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