DifferenceMaker 2023 $50,000 Idea Challenge Kick-Off and Idea Hack

On January 24th, the Rist DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge Kick-Off and Idea Hack was held in the Saab Center, Perry Atrium from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Dave Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, opened the event by welcoming everyone and providing introductions.

Then, Provost Joe Hartman spoke about the importance of solving problems and having a social impact. Then, he encouraged all attendees to apply to the $50,000 Idea Challenge.

Next, Rist DifferenceMaker Co-Op students Mina Lam and Nick Jarek, introduced the DifferenceMaker program. They explained details for the 11th Annual $50,000 Idea Challenge taking place this semester. The 2023 DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge application is due February 13 at 5 p.m.!

After the introductory presentation, the real-life DifferenceMaker Panel and Q&A session took place! The panel consisted of members from past DifferenceMaker teams who answered questions from Nick Jarek and shared their entrepreneurial experiences with DifferenceMaker. First up was Visal Veng of Green Fertilizer, who won the 2021 Contribution to a Sustainable Environment prize, a $4,000 award. The Q&A was then followed up with Ariel Shramko and Eliot Pirone of Terminus, who won the 2021 Honorable Mention, a $2,000 award, answered questions and provided advice to the student audience.

Nick Jarek asked the panelists a series of questions which gave the student audience a better understanding of the requirements to be in the DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge and more information about their startups. The audience then got the chance to ask the panelists valuable questions.

Real-life DifferenceMaker Panel members from left to right; Ariel Shramko, Eliot Pirone, and Visal Veng. Rist Rist DifferenceMaker CO-OP, Nick Jarek, far right, being introduced by Dave Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow.

Following the Q&A, David Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, led the students in the Idea Hack Activity to get students brainstorming potential ideas they could apply to the challenge. Students split into groups sat at two tables.

The students started to brainstorm problems and then started to discuss possible solutions. They were able to collaborate with each other and with the DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellows. Towards the end of this activity, students shared their problems and solutions with everyone.
A group of students networking and discussing the problem of ensuring clean tanks for consumable water.
A student presenting their group’s idea of solving the problem of plastic waste.

To close off this engaging event, Mina Lam spoke about the next steps in getting involved in DifferenceMaker and participating in the $50,000 Idea Challenge. The $50,000 Idea Challenge application is due by February 13 at 5 p.m.