2022 Fall DifferenceMaker Kick-Off and College Competition Announcement

On Wednesday, September 21, 2022, from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m., DifferenceMaker held its 2022 Season Kick-off and College Competition Announcement!

Holly Lalos, Director, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute, kicked off the event and thanked all the DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellows. Next, Provost Joe Hartman shared inspiring words to the students about of the importance of making a positive impact in the world by developing creative ideas. Then, Mina Lam and Nick Jarek were introduced – two Rist DifferenceMaker CO-OPs. They presented an overview of the program and spoke about the opportunities DifferenceMaker offers, such as team building, being paired with mentors, learning critical skills through events and workshops, and being able to connect with diverse students from various backgrounds. Past DifferenceMaker student team examples were also presented: Hoppers, Minds with Purpose, and Tendren.

Image
Provost Joe Hartman speaking with the students about the impacts of the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute. (Photo credit: Ed Brennen)

Lastly, DifferenceMaker benefits and impact were presented, such as $7 million has been raised by past winning teams and 40 companies have been formed.

Mina Lam and Nick Jarek, Rist DifferenceMaker CO-OP students, presenting an introduction to DifferenceMaker(Photo credit: Ed Brennen)

After Nick and Mina spoke, guest speakers were introduced to discuss details regarding the three DifferenceMaker College Competitions.

Thomaz De Moura, Innovations Director, Digital Federal Credit Union, announced details regarding the DCU/Manning Innovation Contest. This contest encourages innovations in the banking industry, like ideas around financial literacy and mobile technology solutions. The top prize is $500 in cash per team member and each finalist student is awarded $100 in cash. Registration for the DCU/Manning Innovation Contest opened on September 21, 2022, and will close on October 21, 2022, at 5 p.m.

Carter Keough and Kelilah Wolkowicz, Professors, Francis College of Engineering and DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellows announced details regarding the Francis College of Engineering Prototyping Competition. This competition encourages students to work with a team to turn an idea into a product with any resources available – $100 is reimbursable for prototyping materials. Participants must be students at UMass Lowell and at least one member of the team must be from the Francis College of Engineering. Additionally, the team should have a faculty advisor from the Francis College of Engineering. The application registration opened on September 21, 2022, and will close on October 21, 2022, at 5 p.m.

Wael Kamal, Assistant Dean, Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (FAHSS), announced a new contest  – The FAHSS Creative Community Competition sponsored by Glenn Morgan ’86 FAHSS. The goal of this competition is to inspire students to create products and services that make a change in their communities. Registration opened on September 15, 2022 with a rolling application deadline, and there are two upcoming workshops to help students define their ideas and prepare for the competition.

Ruairi O’Mahony, Executive Director of the Rist Institute for Sustainability, and Craig Thomas, Assistant Director, spoke about the S.E.E.D. Grant Program. This program provides students funding to pursue projects around campus that focus on sustainability and improving the campus atmosphere. Students can apply for grants up to $10,000 to put their campus sustainability projects into action.

Ruairi O’Mahony, Executive Director of the Rist Institute for Sustainability, sharing statistics and information about the S.E.E.D. program that students could apply for their environmental-focused ideas. (Photo credit: Ed Brennen)

Next was a DifferenceMaker song performance by Mina Lam. She developed this song about DifferenceMaker using the instrumentals from Lin Manuel Miranda’s song, “My Shot” from Hamilton, the Broadway musical. This performance excited the room for the next part of the event – the hands-on activity.

Concluding the announcements, David Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, presented the details for a fun, interactive, ideation activity.

May be an image of 3 people, people sitting, people standing and indoor
Students introducing themselves and discussing ideas they could focus on for the ideation activity. (Photo credit: Ed Brennen)

Each table was asked to write down problems each individual was interested in solving. From there, each team discussed all individual problems and chose one to focus on for the remainder of the activity. Each person at the table then wrote down potential solutions to the proposed problem. Next, each team voted on which solution was the best or most creative. After that, the team members crafted models of their solutions with Legos. Each table had the opportunity to present their problem, solution, and Lego structure with the audience.

Image
Students sharing ideas to present for the ideation activity. (Photo credit: Ed Brennen)

Students and Mentors brainstorming ideas to work on during the ideation activity. (Photo credit: Ed Brennen)

Holly Lalos closed out the event. Thank you to all students, faculty, alumni, and supporters who attended!

Learn more about the college competitions and apply here.

Applications opened Sept. 21.

Applications close Oct. 21 at 5 p.m.

Share Button

DifferenceMaker Demo Day

On July 13, from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m., DifferenceMaker hosted Demo Day. At this event, the 2022 DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge Finalists presented their updated and improved ideas since advancing in the 2022 DifferenceMaker Summer Boot Camp.

Holly Lalos, Director, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute, opened up the event for the evening. To start, she presented to the audience a brief overview of the DifferenceMaker program. DifferenceMaker is a campus-wide program that helps students define problems and create real-life solutions to those problems.

Holly Lalos explains to the audience about the DifferenceMaker program.

One of the ways this is done is during the DifferenceMaker Summer Boot Camp. The objective of the Boot Camp is to increase teams’ understanding of their customer segments, business model, revenue streams, and more. Teams are also encouraged to develop a one-year project plan with milestones and tasks for utilizing their winning funds.

Holly thanked everyone who makes DifferenceMaker possible – faculty fellows, co-op students, mentors, and advisors. The Boot Camp Advisors this year were:

Then, thank you’s for the Boot Camp Guest Speakers were also made:

Demo Day helps teams advance their progress, gain critical feedback, and network with mentors. To begin the event, David Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, discussed mentor matching steps. Surveys for both mentors and teams were sent out shortly after the event. From the survey results, teams will be paired to the appropriate mentor(s) based on their backgrounds, skills, and interests.

David Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, explained the steps needed to be made for the mentor matching process.

Dave Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow presenting the Mentor Program to the audience.
Dave Vatalaro sharing to the audience the social media platforms of DifferenceMaker.

Next, the event opened to student team presentations! Each team had 5 minutes to present, and 5 minutes for audience Q&A. They pitched about their business plans, customer discovery findings, value propositions, and benefit that their products would have for society. Potential mentors asked valuable questions to the teams throughout the evening.

Brandon Conceicao from Amara eager to answer an audience member’s question.
Mark Elman and Steven Evangelos from PEAK Performance sharing to the audience about their idea.
Ariel Pena-Martinez and Grissel Cervantes-Jaramillo from ThermoEXA presenting their data from their new and improved idea at Demo Day.

The teams that presented were:

Amara

Hoppers

Minds with Purpose

PEAK Performance

Tendren

ThermoEXA

UMass Lowell Japanese Student Association

Vital Sensing Patch

Dave Vatalaro sharing the teams that would present for Demo Day.

After the presentations, students from the teams had the opportunity to network with the audience to help further their idea and receive guidance.

Mina Lam from UMass Lowell Japanese Student Association sharing about the organization to Ariel Shramko, 2021 DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge finalist and founder of Terminus.
Alyssa Kennedy and Abigail White from Hoppers, networking with Holly Lalos and CEO and Co-Founder of invisaWear, Rajia Abdelaziz.
Mark Elman and Steven Evangelos from PEAK Performance discussing their idea with a potential mentor.
Ethan Block from Tendren having a conversation with a student.

Thank you to everyone that attended Demo Day and supported the students throughout the night!

Here is a video of the 2022 DifferenceMaker Demo Day event.

Demo Day slide featuring team picture from last Boot Camp session.
Share Button

2022 10th Annual DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge

On Wednesday, April 13, 2022, DifferenceMaker hosted the 10th Annual $50,000 Idea Challenge at University Crossing, Moloney Hall, Room 260.

The event began at 5 p.m. with a networking reception and poster viewing. The ten finalist student teams showcased their projects to students, faculty, and alumni. Attendees were given “DifferenceMaker dollars” to distribute to their favorite teams for “Fan Favorite”.

Fan Favorite team, MetaLingual, standing by their poster talking to guests who attended the $50,000 Idea Challenge Finals. Professional photo credit to Meg Moore.

Around, at 6 p.m., Neil Shortland, Professor and Faculty Fellow of the College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences provided welcoming remarks to kick-off the event. He then introduced Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney, who also spoke.

Afterward, from 6:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., the student teams pitched off! Each team got five minutes to pitch, followed by a five minute Q&A session by the judges.

Once all teams pitched, the judges went into a separate room to deliberate. While they did so, there was more networking and poster viewing.

Team USuccess pitching their financial literacy curriculum to the panel of judges. Professional photo credit to Meg Moore.

Thank you to the panel of judges:

Lorna Boucher, ’86, Manning School of Business; Chief Marketing Officer, Instinet

Roger Cressey ’87, Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences; Partner, Mountain Wave Ventures, LLC

Brian Rist ’77, Manning School of Business; Chairman, Rist Family Foundation

Maura Walsh ’80, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences; President, Hospital Corporation of America’s Gulf Coast Division (retired)

Jack Wilson; President Emeritus UMass System and Distinguished Professor of Higher Education, Emerging Technologies, and Innovation, UMass Lowell

The Judges watching the finalist teams pitch during the 10th Annual $50,000 Idea Challenge. Professional photo credit to Meg Moore.

At 8:30 p.m., the final awards ceremony and closing remarks took place. Holly Lalos, Director, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute welcomed everyone back. She then introduced Brian Rist, ‘77, Manning School of Business, Chairman, Rist Family Foundation. Mr. Rist announced the winners.

 Congratulations to all teams!

Rist Campus-Wide DifferenceMaker – $6,000 – Amara:
A social media platform with transparency and a better algorithm.
Brandon Conceicao, Adam Iskandar, Biology

Commitment to a Sustainable Environment – $4,000 – ThermoEXA: Intelligent and personalized indoor temperature control through unique biometrics recognition.
Ariel Pena-Martinez, Computer Engineering, and Grissel Cervantes-Jaramillo

Jack. M. Wilson First Product to Market Award (Sponsored by Jack Wilson, President Emeritus) – $4,000 – Hoppers:
A board game that fosters education, communication skills, and creativity for younger children.
Abigail White, Biology, Alyssa Kennedy, Biology

Sutherland Innovative Technology Solution (Sponsored by Andrew Sutherland ’94) – $4,000 – Tendren:
A wireless pulse oximeter combined with an ECG/blood pressure to track patients in the waiting room.
Ethan Block, Biomedical Engineering, Amie Russell Biomedical Engineering, Victoria Williams, Biomedical Engineering

Contribution to a Healthier Lifestyle – $4,000 – PEAK Performance:
A device that assesses/corrects rotational misalignments between the pelvis and spine.

Evelyn Duffy, Biomedical Engineering and Business, Mark Elman, Biomedical Engineering, Steven Evangelos Biomedical Engineering, Matthew Martel, Exercise Science

Significant Social Impact – $4,000 – Minds with Purpose:
A networking platform that unites people of different professions, areas, and styles.
Sammy Santana, Liberal Arts, Jeurys Santiago, Business

Honorable Mention – $2,000 – StockToMe:
A stock opinion community where anybody can post an opinion about a stock.
Matthew Allen, Business, Matthew Kinash, Business – Entrepreneurship, Jackson Sterrett, Business

Honorable Mention – $2,000 – UMass Lowell Japanese Student Association:
An organization dedicated to promoting Japanese culture.
Mina Lam, Business

Honorable Mention – $2,000 – USuccess:
A program to help individuals’ financial situations through education.
Kaitlyn Catron, Business, Kyle Knapp, Business, Anna Kouadio, Business, Mikaela Murphy, Business, Nyna Pendkar, Business

Honorable Mention – $2,000 – Vital Sensing Patch:
An all-in-one, affordable vitals monitoring device that can be used anywhere. Thang Do, Biomedical Engineering, Haris Kum, Biomedical Engineering, Wynn Wiggins, Business – Entrepreneurship

Fan Favorite – $1,000 – MetaLingual:
Virtual Reality experience containing servers of various 6D 360 immersive environments that promotes language learning that offers a real-life experience.
Aiman Baig, Computer Science, Nihal Chaudhary, Language Studies, Haris Waqar, Electrical Engineering, Isa Ahmed, Business – Accounting, Samuel Lugo, Electrical Engineering, Zuhair Shaikh Computer Science

The Honorable Mention winning teams with Brian Rist 77, Manning School of Business; Chairman, Rist Family Foundation and Holly Lalos, Director, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute. Professional photo credit to Meg Moore.

To close off the night, Joseph Hartman, Provost and Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs, UMass Lowell closed off the event. He mentioned a quote that Jeurys Santiago, CEO, Minds with Purpose, posted on LinkedIn after the Preliminary Pitch-Off – “I’m here today because I failed last year!” This showcases that if you put your mind towards working on your passions, hard work pays off.

Thank you to everyone who attended the 2022 10th Annual DifferenceMaker $50K Idea Challenge Finals! View photos from the event here.

View UMass Lowell article written by Ed Brennan, Senior Writer, UMass Lowell.

Share Button

2022 Preliminary Pitch-Off

On Wednesday, April 6, DifferenceMaker held its 10th Annual 2022 Preliminary Pitch-Off at O’Leary Library on South Campus. This year, 24 student teams got the opportunity to pitch their creative, innovative ideas to a panel of guest judges. Overall, 18 judges were a part of this event. At the end of the event, ten finalist student teams were announced and will be competing on April 13 at the 10th Annual DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge for a chance to win a portion of $50,000.

Jeurys Santiago, CEO, Minds with Purpose, a networking event platform and judge Marcus ’03 FAHSS, Founder, The Blochaus Gallery.

Congratulations to the ten finalist teams!

Amara
Team members: Brandon Conceicao, Vision & Design; Adam Iskandar, Biology & Business
Project Description: A social media platform with transparency and better algorithm.

Hoppers
Team members: Alyssa Kennedy, Biology; Abigail White, Biology
Project Description: A board game that supports the arts and fosters education, communication skills, and creativity for younger children.

Minds With Purpose
Team members: Sammy Santana, Liberal Arts; Jeurys Santiago, Business
Project Description: A networking platform with the aim of bringing together people of different professions, areas, and styles.

PEAK Performance
Team members: Evelyn Duffy, Biomedical Engineering and Business; Mark Elman, Biomedical Engineering; Steven Evangelos, Biomedical Engineering; Matthew Martel, Exercise Science
Project Description: A device [the PEAK Performance System] that assesses and corrects rotational misalignments between the pelvis and thoracic spine.

StockToMe
Team members: Matthew Allen, Business; Matthew Kinash, Business; Jackson Sterrett, Business
Project Description: A stock opinion community where anybody can post an opinion about a stock.

Tendren
Team members: Ethan Block, Biomedical Engineering; Amie Russell, Biomedical Engineering; Victoria Williams, Biomedical Engineering
Project Description: A wireless pulse oximeter combined with an ECG and blood pressure that tracks a patient’s vitals while in the waiting room

ThermoEXA
Team members: Ariel Pena-Martinez, Computer Engineering; Grissel Cervantes-Jaramillo
Project Description: Intelligent and personalized indoor temperature control through unique biometrics recognition.

UMass Lowell Japanese Student Association
Team member: Mina Lam, Business
Project Description: An organization dedicated to promoting greater awareness of Japanese culture through general meetings, social media, and collaborations with UML clubs.

USuccess
Team members: Kaitlyn Catron, Business; Kyle Knapp, Business; Anna Kouadio, Business; Mikaela Murphy, Business; Nyna Pendkar, Business
Project Description: A program to help individuals’ financial situations through education.

Vital Sensing Patch
Team members: Thang Do, Biomedical Engineering; Haris Kum, Biomedical Engineering; Wynn Wiggins, Entrepreneurship
Project Description: All-in-one vital monitoring device, that will be affordable to consumers and can be used anywhere.

Team USuccess providing a brief pitch of their financial literacy program to everyone in the audience.

DifferenceMaker would like to extend a special thanks to the guest judges:

Janet Benvenuti ‘77 ‘82, Kennedy College of Sciences. President and CEO, Circle of Life Partners

Martha Coxe ‘99, Francis College of Engineering. Client Executive, State Street Global Advisors

Mark Dyment ’86, Francis College of Engineering. CEO, YMC Process Technologies, Inc.

Steven Geyster ‘83, Francis College of Engineering. Medical Device Consultant

John Grayson ‘87, Francis College of Engineering. Serial Entrepreneur and Advisor

Michele Holland ‘87, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences. Co-founder, Performance Rehab, Inc.

Belinda Juran. Ali Fellow, Harvard University Advanced Leadership Institute

Brenda Maille ‘78 ‘78, Kennedy College of Sciences and College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Principal/Attorney, Law Offices of Brenda Maille

Glenn Morgan ‘86, College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer, FUSEIDEAS

John Norden ‘80, College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Vice President, Pricing, General Dynamics Information Technology

Patty Payette ‘78. School of Education, Vice President, Human Resources (Retired), Curriculum Associates, LLC

Doug Reader ‘83, Manning School of Business. Chief Executive Officer, Arizona Nutritional Supplements

Michael Rider ‘87, Francis College of Engineering. Vice President, Engineering and Operations, Coravin, LLC

Marcus Sebastiano ‘03, College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. Founder, The Blochaus Gallery

Raymond Southworth ‘81, College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Chief Operating Officer, Netria Corporation

Andrew Sutherland ‘94, Manning School of Business. Co-Founder, Applied BioMath

Anne Veilleux Williams ‘85, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences. Product Manager, Product Owner, Business Analyst, OneSky Flight, LLC

Bill Yelle ‘85, Kennedy College of Sciences. Executive in Residence, MGH-Brigham Ventures

Group photo with all the judges.

Lastly, we would like to thank Chancellor Moloney for kicking-off the event and Joe Hartman, Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs, for announcing the ten winners.

Don’t forget to stop by the 2022 $50k Idea Challenge on April 13th from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m. in University Crossing, Moloney Hall, Room 260 to see the finalist student teams pitch their ideas!

Register for the Idea Challenge here.

Share Button

Workshop 4: Delivering Your Rocket Pitch

On March 17, 2022, from 5:30 – 7 pm, DifferenceMaker held its fourth workshop series session at Lydon Library, Room 110, North Campus. The guest presenters for the evening were Professor Cathy Levey, College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Professor Kevin Willett, Manning School of Business, CEO of Friends of Kevin, and Rick Sherburne, CEO, SherburneCommunications.

Semi-finalist teams attended this session to learn about delivering their rocket pitch for the Preliminary Pitch-off on April 6th. At this event, teams have a chance to advance to the $50,000 Idea Challenge Final event. The semi-finalist teams who will be pitching at the Preliminary Pitch-off are:

404! – Team members: Madhav Makadia and Kofi Kissi
Project Description: A dating app for fitness-focused people.

Amara – Team members: Adam Iskandar, Krishna Kanagarayer, and Brandon Amara
Project Description: A social media platform with transparency and improved algorithms.

BLACK – Team member: Kristin Kihara
Project Description: A magazine line that highlights black creators.

Cerebrum – Team members: Solomon Enowmanyi, Linnea Zagaeski, Xiomara Matathias, and Bahara Hussaini
Project Description: A peace and conflict resolution program.

ChainBlock – Team members: Hirschfield Ssozi and Aymaan Shaikh
Project Description: A blockchain-based banking system like cryptocurrency.

DataMiNation – Team members: Kanan Asif
Project Description: Free training programs on hard skills and professional skills for young people who cannot afford to learn from other paid sources.

Draw a Print – Team members: Daniel GermanGeorge, Jonathan Aguilar, Philopater Askander, Theresa Foley, Ruolin Zho, and Yibo Li
Project Description: A 3D printing tool that facilitates training both in industry and academia.

FC Pack Design – Team member: Felix CarpioDelRosario
Project Description: A backpack to help ease weight and help the realignment of the spinal cord and back.

Gotham – Team member: Kamal Norford
Project Description: Improving and refurbishing automotive technology.

Hoppers – Team members: Abigail White and Alyssa Kennedy
Project Description: A board game that supports the arts and fosters education, communication skills, and creativity for younger children.

Innovation X Industries – Team members: Joshua Saunders, Rowan Trotter, Ryan Baker, and Nathan Savoie
Project Description: An innovative pipe shut-off system for a smarter home to conserve water after a pipe burst.

Insulated and Shock Absorbent Foam 3D Printed Covers – Team members: Karun Kalia, Ninad Khadse, and Shallal Alshammari
Project Description: Foamed and flexible insulated covers for cell phones to minimize battery drainage in cold weather conditions.

MBM – Team member: Elyas Irankhah
Project Description: A system designed to anticipate the appropriate time for injecting F-8 in hemophilia patients.

MetaLingual – Team members: Aiman Baig, Haris Waqar, Zuhair Shaikh, Samuel LugoMedina, and Isa Ahmed
Project Description: Virtual Reality experience containing servers of various 6D 360 immersive environments.

Minds With Purpose – Team members: Jeurys Santiago, Jennifer Lerman, and Sammy Santana
Project Description: A networking platform with the aim of bringing together people of different professions, areas, and styles.

PEAK Performance – Team members: Steven Evangelos, Matthew Martel, Evelyn Duffy, and Mark Elman
Project Description: A device [the PEAK Performance System] that assesses and corrects rotational misalignments between the pelvis and thoracic spine.

Rune World – Team members: John Doherty and Linnea Zagaeski
Project Description: A board game designed around helping children with autism improve their social skills.

Speakup – Team member: Matheus Perazolla
Project Description: A platform/app which provides English classes focused on immigrant necessities and needs.

StockToMe – Team members: Matthew Kinash, Jackson Sterrett, and Matthew Allen
Project Description: A stock opinion community where anybody can post an opinion about a stock.

Study Meet – Team members: Solomon Wambuzi, Gissel Bonilla, Brendaliz Cabada Morel, and Ester Rosario
Project Description: An application that focuses on benefiting students that feel left out of the college experience.

SunGum – Team members: Chris Behm, Andrew Bernard, and Nolan Buckley
Project Description: Chewing gum fortified with vitamin D to combat vitamin D deficiencies and seasonal depression.

Tendren – Team members: Ethan Block, Amie Russell, and Victoria Williams
Project Description: A wireless pulse oximeter combined with an ECG and blood pressure that tracks a patient’s vitals while in the waiting room.

ThermoEXA – Team members: Ariel Pena-Martinez, Mohamed Martini, Gerardo Gomez Perez, and Grissel Cervantes-Jaramillo
Project Description: Intelligent and personalized indoor temperature control through unique biometrics recognition.

Trade Bozz Investment Corp. – Team members: Toney Benny and Sebastian Pascal
Project Description: A financial literacy platform focused on helping Gen Z and Millennials  build wealth via the stock market.

Traffic Lighthouse – Team member: Alexa Grazio
Project Description: A portable traffic light that can be placed on top of 18-wheeler trucks to alert cars.

UMass Lowell Japanese Student Association – Team member: Mina Lam
Project Description: An organization dedicated to promoting greater awareness of Japanese culture through general meetings, social media, and collaborations with UMass Lowell clubs.

USuccess – Team members: Nyna Pendkar, Mikaela Murphy, Anna Kouadio, Kyle Knapp, and Kaitlyn Catron
Project Description: A program to help individuals’ financial situations through education.

Vital Sensing Patch – Team members: Wynn Wiggins, Thang Do, and Haris Kum
Project Description: An all-in-one vitals monitoring device, that will be affordable to consumers and can be used anywhere.

To start off the workshop, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow David Vatalaro provided a recap of the past workshop sessions, which addressed topics such as Identifying Problems, Assessing Opportunities and Value Proposition, and Developing Business Models.

Then, Professor Cathy Levey opened and discussed the content that should be addressed during the DifferenceMaker pitch presentation: the problem, opportunity, solution, needed resources, as well as being prepared for judge questions. She also spoke about additional considerations to look out for during and after the rocket pitch session.

Professor Cathy Levey speaking about introducing your solution to the judges.

Afterwards, Rick Sherburne spoke about the challenge of presenting an idea. To tackle this, he discussed being confident and sharing your topic with lots of energy and passion. In addition, he mentioned the reasons why people struggle with stage fright. Self-consciousness in front of large groups, past failures, and fear of being nervous are a few examples. He also talked about having relevant pictures on each slide, as well as limiting the words per slide, which helps keep the audience engaged.

Rick Sherburne speaking about the challenge of presenting the idea.

Mr. Sherburne also facilitated an engaging activity where the students were encouraged to stand up and say “oh” to various scenarios. This allowed the students to see how tone changes based on the scenario you are in. For example, the volume and tone used is different when looking at an infant versus seeing a win at a sporting event.

Students standing and being engaged during the “oh” activity.

To conclude the night, Professor Kevin Willett highlighted examples of past student team presentations, such as III Point Stick. This allowed students to compare what they just learned to an actual pitch presentation that occurred. Students can watch and learn from other past pitches that are on the DifferenceMaker YouTube page, which can be utilized while practicing for the Preliminary Pitch-off.

Professor Kevin Willett discussing the skills utilized during past student team presentations.

Thank you to everyone who attended Workshop 4! Good luck to all teams pitching at the Preliminary Pitch-off on April 6 at the O’Leary Library, Mezzanine. Register for the Preliminary Pitch-off here.

Additionally, the 2022 10th Annual DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge will take place on April 13 at University Crossing, Moloney Hall, Room 260. Register for the $50,000 Idea Challenge here.

Share Button

Workshop 3: Developing Business Models and Solutions

On Thursday, February 24th, DifferenceMaker held Workshop 3: Developing Business Models and Solutions in Lydon Library, Room 110, North Campus, from 5:30 – 7 p.m. This session helped student teams who applied to the $50,000 Idea Challenge to focus on their idea’s solutions by piecing together their business models.

To kick off the night, Holly Lalos, Director, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute welcomed everyone. She then provided students with information on submitting their Idea Plan, announcements for semi-finalists, and reminders to schedule a meeting for one-on-one coaching with mentors. Then, she introduced the guest presenters for the night, who were Professor Carter Keough, Francis College of Engineering, and Tom O’Donnell, Senior Director, Innovation Initiatives.

Professor Keough started off by providing examples of companies such as Gillette, FedEx, Zipcar, and Pill Pack. Each are successful companies in their own way, all from various industries in today’s market. For example, Gillette makes their profit by selling cheap razor handles that go along with expensive, high quality razor blades that attach to them. This allows customers to stay loyal to their brand, as they need to continually purchase the specific Gillette blades that fit to the handle that they already own.

Professor Keough explaining the various types of business models, and how each one is unique towards their specific industry.

Then, Mr. O’Donnell went further in depth and explained the multiple components needed to have a successful business model. He discussed factors such as the new venture timeline and each component of the business model canvas, such as customer segments, value proposition, revenue streams, and more. This allowed students to think deeply about details that will drive their ideas to success in the real world.

Mr. O’Donnell explaining how a product/service needs to have a market fit.

After the detailed lessons, the guest presenters encouraged students to work on their business models and solutions. They utilized business model canvas poster boards and solution worksheets to assist with this process. A business model canvas glossary was also provided to each student to help refresh their memory on the information that was provided. DifferenceMaker mentors Ryan Berube, Vice President, Commercial Loan Officer, Lowell Five and Steve DeVries, FocalPoint Certified Business and Executive Coach, FocalPoint Coaching walked around and further helped guide students towards creating a well-developed Idea Plan.

Students working with each other on their business models correlated with their ideas and solutions.

Thank you to everyone that joined DifferenceMaker for Workshop 3! If you are interested in learning how to further develop your project for the $50,000 Idea Challenge, recruiting new team members, and gaining new skills, please register for the final workshop this semester. Dinner will be served!

Workshop 4 – Delivering Your Rocket Pitch, March 17

Questions? Email us at DifferenceMaker@uml.edu.

Share Button

Workshop 2: Assessing Opportunities and Value Proposition

On February 22, 2022, DifferenceMaker held the second workshop series session to prepare students for the $50,000 Idea Challenge this semester. The topic addressed was assessing opportunities and value proposition.

To start off the event, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow David Vatalaro opened by providing a brief recap of what occurred during the first workshop session, which highlighted identifying problems. Then, he introduced the guest presenters for the night, which were Professor Brent Shell, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences, and Professor Neil Shortland, College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow David Vatalaro providing a shoutout of the faculty fellows who are available to mentor and support students on their ideas.

After the introduction, Professor Shell mentioned that while our ideas seem incredibly valuable to us, it may not be the case for potential customers and buyers. He provided the example of pickle toothpaste, which is unique to him. However, at the end of the day, no one ends up purchasing it. Assessing opportunities is important because it allows you to see if it is worthwhile creating the product before it is too late. If there are no willing buyers, the product does not fill a customer need or add enough value. Therefore, market research is imperative.

Professor Shell assisting students with their project’s opportunities.

Then, students were given time to write down their opportunities on the “target market opportunity” and “competition opportunity” worksheets. DifferenceMaker mentors Ryan Berube, Vice President, Commercial Loan Officer, Lowell Five and Steve DeVries, FocalPoint Certified Business and Executive Coach, FocalPoint Coaching walked around and further helped guide students with this process. After some time on this, students presented their work to the audience, receiving feedback from the presenters.

Mentor Ryan Berube providing advice to students working on a cost-effective solution for EpiPens.

Then, Professor Shortland presented the importance of value propositions. A value proposition demonstrates how a potential solution provides more value than what competitors are currently offering. Students broke out into groups again to work on their value propositions on poster boards, then were given the chance to share their ideas with the audience.

Professor Shortland presenting on how benefits must outweigh costs to be beneficial to you and your customers.

Thank you to everyone that joined DifferenceMaker for Workshop 2! If you are interested in learning how to further develop your project for the $50,000 Idea Challenge, recruiting new team members, and gaining new skills, please register for the upcoming workshops. Dinner is served at each session, which all take place from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at Lydon Library, Room 110, North Campus:  

Workshop 3 – Developing Business Models, February 24 

Workshop 4 – Delivering Your Rocket Pitch, March 17 

Questions? Email us at DifferenceMaker@uml.edu. 

Share Button

Workshop 1: Identifying Problems

On February 17, from 5:30 – 7 p.m., the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute held the semester’s first workshop session! The focus for Workshop 1 was on identifying problems. Over 35 students attended to learn and network with students interested in pursuing their ideas for the $50,000 Idea Challenge.

To start off, Holly Lalos, Director, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute welcomed everyone. She provided a brief overview of the DifferenceMaker program, what to expect from the workshop series, and the agenda for the evening. She then introduced the Faculty Fellows guest presenters: Professor Mazen El Ghaziri, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences, Professor Tom Wilkes, Kennedy College of Sciences, and Professor Rae Mansfield, Honors College.

Next, Professor El Ghaziri presented the definition of problems. He opened a Slido poll that allowed students to share what comes to mind when they hear the word “problem”. This created a brainstorming discussion, helping students figure out what they are trying to solve.

Professor El Ghaziri asking students what comes to mind when they hear of the word “problem”.

Shortly after, Professor Wilkes extended the talk by showcasing examples of problems presented by past DifferenceMaker student teams. Videos of their pitches were provided to give students clarity on how to move forward. For example, a team that was highlighted was the CAT Mat pitch, presented by students Katie Muise and Michelle Mailloux, both from the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences. The problem they identified is the inability for patients to practice relearning how to walk. Going outside to do so isn’t the safest option, while staying indoors does not fully prepare patients to go back to the real-world.

This is an example of a team who worked diligently during their time at DifferenceMaker, as they ended up winning first place against teams such as Harvard and MIT during the Beantown Throwdown competition in 2019!

Professor Wilkes presenting to students on the key points to highlight while presenting the problem being addressed.

Then, a brainstorming activity took place where students were able to discuss the problems they are looking to solve with each other. Along with the guest presenters, DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellow Kevin Willet, Manning School of Business, and two DifferenceMaker Mentors, Steve DeVries, Business Coach, Focal Point Coaching, and Ryan Berube, Vice President, Commercial Loan Officer, Lowell Five, assisted with this process.

This allowed students to network with one another and gain new connections for potential teammates. Each person/group utilized the “DifferenceMaker Problem Toolkit Worksheet” to help with narrowing the specifics of the issue at hand.

Students networking with each other and solidifying the problems they are working to solve!

Afterwards, students presented their ideas to everyone. The problems ranged from a variety of topics, such as unaffordable Epipen injectors, vitamin D deficiencies, lack of information about personal finances, and more.

Team USuccess sharing the problem of the lack of knowledge regarding personal finances in today’s world.

Thank you to everyone that joined DifferenceMaker for Workshop 1! To revisit the topics discussed, watch the video featuring its’ highlights here.

If you are interested in learning how to further develop your project for the $50,000 Idea Challenge, recruiting new team members, and gaining new skills, please register for the upcoming workshops. Dinner is served at each session, which all take place from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at Lydon Library, Room 110, North Campus:

Workshop 2 – Assessing Opportunities and Value Propositions, February 22
Guest speakers: Professors Brent Shell, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences and Neil Shortland, FAHSS

Workshop 3 – Developing Business Models, February 24
Guest speakers: Professor Carter Keough, Francis College of Engineering and Tom ODonnell, Executive Director, Innovation Initiatives

Workshop 4 – Delivering Your Rocket Pitch, March 17
Guest speakers: Professors Cathy Levey, FAHSS and Kevin Willett, Manning School of Business, and Rick Sherburne, Pitch coach and CEO, Sherburne Communications

Questions? Email us at DifferenceMaker@uml.edu.

Share Button

2022 $50,000 Idea Challenge Kick-Off and Idea Hack

On January 25th, the DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge Kick-Off and Idea Hack was held in the Saab Center, Perry Atrium from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Holly Lalos, Director of the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute opened up the event by welcoming everyone and providing introductions.

Then, Provost Joe Hartman spoke about the importance of solving problems and having a social impact. Then, he encouraged all attendees to apply to the $50,000 Idea Challenge.

Next, Rist DifferenceMaker CO-OP Students Adam Basma and Yeaharne Hout, from the Manning School of Business, introduced the University based creativity program. They explained details for the 10th Annual $50,000 Idea Challenge taking place this semester. The 2022 DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge application is due February 11 at 5 p.m.!

From left to right: Director Holly Lalos and CO-OP students Adam Basma, and Yeaharne Hout. Yeaharne Hout is presenting on student teams. Photo credit to Dean Sandra Richtermeyer.

After the introductory presentation, the real-life DifferenceMaker Panel and Q&A session took place! The panel consisted of members from past DifferenceMaker teams who answered questions from Director Holly Lalos and shared their experiences with DifferenceMaker. First up was Edward Morante of BenjiBall, who studied Education and FAHSS and won the 2019 Rist-Campus-Wide DifferenceMaker prize, a $6,000 award. The Q&A was then followed up with Benard Tabu of Green Fertilizer, who studies Energy Engineering and won the 2021 Contribution to a Sustainable Environment prize, a $4,000 award. Lastly, Ariel Shramko of Terminus, who studies Environmental Engineering and won the 2021 Honorable Mention, a $2,000 award, answered questions and provided advice to the student audience.

Holly Lalos asked the panelists a series of questions which gave the student audience a better understanding of the requirements to be in the DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge and more information about their startups. The audience then got the chance to ask the panelists valuable questions.

Real-life DifferenceMaker Panel members from left to right; Edward Morante, Benard Tabu, and Ariel Shramko. Rist DifferenceMaker Director, Holly Lalos, far right, is asking a question to Ariel Shramko, representing team Terminus.

Following the Q&A, David Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, led the students in the Idea Hack Activity to get students brainstorming potential ideas they could apply to the challenge. Students sat at tables which represented different topics, which were Art and Music, Consumer Products, Environmental, Finance and Banking, Healthcare, Innovative Technology, and Social Responsibility.

The students started to brainstorm problems related to their table’s topics and then started to discuss possible solutions. The students were able to collaborate with each other and with the DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellows. Towards the end of this activity, students shared their problems and solutions to everyone.

A group of students networking and discussing the problem of food waste at the Social Responsibility table.

To close off this engaging event, Holly Lalos spoke about next steps in getting involved in DifferenceMaker and being engaged in the $50,000 Idea Challenge. The $50,000 Idea Challenge application is due by February 11 at 5 p.m.

Share Button

2021 Project Learn Lowell High School Field Trip

On Tuesday, December 14, 2021, DifferenceMaker partnered with Project LEARN at the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub to provide an entrepreneurship field trip day to Lowell High School students. The day started around 9:00 a.m. when around 50 students arrived at the Lowell Innovation Hub.

From 9:00- 11:00 a.m., Rist DifferenceMaker Institute Director, Holly Lalos, introduced the program. Next, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, David Vatalaro, introduced the Tinker Toy Ideation activity.

Students were told that they needed to rescue someone on an island and were instructed to build a vessel to transport their Tinker Toy person to the mainland. The Lowell High School students eagerly got to work building cars, boats, and helicopters out of Tinker Toys.

Lowell High School Students working on their Tinker Toy vehicle prototype. Professional Photo by Edward Brennen, Senior Writer, UMass Lowell.

After time passed, another problem was introduced – the students were informed they could not build a water vehicle or flying vessel. This left several teams working to change their original plans. Students then started trading materials with other teams and using objects that they had in their backpacks to craft their creative vehicle.

Next, students tested their prototypes on a slanted wooden board (“a mountain”) with Tinker Toys at the bottom (“rocks”). As a result of teams testing their vehicles, they were able to make changes to their designs to make them work more efficiently – the iterative process of prototyping.

After testing their prototypes, each team had a chance to pitch their innovative vehicle design and send their vehicle down “the mountain”. The location of each teams vehicle was marked. At the end, the teams vehicle that travelled the furthest won a DifferenceMaker prize.

In the afternoon, Rajia Abdelaziz, Co-founder and CEO of invisaWear spoke to the students about her experience starting a company. She talked about the challenges that she faced as a young, female student. Additionally, Ms. Abdelaziz spoke about the DifferenceMaker program and how it helped with support and resources she needed to make her dream a reality.

Co-founder and CEO of Invisawear, Rajia Abdelaziz, talking to the Lowell High School students about her company. Professional Photo by Edward Brennen, Senior Writer, UMass Lowell.

Then, Joe Hartman, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, UMass Lowell, spoke to the Lowell High Students. He highlighted the opportunities that going to college at UMass Lowell provides, with a focus on the benefits of DifferenceMaker for aspiring entrepreneurs and creative thinkers.

After the Provost’s remarks, Tyler Cote, Co-Founder and Director of Operation 250 spoke to the students about his experiences starting a nonprofit. Mr. Cote had an interactive presentation which engaged students, such as gathering their opinions on whether social media is harmful or beneficial to society.

He explained his company’s goal, which is to make the internet a safer place. Additionally, he talked about the resources he used at UMass Lowell to start Operation 250. Lastly, he spoke about how students of all majors can start a business by solving problems and that networking is important.

Tyler Cote, Co-Founder and Director of Operation 250 talking about his experience starting a company using the Resources that UMass Lowell provides. Professional Photo by Edward Brennen, Senior Writer, UMass Lowell.

At noon, lunch was served from Purple Carrot and students had the opportunity to talk to a representative from the university. The day wrapped up with a tour of the Innovation Hub and the Fashion Makerspace.

Thank you to everyone who made this event possible: Mira Bookman and LZ Nunn, Project LEARN; Jill Taylor, Lowell High School; Lisa Armstrong, Innovation Hub; Diana Coluntino, Fashion Makerspace.

Share Button