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.
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.
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.
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.