UMass Lowell Hawkathon | Friday, March 26th – Saturday, March 27th

UMass Lowell held its first Hackathon on Friday, March 25th starting at 5p.m. The problem-solving competition lasted until Saturday, March 26th at 7p.m.


Over 80 participants from several schools, including UMass Lowell, MIT, Simmons, Wellesly, RISD,Olin, WNE, Brandeis, and many more attended and worked in teams to solve problems that matter to them. A number of different companies sponsored the event and networked with students before the event started. 78 participants made it to the end of the competition. Winners of the competition were awarded 6 prizes in 4 different categories. Nearly $10,000 worth of prizes were awarded, $6,000 in cash and $4,000 in additional prizes!

Graphic In Numbers

Most Technically Complex: Robo Gym Metal Cobras
– Team Members: Josh Smolinski, Tyler Alterio, Hannah Gorman, Eric Marcoux, Yuetlong Leung
– Innovation: Gear Pong – Cell phone-controlled beer pong playing robot
– Award: $1000 + $500 Kloudless API Credit

 Biggest Community Impact (1st): Cardanos
– Team Members: Alex Pereira, Shawn Persaud, Shen Gao, Rodrigo Toste Gomes
– Innovation: Multilingual chat platform to increase connectivity across the globe
– Award: $1000 + 4 Dell Venue 10 Tablets

Biggest Community Impact (2nd): Just Cheese
– Team Members: Tony Ventura, Yusuf Yildiz, Samir Khoulani
– Innovation: Text message service to increase usability when dealing with SiS
– Award: $1000 + 3 Months Membership for the Innovation Hub

 Biggest Community Impact (3rd): Awkward Coders
– Team Members: Emma Morrison, Hannah Pastagal
– Innovation: App connecting volunteers to non-profit organizations
– Award: $500

Best Internet of Things Innovation: A Tribe Called Success
– Team Members: Andy MacGregor, Jeff Amari, Iman Nandi, Thomas Hsu
– Innovation: Low-cost text message-controlled door lock to make keys/RFID tags obsolete
– Award: $1000 + 5 Myo Armbands

Most Revolutionary Idea: Mocha Thunder
– Team Members: Michael Bowe, Cullin Lam, Son Nguyen, Bunchhleng Soth
– Innovation: Smart fridge application that knows what’s in your fridge, creates recipes, and notifies you of expiration
– Award: $1500


Thank you to everyone who supported the first UMass Lowell Hawkathon! From faculty to staff and sponsors, it could not have been as successful without your support. The team looks forward to running another one again soon!

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Savannah Marshall, Founder of Fresh Beets, Travels to Texas!

Savannah Marshall studied community music at UMass Lowell and is a DifferenceMaker student. She won First to Market, a $4,000 prize at the 2014 Idea Challenge. Fresh Beets is a food truck and music venue that unites three discrete areas that the Greater Lowell community values highly into one vehicle of change. By combining food, music and education, Fresh Beets will turn any street corner, stake park, festival, or parking lot in Lowell into a total experience which feeds the mind, body and soul.

Savannah wanted to do research and learn more about the food truck industry so she used some of her winning funds to travel to Texas where there is a vibrant food truck community.  She has spent 6 months learning about the industry, inside and out. She is returning to Lowell in May and will begin implementing her creative business with the skills and knowledge she acquired in Texas.

Here are some photos and captions from her trip thus far:

IMG_20160303_130207344 (2)

Newspaper! This is an article that ran in the Daily Texan, a newspaper put out by the University of Texas at Austin, describing the new truck on campus, featuring yours truly. 🙂

Inspiration (2)

Inspiration – I would pass by this incredible graffiti on my bike ride home from work every day when I lived at my first apartment. I still pass it sometimes. The sun would hit it in a really special way… and it was like a sign that I was on the right path with my aspirations.

Happy FRYday (2)

Happy FRYday! – We sell vegan burgers and fries primarily at Arlo’s, and one Friday night at the beginning of a shift I made myself some fries and put this picture on social media to get some Austin friends to visit the truck… and make my northern friends a little jealous.

Brainstorming sesh (2)

Brainstorming Sesh – One day I was out for several hours on my bike, enjoying nature, and enjoying some quality “me time.” Though, to be honest, the first few weeks of my trip were loaded with “me time” when I didn’t have too many friends or hours at work yet. I tried to stay positive about this time, and on this afternoon I found myself sprawled out at a Starbucks table I found along the bike trail, with coffee and a snack to fuel my furious pen hand. It made me so pleased to realize that I want to work on my project intrinsically.

My first bike (2)

My First Bike – I’ve been biking every day here in Austin because I don’t have a car. Such a blessing! It’s been really fun to ride everywhere, and while it’s definitely a hassle sometimes and certainly tiring, I love the simplicity, not buying gas, and love the environmental sustainability bikes promote. This bike was lent to me by my friend James! I’ve recently returned it and am on a bike my boyfriend bought on his visit down here. He found it to be cheaper to spend $100 and buy one than to rent one for several days, so I lucked out again with that!

Arlos burger (2)

Arlos Burger – This is a bac’n cheeze burger from Arlos! SO GOOD

Nature (2)

Nature – Just one example of how beautiful it is down here! I found a lot of peace here at Ladybird Lake, a body of water that reminds me a lot of the Merrimack!

Reseach (2)

Research – Got a few books in the mail one morning in February. Made great companions to my cup of coffee. I still carry one or two around in my backpack everyday!

Thank you for sharing Savannah and keep up the great work! We are excited to hear from you when you return in May.

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Idea Challenge Semifinalists

Congratulations to the semifinalists for the 2016 Idea Challenge!

AM (American Muslim) Women Magazine
Biodigestor-Aided Solutions in Haiti (BASH)
Design of an efficient solar tablet for educational usage in a Nomadic population
eNABLE Lowell
Engineers for a Sustainable World: Sustainable Smoothie Cart
Get Girls Going
Happy Heart Cart
▪ invisaWear
Kinder Minds
Portable IV Fluid Warmers
Quick Response Security
Security Top
Teflon-Coated Ear Tubes
Veterans QRF


The semifinalist teams will compete on April 1st in the Preliminary Pitch-off! The winners of that competition will move onto the final pitch of the 2016 $35,000 Idea Challenge on April 13th! Both pitch contests will be held in Moloney Hall at University Crossing at 5p.m. Be sure to come out and support the semifinalist and finalist teams!

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Workshop 4: Delivering Your Rocket Pitch

Our final 2016 workshop was held on Thursday, February 25th, in the Makerspace, Falmouth 102. Director of the DifferenceMaker Program, Holly Butler, introduced guest speaker for the night Steven Tello, Associate Vice Chancellor of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. Professor Tello spoke about the ways in which pitches are developed and presented to judges during the Preliminary Pitch-off and Idea Challenge. He even demonstrated a rocket pitch of his own! Students enjoyed pizza while developing their key pitch points and ideas.


Don’t forget to check on the Semi-Finalist announcement on Tuesday, March 8th! Catch up on all of our workshops and events on our resource page!

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Workshop 3: Developing Business Models

Our third workshop on developing business models was held on Tuesday, February 23rd from 5:30-7:30p.m. in the Makerspace, Falmouth 102. Holly Butler, Director of the DifferenceMaker program introduced Tom O’Donnell, Director of the Innovation Hub. While students enjoyed pizza, Tom spoke about the factors involved in developing business models and how to conquer potential struggles during the process.


Stay in the loop and catch up on updates on our resource page! Also, look for the announcement of the Semi-Finalists on Tuesday, March 8th!

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