2022 Fall DifferenceMaker Kick-Off and College Competition Announcement

On Wednesday, September 21, 2022, from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m., DifferenceMaker held its 2022 Season Kick-off and College Competition Announcement!

Holly Lalos, Director, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute, kicked off the event and thanked all the DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellows. Next, Provost Joe Hartman shared inspiring words to the students about of the importance of making a positive impact in the world by developing creative ideas. Then, Mina Lam and Nick Jarek were introduced – two Rist DifferenceMaker CO-OPs. They presented an overview of the program and spoke about the opportunities DifferenceMaker offers, such as team building, being paired with mentors, learning critical skills through events and workshops, and being able to connect with diverse students from various backgrounds. Past DifferenceMaker student team examples were also presented: Hoppers, Minds with Purpose, and Tendren.

Provost Joe Hartman speaking with the students about the impacts of the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute. (Photo credit: Ed Brennen)

Lastly, DifferenceMaker benefits and impact were presented, such as $7 million has been raised by past winning teams and 40 companies have been formed.

Mina Lam and Nick Jarek, Rist DifferenceMaker CO-OP students, presenting an introduction to DifferenceMaker(Photo credit: Ed Brennen)

After Nick and Mina spoke, guest speakers were introduced to discuss details regarding the three DifferenceMaker College Competitions.

Thomaz De Moura, Innovations Director, Digital Federal Credit Union, announced details regarding the DCU/Manning Innovation Contest. This contest encourages innovations in the banking industry, like ideas around financial literacy and mobile technology solutions. The top prize is $500 in cash per team member and each finalist student is awarded $100 in cash. Registration for the DCU/Manning Innovation Contest opened on September 21, 2022, and will close on October 21, 2022, at 5 p.m.

Carter Keough and Kelilah Wolkowicz, Professors, Francis College of Engineering and DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellows announced details regarding the Francis College of Engineering Prototyping Competition. This competition encourages students to work with a team to turn an idea into a product with any resources available – $100 is reimbursable for prototyping materials. Participants must be students at UMass Lowell and at least one member of the team must be from the Francis College of Engineering. Additionally, the team should have a faculty advisor from the Francis College of Engineering. The application registration opened on September 21, 2022, and will close on October 21, 2022, at 5 p.m.

Wael Kamal, Assistant Dean, Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (FAHSS), announced a new contest  – The FAHSS Creative Community Competition sponsored by Glenn Morgan ’86 FAHSS. The goal of this competition is to inspire students to create products and services that make a change in their communities. Registration opened on September 15, 2022 with a rolling application deadline, and there are two upcoming workshops to help students define their ideas and prepare for the competition.

Ruairi O’Mahony, Executive Director of the Rist Institute for Sustainability, and Craig Thomas, Assistant Director, spoke about the S.E.E.D. Grant Program. This program provides students funding to pursue projects around campus that focus on sustainability and improving the campus atmosphere. Students can apply for grants up to $10,000 to put their campus sustainability projects into action.

Ruairi O’Mahony, Executive Director of the Rist Institute for Sustainability, sharing statistics and information about the S.E.E.D. program that students could apply for their environmental-focused ideas. (Photo credit: Ed Brennen)

Next was a DifferenceMaker song performance by Mina Lam. She developed this song about DifferenceMaker using the instrumentals from Lin Manuel Miranda’s song, “My Shot” from Hamilton, the Broadway musical. This performance excited the room for the next part of the event – the hands-on activity.

Concluding the announcements, David Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, presented the details for a fun, interactive, ideation activity.

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Students introducing themselves and discussing ideas they could focus on for the ideation activity. (Photo credit: Ed Brennen)

Each table was asked to write down problems each individual was interested in solving. From there, each team discussed all individual problems and chose one to focus on for the remainder of the activity. Each person at the table then wrote down potential solutions to the proposed problem. Next, each team voted on which solution was the best or most creative. After that, the team members crafted models of their solutions with Legos. Each table had the opportunity to present their problem, solution, and Lego structure with the audience.

Students sharing ideas to present for the ideation activity. (Photo credit: Ed Brennen)

Students and Mentors brainstorming ideas to work on during the ideation activity. (Photo credit: Ed Brennen)

Holly Lalos closed out the event. Thank you to all students, faculty, alumni, and supporters who attended!

Learn more about the college competitions and apply here.

Applications opened Sept. 21.

Applications close Oct. 21 at 5 p.m.

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