2021 Project Learn Lowell High School Field Trip

On Tuesday, December 14, 2021, DifferenceMaker partnered with Project LEARN at the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub to provide an entrepreneurship field trip day to Lowell High School students. The day started around 9:00 a.m. when around 50 students arrived at the Lowell Innovation Hub.

From 9:00- 11:00 a.m., Rist DifferenceMaker Institute Director, Holly Lalos, introduced the program. Next, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, David Vatalaro, introduced the Tinker Toy Ideation activity.

Students were told that they needed to rescue someone on an island and were instructed to build a vessel to transport their Tinker Toy person to the mainland. The Lowell High School students eagerly got to work building cars, boats, and helicopters out of Tinker Toys.

Lowell High School Students working on their Tinker Toy vehicle prototype. Professional Photo by Edward Brennen, Senior Writer, UMass Lowell.

After time passed, another problem was introduced – the students were informed they could not build a water vehicle or flying vessel. This left several teams working to change their original plans. Students then started trading materials with other teams and using objects that they had in their backpacks to craft their creative vehicle.

Next, students tested their prototypes on a slanted wooden board (“a mountain”) with Tinker Toys at the bottom (“rocks”). As a result of teams testing their vehicles, they were able to make changes to their designs to make them work more efficiently – the iterative process of prototyping.

After testing their prototypes, each team had a chance to pitch their innovative vehicle design and send their vehicle down “the mountain”. The location of each teams vehicle was marked. At the end, the teams vehicle that travelled the furthest won a DifferenceMaker prize.

In the afternoon, Rajia Abdelaziz, Co-founder and CEO of invisaWear spoke to the students about her experience starting a company. She talked about the challenges that she faced as a young, female student. Additionally, Ms. Abdelaziz spoke about the DifferenceMaker program and how it helped with support and resources she needed to make her dream a reality.

Co-founder and CEO of Invisawear, Rajia Abdelaziz, talking to the Lowell High School students about her company. Professional Photo by Edward Brennen, Senior Writer, UMass Lowell.

Then, Joe Hartman, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, UMass Lowell, spoke to the Lowell High Students. He highlighted the opportunities that going to college at UMass Lowell provides, with a focus on the benefits of DifferenceMaker for aspiring entrepreneurs and creative thinkers.

After the Provost’s remarks, Tyler Cote, Co-Founder and Director of Operation 250 spoke to the students about his experiences starting a nonprofit. Mr. Cote had an interactive presentation which engaged students, such as gathering their opinions on whether social media is harmful or beneficial to society.

He explained his company’s goal, which is to make the internet a safer place. Additionally, he talked about the resources he used at UMass Lowell to start Operation 250. Lastly, he spoke about how students of all majors can start a business by solving problems and that networking is important.

Tyler Cote, Co-Founder and Director of Operation 250 talking about his experience starting a company using the Resources that UMass Lowell provides. Professional Photo by Edward Brennen, Senior Writer, UMass Lowell.

At noon, lunch was served from Purple Carrot and students had the opportunity to talk to a representative from the university. The day wrapped up with a tour of the Innovation Hub and the Fashion Makerspace.

Thank you to everyone who made this event possible: Mira Bookman and LZ Nunn, Project LEARN; Jill Taylor, Lowell High School; Lisa Armstrong, Innovation Hub; Diana Coluntino, Fashion Makerspace.

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2021 DifferenceMaker High School Idea Challenge

On December 15th, DifferenceMaker® held its 3rd Annual High School Idea Challenge from 9am-1pm at UMass Lowell’s Haverhill Innovation Hub.

To kick-off the event, Gina Mustoe, teacher, Westford Academy, gave opening remarks. She then passed the stage to Holly Lalos, Director, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute. Holly presented an overview of DifferenceMaker, sharing the benefits and opportunities the program offers. This was followed by a presentation of the Haverhill Innovation Hub by Stephanie Guyotte, Associate Director, Haverhill Innovation Hub. Then, Holly introduced the judges and emceed the event.

The judges were:

Katie Harrington, Co-Founder, Ambulatory Innovations

Siddhant Iyer, Founder, TrueFIT

Donna Mcfadden, Massachusetts DECA State Advisor

Tatiana Tompkins, team member of Protected Pin & NoSno Mat

Andy Vargas, Massachusetts House of Representatives

Judges, from left to right, Donna McFadden, Katie Harrington, Tatiana Tompkins, Siddhant Iyer, Andy Vargas.

After the judge introductions, the event began. The audience was excited to hear the creative ideas from each high school student team. Each pitching team had 5 minutes to present, followed by 5 minutes of judge Q&A. After the presentations, the judges deliberated.

Dan Alexander and Neev Maru, representing Westford Academy, pitching their product MC3D.

Congratulations to all teams that presented and won awards!

1st place, $500 – Mya Doucette, Gaby Guimaraes, Zach Medailleu, and Gabriel Olafsson, Essex North Shore Agricultural & Technical School – “ZuMix” – a healthy, organic snack.

2nd place, $300 – Dan Alexander and Neev Maru, Westford Academy – ”MC3D” – an educational STEM-based camp for kids.

3rd place, $200 – Callum Mond, Declan Mond, and Matt Weinfurt, Nashoba Regional High School – “Boxletics” – sports games and equipment delivered regularly to customers doorsteps.

Honorable Mention, DifferenceMaker gear (t-shirt, pen, lanyard, water bottle, notebook) – Isha Macha and Morgan Smith, Westford Academy – “I&M Solutions” – safe and effective teeth whitening solution.

After the presentations, lunch was served, and round table mentor meetings took place between college DifferenceMaker teams and the high school teams. Each high school team had a 15-minute mentor session with the DifferenceMaker college students.

Thank you to the DifferenceMaker teams who volunteered their time to support and inspire the high school students:

BenjiBall, Benjamin McEvoy and Edward Morante

Digital Life, Smriti Kumar, Alejandra LunaJuarez, Amy Nguyen and TinaThuy Nguyen

Green Fertilizer, Benard Tabu and Visal Veng

Smart Escape, Noah Boudreau and Kevin Healy

Terminus, Ariel Shramko

Thank you to DECA Inc. for sponsoring the event prizes. Another thanks to all partnership schools and teachers involved in this collaboration.

To view photos of this event, please visit DifferenceMaker social media:

LinkedIn: DifferenceMaker

Twitter: @difference_UML

Instagram: @differencemakeruml

Facebook: umldifferencemaker

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2021 Francis College of Engineering Prototyping Competition

On Thursday, December 2, 2021, the 2021 DifferenceMaker Francis College of Engineering Prototyping Competition was held at University Crossing from 4:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. This event consisted of a preliminary round, people’s choice voting, and final round. The twelve teams competing during the preliminary demonstration round were:

AirGuardian, team members Kieron Sharwood, Adam Warden, and Kevin Zhang

BioECOL, team members Zachary Katimy, Tomas Lera, Abraham Mudoola, Dimitri Ros

Draw a Print, team members Johnathan Aguliar, Philopater Askander, Theresa Foley, Daniel German-George, Yibo Li, and Ruolin Zhou

He4lth, team members Joseph Fallica, Angelica Jones, Sarah Ross, Varun Somasundaram

MedAlarm, team members Anthony Areche, Mason Burne, Evelyn Duffy, and Maddie McLaren

No Maskne, team members Alexia Bittarelli, Joshua Frechette, Samuel Paolini, Danelia Rodriguez, and Giovanny Sanchez

PenGRED, team members Danielle Bucci, Ryan Butler, Gabriela Karnesky, and Grace Murray

Proprioception & Athletic Performance, team members Mark Elman and Steven Evangelos

Prosthetic Hand for Steering, team member Tze-min Lin

Tendren, team members Ethan Block, Amie Russell, and Victoria Williams

The Accreditors, team members Mayank Amrohi, Nabil Barkallah, Linnae Casebeer, and Evangaline McFarland

Vision, team member Mohammadali Khalifa

Tze-min Lin, team member of Prosthetic Hand for Steering, showcasing her idea and prototype to preliminary round judges.

The prototype demonstration round was held from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. in the lobby of University Crossing. Each team had five minutes to present their product to a panel of preliminary judges, followed by a five-minute Q&A session. The preliminary judges were:

– Andrew Amigo, ’94, College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, CEO of Blackburn Energy LLC

– Carol Devellian, ‘85,13, Francis College of Engineering, President of Yeti Biomedical LLC

– Mark Dyment, ‘1986 Francis College of Engineering, CEO of MC Process Technologies, Inc.

– Bill Estes, ’87, Francis College of Engineering, General Manager of Anderson Power Products

– Dave Janeczek, ’82, ’85, Francis College of Engineering, Former Manager Process Development Center of Raytheon Technologies Corporation

– Bill Perciballi, ’86, Francis College of Engineering, Force Engineering

– John Raguin, Growth Advisor

– Mike Rider, ’87, Francis College of Engineering, Vice President of Engineering & Operations of Coravin, LLC

– Leigh Sharrock, ’03, Francis College of Engineering, Director, Systems Engineering of Brooks Automation, Inc.

Team AirGuardian pitching their idea and prototype to a panel of preliminary judges.

During the prototype demonstration round, the judges scored each team based on the problem that was being solved, the opportunity that it holds, prototype quality, resources/implementation needed, presentation effectiveness, and overall project. After seeing each team’s pitch and demonstrations, the preliminary judges deliberated on which teams would move forward for the final round.

The teams that moved onto the final competition were:

– Draw a Print (Tailored 3D Standard Triangle Language (STL) CAD Design models for 3D printable parts)

– PenGRED (Epinephrine Auto Injectors for young children)

– Proprioception and Athletic Performance (Alarius Table with MatLab/Arduino Telemetry)

– Prosthetic Hand for Steering (steering wheel prosthetic for farmers)

– Tendren (Emergency Room monitoring during hospital waits)

Team Tendren pitching their innovative idea to improve hospital waiting times during the final round.

Meanwhile, the prototype public viewing was held from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. in the lobby of University Crossing. Event attendees which consisted of students, faculty, community friends, and family each had five votes (five, $100,000 bills) to disperse to the teams they liked the best.

The Final Round Competition was held in Moloney Hall from 7:00- 8:00 p.m. The Final Round started with opening remarks by Dean Sherwood and Provost Hartman. Next, the five finalist teams pitched their ideas on stage and demonstrated their prototype to the panel of final judges.

Dean Sherwood speaking to the audience before the final round competition.

The judges during the final round were:

– Rajia Abdelaziz, ’16, Francis College of Engineering and Kennedy College of Sciences, CEO, invisaWear

– Chad LaFrance, ’92 Francis College of Engineering, Director of Texas Instruments

– Chris McKenna, ’89 Francis College of Engineering

– Mark Saab, ’81, ’13 (H) Francis College of Engineering, Founding Trustee, Saab Family Foundation

– Bhupen Shah, ’92, Francis College of Engineering

After all the presentations the final judges deliberated and selected the winners for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes. Additionally, the judges chose an honorable mention award.

Team Proprioception and Athletic Performance accepting their 1st place award.

The final awards were:

1st Place, $2,500, as well as automatically advancing to the DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge Preliminary Pitch-off in April 2022 – Proprioception and Athletic Performance – Mark Elaman and Steven Evangelos

2nd Place, $1,500, as well as People’s Choice Award, $500 – Tendren – Ethan Block, Amie Russell, and Victoria Williams

3rd place, $1,000, – PenGRED – Danielle Bucci, Ryan Butler, Gabiela Karnesky, and Grace Murray

Honorable Mention – Prosthetic Hand for Steering, Tze-min Lin

Thank you to everyone who attended and supported this event! Watch a video featuring the highlights of the competition here.

Interested in pitching an idea and getting funding? Applications for the 10th Annual $50,000 Idea Challenge are open now – apply today!

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2021 DCU Manning Innovation Contest Finals

On December 1, 2021, DifferenceMaker held the 9th Annual DCU/Manning School of Business Innovation Contest from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. at University Crossing, Moloney Hall. To kick off the event, Dean of the Manning School of Business and Event Emcee of the evening, Sandra Richtermeyer provided welcoming remarks.

After the remarks, the finalist judges were introduced. The judges for the evening were:

– Dave Carter, Director of Information Systems Infrastructure, DCU

– Sandesh Parulekar, Director of Information Systems Development, DCU

– Barbara Russell, Co-Founder/Managing Partner, Cap W Global Advisory/Investment Banking Group

– Mike Zuccaro, ‘83, Vice President, Financial Planning and Analysis, Akebia Therapeutics

Judges, from left to right, Dave Carter, Barbara Russell, Sandesh Parulekar, Mike Zuccaro.

Once all judges were introduced, the event began! Six student finalist teams were given 5-7 minutes to present their ideas, along with 5 minutes of Q&A from the judges. The teams that presented were:

– Chain Bank, team members Aymaan Shaikh and Hirschfield Ssozi

– Credit Champs (Hands Free ATM), team members Benjamin McClure and Nick Paolilio

– Labor as a Service, team leader Kevin Zhang

– Simplicity Bank, team members Yeaharne Hout, Saema Nazar, Monica Nguyen, and Heer Patel

StockToMe, team members Matt Allen, Matthew Kinash, and Jackson Sterrett

Trade Bozz, team members Toney Benny and Sabastian Pascal

Each semi-finalist team member won $100. Each team’s idea ranged from topics such as teaching children and young adults on financial literacy, blockchain technology, stock & trading opinions, and more. After each pitch, judges asked questions to help them further understand the ideas. The judges ranked each team based on how clearly they explained their executive summary, mission statement, business goals, market analysis, how they would utilize funding, and project timeline.

Following the presentations, judges went to a separate area to deliberate the final winner. During this time, all attendees got food, networked with each other, took photos, and further discussed the inspiration and details of the ideas that were pitched.

Winning team StockToMe presenting their stock opinion app, where a beta version was recently launched.

Around 8:15 pm, the judges returned to announce the final award. Congratulations to team StockToMe for winning the final prize of $500 per team member! They also automatically advance to the DifferenceMaker Preliminary Pitch-off this spring.

In total, DCU awarded $2,900 to student teams at this event. Watch a recap of this event here.

Interested in pitching an idea and getting funding? Applications for the 10th Annual $50,000 Idea Challenge are open now – apply today!

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