findings were further enhanced with guidance from the advisors at the Boot Camp. Since multiple teams have a focus in the medical field, Erin Keaney and Jonathan Perez de Alderete from Nonspec joined us during the team’s presentations. From knowledge and experience, they were able to answer questions and give the teams information about individuals that could potentially help them. The teams continued to make changes to their business model canvas, then left the session with tasks to fulfill for the following Boot Camp Session.

Guest speaker, Professor Deborah Finch from the Manning School of Business informs the teams about non-profits and the process involved in receiving donations from supporters.



A special thank you to the sessions special guests!

  • Michelle Bazin
    • Professor – College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
    • Co-Director of Legal Studies and UML, Lawyer, Non-profits
    • DM Guest Speaker – Entrepreneural Speaker Series
  • Jack Wang
    • DifferenceMaker and EforAll Mentor
    • Business development, finance/accounting, Non-profits
  • Hunter Mack
    • Professor – Francis College of Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
    • DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellow, Francis College of Engineering
  • Erin Keany
    • Vice President/Co-Founder of Nonspec
  • Jonathan Perez de Alderete
    • President/Co-Founder of Nonspec
  • Deborah Finch
    • Lecturer – Manning School of Business
    • Marketing Entrepreneurship and Innovation
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2017 Boot Camp, Session 1

On Thursday, June 1st, DifferenceMaker welcomed the 2017 DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge winners for the opportunity to work and receive insightful feedback to further advance their projects. Eager to learn, the teams gathered in room 120 of the newly built Pulichino Tong Business Center. In the first of many Summer Boot Camp sessions, the teams began to comprehend what customer segments are, what business model they should focus on, and more importantly, ways of implementing their winning funds. Through visuals, Ha Pho, explained in detail the steps necessary to make the teams’ ideas flourish. It was not long before each team was up on their feet presenting their product pitch. Their presentation was followed by questions and advice from advisors and peers with the intention of guiding them in the right direction. Holly Butler made sure to remind the students not to feel pressured if they did not know all the answers; this is just the beginning! The students left the session with a better understanding of what they should work toward and the knowledge they should bring when we meet next week.

Guest Speaker, Steven Tello, made an appearance to show his support toward DifferenceMaker and it’s teams!





A special thank you to the advisors who are dedicating their time to assist the teams!

  • Michelle Bazin
    • Professor – College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
    • Co-Director of Legal Studies and UML, Lawyer, Non-profits
    • DM Guest Speaker – Entrepreneural Speaker Series
  • Jack Wang
    • DifferenceMaker and EforAll Mentor
    • Business development, finance/accounting, Non-profits
  • Hunter Mack
    • Professor – Francis College of Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
    • DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellow, Francis College of Engineering
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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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