2020 DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge

On April 15, from 5 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., DifferenceMaker held its 8th Annual $50,000 Idea Challenge!

From April 7-9, the DifferenceMaker Preliminary Pitch-off took place in a virtual format. The event engaged 27 student teams from all UMass Lowell academic colleges and over 25 alumni and community judges. These 27 teams were chosen from an initial pool of 62 team applications. On April 9, 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 15.

Due to COVID-19, the competition was held virtually. However, even with this hurdle, the event turned out to be a success! The event engaged over 105 attendees! Thank you to everyone who joined and made this possible. View a video of the Idea Challenge.

Thank you to all the judges for taking their time to attend the event and assist the student teams. You continue to help DifferenceMaker reach new heights.

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

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

Brian Rist ‘77, Manning School of Business
President and CEO, The Smart Companies

Jack M. Wilson
President Emeritus, UMass System and Distinguished Professor of Higher EducationEmerging Technologies, and Innovation, Umass Lowell

A huge thank you to the event sponsors who made this Idea Challenge possible:

• Circle Health

• Foley and Lardner, LLP

• Kim and Brian Rist ’77, Manning School of Business

• Andrew Sutherland ’94, Manning School of Business

• Jack Wilson Endowed Presidential Entrepreneurship Award Fund

CONGRATULATIONS to the 2020 winning student teams!

Rist Campus-Wide DifferenceMaker, $7,000

(sponsored by Kim and Brian Rist, ’77, Manning School of Business)

MyGrow Fabrix

“An innovative, functional, eco-friendly textile fabric for agricultural and horticultural means.”

Team members:

~ Benjamin Chaco, Alumni, UMass Amherst, Computer Engineering
~ Justin Simone, Graduate, Community Social Psychology
~ Robert Simone

Significant Social Impact, $4,000


“Eco-friendly clinical face masks to reduce harmful waste.”

Team members:
~ Paul-Joseph Blanchard, Plastics Engineering
~ Yeaharne Hout, Finance
~ Grace Truong, Nursing

Sutherland Innovative Technology Solution, $4,000

(sponsored by Andrew Sutherland, ’94, Manning School of Business)

Smart Escape

“An electrical system that operates as a dynamic building evacuation guide during a fire evacuation.”

Team Members:
~ Noah Boudreau, Freshman, Finance
~ Kevin Downing, High School
~ Benjamin St. Gelais, Freshman, Environmental Engineering
~ Kevin Healy, Freshman, Electrical Engineering 
~ Kevin Jeyakumar, Graduate, Computer Engineering
~ Alexander Meneses, Freshman, Finance
~ Andrew Regan, Freshman, Aerospace Engineering

Contribution to a Healthier Lifestyle, $4,000

(sponsored by Circle Health)


“A knee brace that incorporates the use of EMG sensors and goniometers to track and record a patient recovery, making it more efficient and hands on.”

Team members:
~ Kyle Hamblett
~ Connor Johnston
~ Jackson Kelley, Junior, Mechanical Engineering
~ Abby McNulty, Senior, Business Administration
~ Tiffany Miller, Junior, Biomedical Engineering
~ Alyssa Mulry, Junior, Biomedical Engineering
~ Jaime Waldron, Senior, Criminal Justice

Jack M. Wilson First Product to Market, $4,000

(sponsored by the Jack Wilson Endowed Presidential Entrepreneurship Award Fund)

Smart Safety Outlet

“An Internet-of-Things (IoT) connected outlet that can secure and lock in place for safety purposes.”

Team members:
~ Romeo Cayabyab, Alumni, Electrical Engineering
~ Dmitry Chichinov, Junior, Mechanical Engineering
~ Brian Cotter, Senior, Electrical Engineering
~ David Holdbrook-Smith, Senior, Electrical Engineering
~ Nassim Nabat, Junior, Business
~ Divyanshu Verma, Alumni, Electrical Engineering

Commitment to a Sustainable Environment, $4,000


“A green household hydrogen energy storage ecosystem that will reduce household carbon footprint and energy costs, as well as, have the ability to utilize the hydrogen generated for fuel cell electric mobility applications.”

Team members:
~ Aadith Arasu, Freshman, Physics
~ Ryan Beishline, Sophomore, Mechanical Engineering
~ Sarvesh Handa, Freshman, Electrical Engineering
~ Ali Semerci, Freshman, Mechanical Engineering

Honorable Mentions, $2,000

AFED – Autonomous Foot Exercising Device

“A shoe insole that autonomously exercises foot muscles, thereby strengthening the foot’s arch and improving overall body posture.”

Team members:
~ Catia Goncalbes Rodrigues, Senior, Biomedical Engineering
~ Edwind Medina, Senior, Biomedical Engineering
~ Kazi Proma, Senior, Biomedical Engineering
~ Kamal Rai, Senior, Biomedical Engineering

Green Wall Project/Living Wall

“Installing vertical green walls on university campuses to reduce CO2 and particulate matter, and increase concentrations of oxygen in the air.”

Team members:
~ David Razmadze, Senior, Computer Science
~ Hannah West, Senior, Public Health major & Business minor

Happy Pinning

“A product that will help Indian women clip together their traditional clothing quickly, easily, and effortlessly.”

Team members:
~ Ankit Patel, Graduate, Finance & Marketing
~ Happyben Patel, Graduate, MBA
~ Fenil Patel, Junior, Mechanical Engineering
~ Kevin Zhang, Sophomore, Computer Science

NoSno Mat

“An affordable snow- and ice-melting mat that requires virtually no work compared to shoveling or snow blowing.”

Team members:
~ Ka-Shing Chan, Senior, Computer Science
~ Thinh Huynh, Sophomore, Mechanical Engineering
~ Michael Mitkov, Senior, Computer Science
~ Conrad Nelson, Junior, Chemical Engineering
~ Emily Philpot, Sophomore, Mechanical Engineering
~ Tatiana Tompkins, Junior, Economics

Thank you to everyone who makes DifferenceMaker a great success!

Questions? DifferenceMaker@uml.edu

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