DifferenceMaker Workshop 1: Identifying Problems

On Wednesday, February 22th, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute held the semester’s first workshop session at the Saab Center, Perry Atrium! The focus for Workshop 1 was on identifying problems. Over 20 students attended to learn and network with students interested in pursuing their ideas for the $50,000 Idea Challenge.

Students and Rist DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellows networking and eating dinner at the semester’s first workshop session!

To start off, Dave Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, welcomed everyone. He provided a brief overview of the DifferenceMaker program, what to expect from the workshop series, and the agenda for the evening. He introduced the Faculty Fellows guest presenters: Professor Tom Wilkes, Kennedy College of Sciences, and Professor Kevin Willett, Manning School of Business.

First, Professor Willett explains to students what makes a “good problem.” Next, Professor Wilkes showcased examples of problems presented by past DifferenceMaker student teams. Videos of their pitches were provided to give students clarity on how to move forward. For example, a team that was highlighted was the CAT Mat pitch, presented by students Katie Muise and Michelle Mailloux, both from the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences. The problem they identified is the inability of patients to practice relearning how to walk after experiencing a medical issue. Going outside to do so isn’t the safest option, while staying indoors does not fully prepare patients to go back to the real-world.

This is an example of a team who worked diligently during their time at DifferenceMaker, as they ended up winning first place against teams such as Harvard and MIT during the Beantown Throwdown competition in 2019!

Professor Willett presenting to students on the key points to highlight while presenting the problem being addressed.

Then, a brainstorming activity took place where students were able to discuss the problems, they are looking to solve with each other.

Students networking with each other and solidifying the problems they are working to solve!

Afterwards, students presented their ideas to everyone. The problems ranged from a variety of topics, such as stem literacy, crypto currency, lack of information and transparency on fair rent, sustainability in 3D printing, and more.

This allowed students to network with one another and gain new connections for potential teammates. Each person/group utilized the “DifferenceMaker Problem Toolkit Worksheet” to help with narrowing the specifics of the issue at hand.

Thank you to everyone that joined DifferenceMaker for Workshop 1! To revisit the topics discussed, watch our video, Spring Workshop Series 1: Identifying Problems.

Questions? Email us at DifferenceMaker@uml.edu.

Share Button