2021 DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge

The DifferenceMaker Preliminary Pitch-off took place in a virtual format on April 7th. The event engaged 24 student teams from all UMass Lowell academic colleges, each with different backgrounds and ideas. On April 8, ten inspiring student teams were selected to move on and compete for a portion of $50,000 in funding at the Idea Challenge.

On April 14th, from 5 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., DifferenceMaker held its 9th Annual $50,000 Idea Challenge! Holly Lalos, Entrepreneurial Initiatives Program Director, welcomed all attendees and provided the agenda for the evening. Then, she introduced Chancellor Jacquie Moloney who provided opening remarks.

After the remarks, Professor Neil Shortland, who was emceeing the event, was introduced. Each team received five minutes to pitch their ideas, followed by five minutes of judge Q&A after each presentation.

Thank you to all the judges for taking their time to attend the event and assist the student teams!

Lorna Boucher ‘86, Manning School of Business – Chief Marketing Officer, Instinet Holdings Incorporated

Cindy Conde ‘87 ‘91, Francis College of Engineering – CEO, CondeCo

Roger Cressey ’87, Fine Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences – Partner, Liberty Group Ventures, LLC

John Pulichino ’67 ’14 (H), Manning School of Business – Chairman and CEO, Group III International, LTD

Jim Regan ’88, Manning School of Business – President and CEO, Digital Federal Credit Union

Brian Rist ‘77, Manning School of Business – Chairman, Rist Family Foundation

Mark Saab ‘81 ‘13 (H), Francis College of Engineering – Founding Trustee, Saab Family Foundation

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

CONGRATULATIONS to the 2021 winning student teams!

Rist-Campus Wide DifferenceMaker (sponsored by Brian Rist ‘77), $7,000: TrueFIT – Siddhant Iyer, Justin Marcouillier, Pranav Ramaswamy.

– TrueFIT is a novel fail-safe mask fitting and sealing solution that significantly reduces exposure to infectious aerosols, improving filtration efficiency & saving lives. This product is reusable, secure, and can be used in all types of face masks!

Contribution to a Healthier Lifestyle, $4,000: Apple A Day – Emily Philpot, Jack Ryan, Param Rajeshbhai Patel.

– Apple a Day is a weekly pill case that is appealing for kids. The product consists of an apple shape, and it breaks out into seven individual slices for each day of the week. The portability of having your medications being contained into slices, combined with the unique fruit shape, makes children (and adults!) more willing to take their daily medications.

Significant Social Impact, $4,000: Digital Life – Smriti Kumar, Alejandra Luna Juarez, Tina Thuy Nguyen Hoang, Amy Nguyen.

– Digital Life is a prosthetic device for kids with digital congenital deformities. People with these deformities struggle with daily activities, and the current products on the market are not affordable for many families. This device is adjustable, low-cost, and can be used for a lifetime.

Commitment to a Sustainable Environment, $4,000: Green Fertilizer: Standalone On-demand Production System – Samuel Alpert, Visal Veng, Benard Tabu.

– Green Fertilizer is an idea to design, build, and characterize a standalone on-demand fertilizer production system. This is done with renewable energy – creating a synthetic fertilizer that reduces waste and emissions, while managing to innovatively grow healthy, fresh food.

Sutherland Innovative Technology Solutions (Sponsored by Andrew Sutherland ‘94), $4,000: NavLens – Asa Losurdo, Daniel Giuliano, Alden Giedraitis, Christina Haugh, Edwin Meriaux, Jack Houle.

– NavLens is a wearable device that enhances the spatial awareness of the visually impaired. This will be accomplished through the development of cost effective methods for converting visual-spatial information into audio-spatial sounds. This is a futuristic and technical pair of glasses!

Jack M. Wilson First to Market (sponsored by Jack Wilson, President Emeritus), $4,000:

Wonder Wheel – Sanskriti Sharma, Rasha Ghazal, Khang Nguyen, Alexander Hoefer.

– Wonder Wheel is an affordable wheelchair power assist device, with a unique design and low cost that similar products on the market can’t compare to.

Honorable Mention, $2,000: VieVest – Alexander Frawley.

– VieVest is a product carefully engineered to protect athletes from impact and abrasion sustained from common barbell movements. The mission is to provide peace of mind, comfort, and safety during the dynamic Olympic lifts regularly programmed for athletes at all skill levels.

Honorable Mention, $2,000: Terminus – Ariel Shramko, Brian Cleavitt, Michael Pottorff II, Rohan Goyal, Renin Jose, Eliot Pirone.

– Inspired by VEGGIE and Biosphere II, Terminus is a terrarium that can be used to grow food everywhere (even on Mars)! With its unique shape and design, the product can be placed in any room, making it possible to grow food in places never thought possible.

Honorable Mention, $2,000: Tommy Vi’s Gelato – Tommy Vi. – Tommy Vi’s Gelato introduces a new food concept to Lowell, where Asian flavors are combined with Italian machinery & technique to create a unique version of Gelato. The gelato is non dairy, with flavors such as matcha, thai tea, and jasmine tea.

Honorable Mention, $2,000: Concept Project – Garret Roberts, Adrian DelliCollo. – The Concept Project is a multi-media startup that creates awareness for various social issues while completing mental & physical challenges outdoors. This gets the community involved and inspires others to do the same!

Thank you to everyone who attended. View the 2021 DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge. Best of luck to all teams’ future entrepreneurial journeys! Questions? Email us at differencemaker@uml.edu.

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2021 DifferenceMaker High School Pitch Off

On March 24, DifferenceMaker held its’ second annual High School Idea Challenge from 2 – 5 p.m.

To kick-off the event, Gina Mustoe, a teacher at Westford Academy, gave opening remarks. She then passed the stage to Holly Lalos, Entrepreneurial Initiatives Program Director of the DifferenceMaker program. Holly presented an overview of DifferenceMaker, sharing the benefits and opportunities that the program offers.

Then, Tom O’Donnell, Senior Director of Innovation Initiatives at the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub, provides welcoming remarks as well. He introduces the opportunities that UMass Lowell provides, and explains additional resources related to entrepreneurship, such as the Makerspace, Innovation Hub, and various networking opportunities. Tom also introduced the judges, each of whom were former DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge Finalists.

The judges for the afternoon were:

– Rajia Abdelaziz, Innovative Technology Solution, a $4,500 prize, at the 2016 $50k Idea Challenge. She is now the CEO of invisaWear.

– Tyler Cote, Campus-wide DifferenceMaker, a $6,000 prize, at the 2017 $50k Idea Challenge. He is the Founder of Operation250.

– Tatiana Tompkins, Honorable Mention, $2,000, at both the 2019 and 2020 $50k Idea Challenge. She is a member of two teams, Protected Pin & NoSno Mat.

Holly Lalos providing a brief presentation about the DifferenceMaker program at UMass Lowell.

After the judge introductions, the event begins! Everyone was looking forward to hearing the creative ideas from each high school student team. After each presentation, judges asked the team questions to help them further understand the idea.

Abby Eastman, representing Nashoba Regional High School, went up first. Her idea is Pandemic Pack. Many students have anxiety about the lack of resources due to COVID-19, which inspired her for this idea. Her product is an all-in-one pack containing essentials such as hand sanitizer, face masks, cough drops, etc. This way, you have all the resources you need during a pandemic in one package. Bonus: your pack can be customized with products with your school logo!

Next, Mia Gaglione and Ava Gilligan, representing Tewksbury High School, pitched. Diabetes is a huge problem, and they noticed how the condition impacted their loved ones’ day to day lives. Their idea, InsulWatch, is a modern-day watch designed to monitor and regulate the effects of insulin in your body.

The bottom of the watch has built-in space for insulin patches and replacement needle trays, making it accessible to manage your blood sugar levels anywhere. This product can also sync with an app. With the app, it alerts users when their blood sugar levels are low.

Mia Gaglione and Ava Gillian presenting the market opportunity of “InsulWatch.”

Next, Ganesh Danke, a student from Chelmsford High School, presented. His idea is known as “Clean Crate.” He noticed that ordering healthy food online is not possible, and that there are many commission fees associated with current options. However, Clean Crate is a revolutionary food delivery service specializing in providing clean, healthy food from local farms. Deliveries will be scheduled weekly, with no high commission fees – just a monthly subscription. This business model supports local farmers, helps people eat locally grown produce, and is a convenient option for anyone, even busy people.

Finally, Westford Academy students Prasanna Edpugani and Aashi Akare pitched their idea, “Signal Map.” Signal Map is an application that works alongside a product known as a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B, which provides live data about your WiFi signal. This can eliminate the frustration of slow internet when sharing with others, allowing you to recognize spots with the strongest/weakest WiFi signals in your home.

After all the presentations and judge Q&A, the judges went into a separate room to discuss the winners. While in the main event room, Tom encouraged everyone to network and asked the student teams what inspired them to create their idea. Many of the teams noticed issues in their day to day lives and thought about solutions that could solve them. They utilized what they learned in their classes and applied it to their projects. Very impressive!

Full crowd with participants from various schools around Massachusetts!

Then, after deliberation, the judges came back to announce the winners. Congratulations to all teams that presented this afternoon!

1st place – $500, Aashi Akare and Meghana Edpuganti, Westford Academy – “Signal Map”

2nd place – $300 Ganesh Danke, Chelmsford High School – “Clean Crate”

3rd place – $200, Mia Gaglione and Ava Gilligan, Tewksbury Memorial High School – “InsulWatch”

Honorable Mention – DifferenceMaker gear (t-shirt, pen, lanyard, water bottle, notebook) – Abigail Eastman, Nashoba Regional High School – “Pandemic Pack”

Huge thank you to DECA Inc. for sponsoring the prizes for this event. And, another huge thank you to all of the partnership schools and teachers involved in this exciting collaboration effort.

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Workshop 4: Developing Your Rocket Pitch

On March 2nd, from 5:30 – 7 p.m., DifferenceMaker held its’ fourth, and final Workshop Session; Delivering Your Rocket Pitch!

Holly Lalos, Entrepreneurship Initiatives Program Director, kicked-off the event. Then, she introduced the guest speakers for the evening: Professor Cathy Levy, College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, and Professor Kevin Willett, Manning School of Business.

Next, Professor Levey spoke about the various components that makeup a rocket pitch. She also recapped the previous workshop sessions and thanked all previous guest speakers and attendees.

Full crowd of students, faculty, and mentors!

Then, Professor Willett presented and spoke about the important points regarding an idea and the development of a rocket pitch. He stated that most people don’t like change. Because of this, they may not purchase an innovative product/service since they may be content with what they already have and may be resistant to change. He provided an example about his favorite foods – pizza and Mountain Dew. If he is content with the foods that he enjoys, why would he need or want to try something new?

Professor Willett also emphasized the importance of an opportunity and conducting research. A product may be useful and reasonably priced, however, determining whether there is a customer base is imperative. In order to move forward with an idea, customer research is needed.

An interesting point Professor Willett brought up was in regards to “fads,” like fidget spinners – they were being purchased at one point, but the novelty has since worn off. It is a product that still sells, but at a much lower rate. Thinking about the value a solution has is important. For example, is your product/service unique enough to last through the ever-changing market? If not, what could be changed to make it relevant and needed over time?

Professor Kevin Willett showing examples of rocket pitch presentations that past DifferenceMaker student teams developed.

Then, resources were discussed – the costs, tools, and materials that are needed to create the product/service. If the product/service costs more than what it’s sold for, it will not be sustainable. Professor Willett also mentioned that judges are often impressed by prototypes/mock-ups/drawings of the solution – visuals are always helpful and it shows dedication.

Professor Willett went on to discuss the rocket pitch in more depth – The pitch is five minutes long, so ideas and information should be conveyed clearly and thoroughly during that time. On the slides themselves, succinct wording helps judges understand the presentation better. Statistics and graphics also help support a presentation. Appendix slides are useful during judge Q&A – It shows preparation and thinking ahead.

An example of a previous team that presented a well-developed presentation was BioBubbler, who won 1st Place in the Significant Social Impact category. This team showed confidence while presenting and portrayed their idea in a well thought out manner. During their pitch, they encountered technical difficulties and handled it professionally – they ignored the distractions and focused on their presentation.

BioBubbler’s presentation was shown as an example.

Then, the participants went into breakout rooms to discuss their ideas, develop their pitches, and practice them with one another. Faculty Fellows and a group of volunteer Mentors who are part of the “Friends with Kevin” networking group, were assigned to each room to provide students with informative feedback.

After the breakout rooms, students presented their rocket pitches to the crowd. Pitches ranged from regenerating stem cells, helping the blind connect to the world with AI cameras, and a sustainable indoor gardening system. Faculty Fellows and Mentors provided feedback and advice to each presentation, further preparing the teams.

A big thank you to the volunteer Mentors:

· Brad Counihan –Banker

· Lisa Couturier –Business coach

· Marta Doran – Putnam Investments

· Paul Falewicz –CFO

· Ryan Rourke –Employee Benefits Consultant

· Jack Wang – College Planner

· Elizabeth Wilds – Financial Planner

· Max Ward – Business Coach

To view a video of Workshop 4, visit the DifferenceMaker YouTube Channel.

Thank you to everyone who supported and joined the 2021 DifferenceMaker Workshop Series! Please mark your calendar and register for the April 15th $50,000 Idea Challenge: uml.edu/2021IdeaChallenge. At this event, you will hear 10 student teams pitch-off to a panel of UMass Lowell alumni judges for a chance to win a portion of $50,000 in funding!

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Workshop 3: Developing Business Models

On February 25, 2021, from 5:30 – 7 p.m., DifferenceMaker held Workshop 3 which covered the topic of Developing Business Models.

Over 25 participants joined this informative and engaging event. Holly Lalos, Entrepreneurial Initiatives Program Director, kicked off the event.

Tom O’Donnell, Innovation Initiatives Senior Director at the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub, and Professors Carter Keough, Hunter Mack, and Kelilah Wolkowicz, DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellows from the Francis College of Engineering, were the workshop facilitators.

Tom took the lead as the guest speaker for the evening. He provided examples of companies with strong business models, such as Facebook, Zipcar, and Gillette. Each of these companies had unique products that served an unmet need, which contributed to their success.

Over 25 participants joined for this informative session!

Tom also presented a recap from the second workshop session: Assessing Opportunities and Value Proposition. Value must be brought to customers. It’s what makes them want a product or service, which is needed to keep a startup going. Whether a company is for-profit or nonprofit, the value needs must be compelling, differentiated, and gain attention from potential customers. It’s a necessary component to think about.

After the recap, the conversation shifted to the topic of business models. A business model is a design for the successful operation of a business, identifying revenue sources, customer base, products, and details of financing. A business model outlines and organizes all the aspects required for operation.

The business model is broken down into a variety of categories: Key partners, key activities, value proposition, cost structure, revenue streams, customer segments, and customer relationships are just some. These categories are like pieces of a puzzle – When put together, these pieces create the completed business model.

Tom O’Donnell presenting about each aspect about the Business Model Canvas.

Then, all participants broke out into breakout rooms with varying topics such as social issues, engineering, business, and more. Teams received a blank Business Model Canvas to work on for their ideas. Faculty Fellows and DifferenceMaker staff joined the rooms and provided students tips and feedback on their business models.

After the activity, everyone joined the main room and were encouraged to present their business models. Tom provided insightful feedback to each team that presented. Ideas that were shared included outlines for business models for projects An Apple A Day, Wonder Wheel, and others. The group presentations also provided as a great networking opportunity, as emails and chats between student attendees and faculty were exchanged for follow-up conversations and mentorship.

Thank you to everyone that joined DifferenceMaker for Workshop 3! To view a video of Workshop 3, visit the DifferenceMaker YouTube Channel. If you are interested in learning how to further develop your idea, build-up your team, and have fun, please register for the upcoming, final, workshop:

Workshop 4 – Delivering Your Rocket Pitch – March 2; 5:30-7 p.m. – www.uml.edu/2021DMWorkshop4

Questions? DifferenceMaker@uml.edu.

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Workshop 2: Assessing Opportunities and Value Proposition

On February 22, from 5:30 – 7 p.m., DifferenceMaker hosted the second workshop series session of the semester! The topic for the evening was assessing opportunities and value proposition. Holly Lalos, Entrepreneurial Initiatives Program Director, welcomed everyone and introduced the guest speakers.

Participants joining as the event kicked-off!

Professor Brent Shell, Faculty Fellow from the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences, started off by recapping Workshop 1, which focused on identifying problems. He opened the floor for volunteers to discuss the problems they were interested in addressing. The problems ranged from stem cell therapy not being easily assessable, to children struggling to take their daily medications.

Once a problem is solidified, assessing opportunities must take place before developing a solution. Opportunities showcase the need for a problem to be solved; there is no use creating a product/service solution for a market that has no potential customers or users.

A great (yet silly) example provided was pickle flavored toothpaste. Professor Shell presented a problem – not enough pickle flavored products on the market. He loves pickles and developed pickle toothpaste. He thinks everyone likes pickles, so thinks his toothpaste will sell. However, after creating the product, he realizes it is not selling. This is because he did not assess the opportunity associated with his problem and potential solution – although he thought his product would sell, he did not conduct opportunity research to support that there is an actual market affected by his problem and willing to purchase his solution.

Professor Shell speaking about market research, and how it’s used to identify potential users and customers.

Then, the crowd moved into Zoom breakout rooms to identify and assess their opportunities through an interactive activity. Student participants chose the room they wanted to join – with themes such as engineering, environmental, business, and more.

In the breakout rooms, everyone was encouraged to speak about their problems and opportunities. An opportunity worksheet was provided as a guide and there was a faculty facilitator in each room. After ten minutes of discussion, everyone went back into the main room to share their opportunities. One example presented was a problem regarding stolen packages, and an opportunity being that homeowners (data collected through interviews) wanted a secure way of receiving their packages.

Then, Professor Neil Shortland, Faculty Fellow from the College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, presented about value propositions. A value proposition demonstrates how a potential solution is more valuable (better, faster, more effective, less expensive, etc.) than what’s already on the market solving a problem (competitors). The value that a consumer receives when they use a product/service is important, because it’s what gets them to decide whether to buy.

Professor Neil Shortland speaking about Nonspec’s value proposition.

Since value inspires customers to purchase and use a product/service, it needs to be effectively communicated. An example that was provided featured Nonspec, 2013 Campus-wide DifferenceMaker team. The value that their prosthetic limb provides is that it is affordable and able to grow/adjust with the user, minimizing the need to purchase future replacements.

Then, another breakout room activity took place to discuss value propositions. The presentations that were given helped students develop their own strong value propositions to go along with their opportunities and problems. Once the breakout rooms closed, everyone was encouraged to share their ideas with the crowd. An example that was presented was to create a pill organizer that is fun to use, allowing children and parents to have a better experience when providing medication – the value is having fun while also having a better experience taking medication.

Thank you to everyone that joined DifferenceMaker for Workshop 2! To view a video of Workshop 2, visit the DifferenceMaker YouTube Channel. If you are interested in learning how to further develop your idea, build-up your team, and have fun, please register for the upcoming workshops:

Workshop 3 – Developing Business Models – February 25; 5:30-7 p.m.

Workshop 4 – Delivering Your Rocket Pitch – March 2; 5:30-7 p.m.

Questions? DifferenceMaker@uml.edu.

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Workshop 1: Identifying Problems

On February 18, from 5:30 – 7 p.m., DifferenceMaker held its’ first workshop series session of 2021! Over 70 people participated for this exciting virtual event. The focus of Workshop 1 was identifying problems.

Holly Lalos, Entrepreneurial Initiatives Program Director opened the event. She provided a brief overview of the agenda for the evening. Introductions of the guest presenters, Professor Mazen El Ghaziri, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences, and Professor Tom Wilkes, Kennedy College of Sciences, also took place.

Then, Professor El Ghaziri presented. He asked the student audience – what do you think of when the topic of “problems” is mentioned. Even virtually, this event was interactive and experiential. A Slido poll was used, which allowed students to participate, while showing everyone’s answers in real time.

The answers that participants provided. The larger words came up most frequently.

During the presentation, a variety of interesting past DifferenceMaker team “problem” examples were showcased.

For example, Support our Students, Campus-Wide DifferenceMaker in 2014, noticed a problem on University campuses – Commuter students could not afford food while being on campus all day. On the other hand, students that lived on campus had meal plans that weren’t always being used. With these problems in mind, they created a solution which was a web platform that allowed students to donate meals to students who needed them, discreetly.

Professor Wilkes presented another example of a successful past problem pitch. The CAT MAT, presented by Katie Muise and Michelle Mailloux. They noticed a problem in the physical therapy field; there is no way for patients to relearn how to walk on various surfaces without having to leave the facility. With this key problem in mind, they were able to develop a solution that solved the problem; a mat that mimics various outdoors terrains.

Professor El Ghaziri, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences, presenting the elements of identifying a problem.

In order to have a strong problem, statistics should be provided. Additionally, backing up the problem by showing its effects on people (showing the “pain”), is a great way to strengthen the problem. Market research, surveys, and interviewing people who could possibly benefit from the problem being solved (customers) are tips to showcase that the problem matters.

Then, an activity took place and breakout groups were formed with two DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellow facilitators in each room acting as mentors. Students chose a topic they were interested in, such as business, environmental issues, engineering related, and more.

This also served as a great networking opportunity for students to meet potential new teammates and gain connections. Each group was able to discuss problems they were interested in, and worked together to complete the “DifferenceMaker Problem Toolkit Worksheet.”

Afterwards, students were able to present their ideas. Issues related to the environment, loneliness while being an international student, food insecurity, chronic pain causing depression, and plastic waste infiltrating our planet, were just some of the problems presented.

Participants presenting their problems and sharing ideas!

Thank you to everyone that joined DifferenceMaker for Workshop 1! To view a video of Workshop 1, visit the DifferenceMaker YouTube Channel. If you are interested in learning how to further develop your idea, build-up your team, and have fun, please register for the upcoming workshops:

Workshop 2 – Assessing Opportunities and Value Propositions – February 22; 5:30-7 p.m.

Workshop 3 – Developing Business Models – February 25; 5:30-7 p.m.

Workshop 4 – Delivering Your Rocket Pitch – March 2; 5:30-7 p.m.

Questions? DifferenceMaker@uml.edu.

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2021 DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge Kick-Off and Idea Hack

On February 2, from 5:30 – 7 p.m., DifferenceMaker® held its’ spring semester $50,000 Idea Challenge Kick-Off and Idea Hack event! Over 60 participants – consisting of students and faculty, joined this eventful evening.

To kick off the event, Holly Lalos, Entrepreneurial Initiatives Program Director, provided a brief introduction about the DifferenceMaker program and the agenda for the evening. She then introduced Provost Joseph Hartman, who said welcoming remarks and shared exciting news regarding past DifferenceMaker student teams, such as invisaWear gaining a partnership with ADT – the #1 national leader in security!

Once the introductory remarks concluded, Holly introduced guest speakers Adam Basma and Yeaharne Hout, student interns with the DifferenceMaker program. Yeaharne explained how DifferenceMaker supports all students’ ideas, the free resources that are offered, and provided examples of past student DifferenceMaker teams. Adam concluded the presentation by providing information about the $50,000 Idea Challenge and the exciting events occurring this semester.

Student interns Adam Basma and Yeaharne Hout presenting about the DifferenceMaker program and the upcoming events this semester.

Following their presentation, two additional guest speakers, previous DifferenceMaker teams, spoke about their real-life experiences with the program and how it has helped develop their startups. Michelle Mailloux, co-founder of Ambulatory Innovations, won 2019 Honorable Mention at the $50,000 Idea Challenge; a $2,000 award.

Since then, Ambulatory Innovations has won a variety of other competitions (such as Beantown Throwdown where they won against Boston-based schools like Harvard, Northeastern, and Boston College), raised over $25,000 in additional funding, filed a patent, and worked with the UMass Lowell NERVE Center and Innovation Hub to develop prototypes of their product. To learn more about Ambulatory Innovations, please visit their website: https://www.ambulatoryinnovations.com/

Michelle Mailloux, co-founder of Ambulatory Innovations, presenting the many resources her team gained while participating in DifferenceMaker, as well as their successes since winning.

Edward Morante, partner of Benji Ball, 2019 Rist Campus-wide DifferenceMaker (a $7,000 award), spoke shortly after. He spoke about the helpful mentorship and networking opportunities that his team received after winning the Idea Challenge, such as meeting helpful mentors and advisors that they would not have met otherwise. The team is currently looking for a reliable manufacturer to create and ship their product to families and schools across the country! To learn more about Benji Ball, please visit their website: https://benjiballforall.com/

After the presentations, Holly facilitated a Q&A with all participants. Students asked a variety of questions – the real-life DifferenceMaker team presentations helped excite them to pursue their own ideas!

Next, Faculty Fellows Dr. Brent Shell, from the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences, and Dr. Neil Shortland, from Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, introduced the Idea Hack activity. Then, student participants and faculty mentors dispersed into Zoom breakout rooms to discuss problems, solutions, and creative ideas.

After the breakout room activity, students were encouraged to share their ideas with all event participants. Ideas ranged from supporting international students during university semester breaks, to engineering plankton species to help collect waste from oceans. All ideas were very creative and innovative!

To conclude the event, Holly provided next steps for the students, which included applying to the upcoming $50,000 Idea Challenge (deadline Feb. 12) and registering for the 4-part workshop series which is taking place in February and March. The workshops are designed to help students develop their ideas, build-up their teams, and much more.

Don’t forget to apply for the $50,000 Idea Challenge before February 12 at 5 p.m.: www.uml.edu/ideachallengeapp

Please register for Workshop 1: Identifying Problems – February 18 from 5:30 – 7 p.m. via Zoom. Register at www.uml.edu/2021DMWorkshop1

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2020 DifferenceMaker® Engineering Prototyping Competition Finals

On December 3rd, 2020, the DifferenceMaker® Engineering Prototyping Competition Finals took place!

Associate Dean Kavitha Chandra opened this event with welcoming remarks and kicked-off the evening.

A huge thank you to all finalist judges:

– Chad LaFrance – ’92 Francis College of Engineering, Director of Texas Instruments

– Mark Saab – ’81,’13 (H) Francis College of Engineering, Founding Trustee, Saab Family Foundation

– Ram Sudireddy – ’92 Francis College of Engineering and Kennedy College of Sciences, CEO and Co-Founder of Bento

– Manijeh Goldberg – ’82, ’84 Francis College of Engineering and Kennedy College of Sciences, CEO and Founder of Privo Technologies Inc

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

And, a huge thank you to all Preliminary Round judges:

– Rich Caruso – ‘73 Francis College of Engineering

– Loretta Doughty – ‘88 Francis College of Engineering

– Steve Geyster – ‘83 Francis College of Engineering

– Paul Makris – ’91 Francis College of Engineering

– Chris McKenna – ‘89 Francis College of Engineering

– Christine Mizioch – ‘91 Francis College of Engineering

– Chris Olson – ‘88 Francis College of Engineering

– Natalie Olson – ‘88 College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

– Bhupen Shah – ‘92 Francis College of Engineering

– Marc Thomas – ’82 Francis College of Engineering

– Rob Valiton – ‘86 Francis College of Engineering

After the opening remarks, one finalist student team was announced to pitch their idea. Out of all 17 Preliminary Round presentations, five were chosen by the preliminary judges to pitch their ideas. None of the teams knew if they were chosen beforehand – allowing for extra excitement to hear who was pitching for the evening!

Each student team was given 5 minutes to pitch, followed by five-minutes of judge Q&A. The ideas were innovative and life-changing. For example, creating a pill container shaped as an apple to appeal to children, teaching women in developing countries how to create their own feminine pads, creating a knee brace where you can track the healing process through your phone, and more.

Once all the student teams were given the chance to pitch their idea and answer the judges’ questions, it was time for the judge deliberation. All judges were put into a separate Zoom meeting to discuss who the top three winners of the evening were.

Congratulations to all finalist teams!

1st place – $2,500 – Connect Knee A knee brace that incorporates the use of EMG censors and goniometers to track and record a patient’s recovery, making it more efficient and hands on.

Team Members: Jackson Kelley, Tiffany Miller, Alyssa Mulry

2nd place – $1,500 – FEMME New era of affordable menstruation pads for developing countries that are non-toxic to the environment and to the human body.

Team Members: Joanna Chase, Kristin Kihara, Massanica Mom, Skylar Murph

3rd place – S1,000 –Strip Away the Backlog Low-cost rape test kit using ELISA in an effort to end the backlog of rape test kits in the U.S.A.

Team Members: Victoria Acosta Diaz, Emily Doherty, Ariel Dulaney, Madison Merrill

Honorable Mention – An Apple A Day Apple shaped pill containers that appeal to children, allowing them to enjoy taking their daily medications.

Team Members: Param Patel, Emily Philpot, Jack Ryan

Honorable Mention – Wonder Wheel An affordable wheelchair power assist technology.

Team Members: Alexander Hoefer, Sanskriti Sharma

Before this evening, there was a crowd voting session. To see all teams’ presentations, check out the DifferenceMaker YouTube Channel here. Everyone who registered for this event was given a chance to vote for their three favorite teams, and the team with the most votes was given the Crowd Favorite award for the evening.

The Crowd Favorite team was team Terminus! They pitched the wonderful idea of being able to grow fresh fruits and vegetables on planets such as Mars and won an additional $500. After this announcement, Provost Hartman gave some closing remarks to end the event.

Congratulations to all teams and thank you to everyone who attended this event and made it a success! We welcome anyone with an idea to enter the Spring 2021 $50,000 Idea Challenge. The application is now open, and will close on February 12. Apply today!

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2020 DifferenceMaker® DCU Manning Innovation Contest Finals

On December 3, 2020, DifferenceMaker held its’ DCU Manning Innovation Contest Finals. At this event, six student finalist teams pitched their ideas to solve problems related to banking and finance.

The event opened up with welcoming remarks from Sandra Richtermeyer, Dean of the Manning School of Business. She then introduced Thomaz De Moura, Innovations Manager at Digital Federal Credit Union, who also said some opening words.

After the welcome, the judges for the evening were introduced. The judges for the evening were:

  • Andrew Knaebel, Director of Information Systems Infrastructure, DCU
  • Sandesh Parulekar, Director of Information Systems Development, DCU
  • Barbara Russel, Co-Founder/Managing Partner, Cap W
  • Joseph Vaillancourt, ’90, ’01, Manning School of Business, Managing Partner of Venture Enterprises, LLC and the President of Cyclyx International, Inc

After the judges were introduced, the show began! Six student finalist teams each pitched their idea, followed by a five-minute judge Q&A session. The teams that presented were:

  • Borrowed Pay Cut, Kevin Zhang
  • Cash Transfer, Aiman Baig, Abhi Kiran, Danny Nguyen, Fazil Soharwardi, Haris Waqar
  • Millennial Finance Educators, Amy Michelin, Craig Williams
  • Paper Trail, Yeaharne Hout, Edward Morante
  • SearchIn, Md Sadman Islan
  • Track It, Yuhan Sung

All teams shared amazing and creative ideas. They ranged from educating young adults on how to be financially free, creating an app that teaches people about financial education with the ability to earn cash, bank to member transfers, and more.

Once all the teams shared their ideas and answered follow-up questions from the judges, it was time for the judges to decide the first-place winner. Each finalist team earned $100 per member as a prize, and the top finalist team earned $500 per member. The judges broke out into a separate breakout room to deliberate.

While the judges were deliberating, Dean Richtermeyer encouraged the student teams to network on platforms such as LinkedIn. This was a great way to make new connections – virtually!

When the judges came back from their deliberation room, the first-place finalist winner was announced! The top finalist for the night was team Millennial Finance Educators. They pitched the amazing idea of the Financial Freedom Program. This program would teach teenagers and young adults about financial literacy, allowing them to develop good habits that will lead them towards financial independence in their futures.

A total of $2,200 was awarded to student teams!

Congratulations to all student teams that made it as a finalist for this competition! We encourage you to apply for the DifferenceMaker Spring 2021 $50,000 Idea Challenge. This challenge is open to students of all majors, with ideas about any topic. The application is open now and will close on February 12, 2020. Apply here.

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2020 DifferenceMaker® Kennedy College of Sciences COVID-19 Idea Hack

On Tuesday, November 10, The Kennedy College of Sciences and DifferenceMaker hosted the first COVID-19 Idea Hack Event with 87 registered participants!

The event kicked off with an overview about the DifferenceMaker program, presented by Holly Butler, Entrepreneurial Initiatives Program Director. Fred Martin, Associate Dean for Teaching, Learning, and Undergraduate Studies and Professor in the Kennedy College of Sciences, along with Tom Wilkes, Professor in the Kennedy College of Sciences and DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellow, said opening remarks to the virtual crowd.

Noureddine Melikechi, Dean of the Kennedy College of Sciences, welcomed the participants and spoke about the event in more detail.

Then, there were informative presentations given by expert researchers in the Kennedy College of Sciences. Michael Graves, Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Biology, provided a presentation about the issues with viruses, specifically focusing on Coronaviruses. The next presentation was given by Emo Sajo, Professor, Director, Medical Physics, where he spoke about how viruses spread. Susanna Remold, Professor and Department Chair of Biological Science, spoke about the process of research and problem solving, by providing an example about the late 1960’s when the compound Triclosan (antibacterial component) was developed.

Professor Michael Graves presenting the challenges related to Coronaviruses.

After learning about the problems related to Covid-19 and viruses, Tom Wilkes introduced the Ideation Activity. This activity allowed students and faculty to network in breakout rooms, while being able to think of their own problems and solutions related to the pandemic. Some of the ideas proposed were about how there is no treatment for this disease, how people are not following the CDC guidelines, how the spread has spikes in cases, and how it disrupted the processes of the economy and many industries.

After the problems were brainstormed, each group discussed possible solutions to the problems, as well as appropriate hypothesis for them. Once all the teams had a chance to discuss, the groups were brought back into the main event room.

Fred Martin facilitated the activity debrief, and each group got the chance to present their proposed solution to their defined COVID-19 problem. Each team shared creative ideas, such as using scorpion venom as a treatment and developed educational platforms about COVID-19.

Student teams presenting their problems and solutions to the crowd after the Ideation Activity.

Once every team had a chance to present, Dean Melikechi and Holly Butler provided a Q&A and closing remarks. Holly mentioned a “Call to Action” for all student participants – attending the upcoming final college competition events (the DCU Manning Innovation Contest Finals and the Francis College of Engineering Prototyping Finals), and how to apply to the 2021 DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge which opens on Dec. 1.

Thank you to everyone who attended this event! And, a special thank you for the Kennedy College of Sciences and all Ideation Activity Room Facilitators:

Victor Alcantara, Senior, Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, DifferenceMaker Intern

Adam Basma, Junior, Manning School of Business, DifferenceMaker Intern

Iman Chahine, College of Education

Mazen El Ghaziri, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences

Michael Graves, Professor, Associate Chair, Department of Biology, Kennedy College of Sciences

Yeaharne Hout, Junior, Manning School of Business, DifferenceMaker Intern

Mark Hsu, College of Education

Carter Keough, Francis College of Engineering

Cathy Levey, College of Fine Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Fred Martin, Professor, Computer Science, Associate Dean for Teaching, Learning, and Undergraduate Studies, Kennedy College of Sciences

Foozieh Mirderikvand, Coordinator, Undergraduate Programs, Kennedy College of Sciences

Noureddine Melikechi, Dean, Kennedy College of Sciences

Susanna Remold, Professor, Department Chair, Biological Science, Kennedy College of Sciences

Erno Sajo, Professor, Director, Medical Physics, Kennedy College of Sciences

Brent Shell, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences

Neil Shortland, College of Fine Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Tom Wilkes, Kennedy College of Sciences

Kelilah Wolkowicz, Francis College of Engineering

Susan Young, Kennedy College of Sciences

We look forward to seeing you again in future DifferenceMaker activities like the 2021 $50,000 DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge!

Questions? Send us an email at DifferenceMaker@uml.edu!

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