The 2013 DifferenceMaker™ Idea Challenge

DifferenceMaker and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship hosted the first annual $25K Idea Challenge in Spring of 2013. The goal of this challenge was to engage UMass Lowell students in creative and innovative problem solving around major issues that affect our region and future; it is a competitive place to pitch your idea to make a difference. Real solutions to real problems were the focus, addressing issues that people in the real world face every day.  Interdisciplinary teams were encouraged in order to help students understand that different approaches to the same problem can yield more creative and effective solutions.

45 teams participated in the Idea Challenge, working hours on end identifying problems, evaluating possible courses of action, and developing solutions to these problems that are competitive in the real world. 19 teams went on to pitch at the preliminary judgement round, and ten teams went on to pitch


at the final Idea Challenge. Winning the idea challenge represented the ultimate success: getting funding for the project to lift off the ground and become successful. With the prizes, the winners were able to fund their project and continue their research, effectively enabling them to spearhead a start-up with the help of DifferenceMaker.

Out of six categories, there were ten winners of a total of $25,000:


Grand Prize: Campus-Wide DifferenceMaker

Developing Nation Prosthetic – $5,000


Low cost high functionality replacement limb with an acceptable amount of customization for children in other nations.

Katherine Cain
Jonathan De Alderete
Brendan Donoghue
Sean Gibson
Olivia Keane
Erin Keaney


Significant Social Impact

1st Place – $3,500

Healthy Habits

Inspire children to achieve healthier lifestyles by eating nutritious foods, exercising and being active to prevent sedentary lifestyles.

Jacqueline Bradley
Meghan Hathaway
Katerina Kafkas
Nicole Leblance
Haley Mayne
Michelle Racioppi

2nd Place – $1,500

Bright Future Generation

Non-Profit organization: Mental health services addressing the needs of Rwandan youth.

Vanessa Colomba
Steve DiPerna
Isaie Mihigo
Yousef Theeb


Sustainable Environment

1st Place – $3,500

Lowell Sprouts/Lets Grow Lowell


Uses school gardens as a way to educate middle school children about the importance of sustainable, organic agriculture.

Mary Beth Burwood
Sean Hicks
Christopher Horne

2nd Place – $1,500

Hybrid Power Tricycle

Assistive Tricycle for handicap kids that utilizes pedaling power and a motor together. It also has a full support system and wireless shutoff.

Anthony Capone
Derek Dempsey


Innovative Technology

1st Place – $3,500

Robotic Feeding Arm


Produces robotic arms to assist people where debilitating circumstances inhibit them from performing daily living activities.

Philip Colangelo


2nd Place – $1,500


School enrichment collaboration application. It provides modules for student note-taking, book trading, as well as discussion groups.

Avery DeCesare
Rohit Krishnan
Eric Marcoux
Tanjil Mustafa
Brian Tran


First to Market

1st Place – $3,500

Grab a Bite

Social Food Network that engages users and helps increase restaurants customer traffic through marketing, ease of use and convenience.

Aldo Beqiraj
Denis Lemos
Andrew MacRobert
Andrew Webb

2nd Place – $1,500



A produce that gives tactile/kinesthetic feedback for both correct spinal alignment and correct breathing mechanics to demand quality movement.

Ramez Antoun
Nick Bleil
Ryan Connor
Michael Tadros
Robert Roufail


Honorable Mention DifferenceMaker

U.R. Corp – $500

Recognizes the importance of small businesses and what they do for the economies of local and national marketplaces and helps them compete with larger companies by expanding their market reach.

Robert Fisher

The next Idea Challenge is being planned for 2014, with the hopes of being even more successful than 2013’s with more funding and more overall participation.

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