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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