2023 11th Annual DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge

On Thursday, April 13, 2022, the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute hosted the 11th Annual $50,000 DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge at University Crossing, Moloney Hall, Room 260 from 5- 8:30 p.m.

The event began with a networking reception and poster viewing. The ten finalist student teams showcased their projects to students, faculty, and alumni. Attendees were given “DifferenceMaker dollars” to distribute to their favorite teams for “Fan Favorite”. The teams competing for Fan Favorite were teams who participated in the Preliminary Pitch-Off.

Around, at 6 p.m., David Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute Faculty Fellow provided welcoming remarks to kick-off the event. He then introduced Steven Tello, Vice Provost for Graduate & Professional Studies, who also spoke.

Afterward, from 6:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., the student teams pitched off! Each team got five minutes to pitch, followed by a five-minute Q&A session by the judges.

Once all teams pitched, the judges went into a separate room to deliberate. While they did so, there was more networking and poster viewing.

Team Crypto Pigeon presenting their idea to the judges and audience.
Team Solar Sails posing for a group picture at the 2023 11th Annual DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge.

Thank you to the panel of judges:

Lorna Boucher, ’86, Manning School of Business; Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Instinet

Amy Hoey, ’88, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences; President, Tufts Medicine Lowell General Hospital

Jacquie Moloney, ’75, ’92, College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Education; Chancellor Emerita and Professor, UMass Lowell

Brian Rist ’77, ’23, ’23 (H), Manning School of Business; Chairman, Rist Family Foundation

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

Bhupen Shah, ’92, Francis College of Engineering, Retired Vice President of Engineering, Acacia Communication

At 8:30 p.m., the final awards ceremony and closing remarks took place. David Vatalaro, Faculty Fellow, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute welcomed everyone back. He then introduced Brian Rist, ‘77, Manning School of Business, Chairman, Rist Family Foundation. Mr. Rist announced the winners.

Congratulations to all teams!

The Campus Wide DifferenceMaker, $6,000– Catnap: A team of Biomedical Engineering Students: Fritznere BrutusMichael CiampoKhadija El Hadad, Majd El hachem, Matheus Fonseca, and Haris Kum. (A device that senses when toddlers are about to have a nocturnal asthma attack using their oxygen saturation and alerts their parents so they can properly administer the child’s medication.)

Significant Social Impact Award, $4,000– Innovation: Julie Sage, Physics, and Andrew Theobald, Computer Science (Kits that teach about inventions from all over the world throughout history, and they teach about how the inventions work, STEM concepts, and the inventors themselves.)
Contribution to a Healthier Lifestyle Award, $4,000– NeuroLyze: Jeremy Hilton, Mechanical Engineering, Anthony Lawlor, Computer Science, and Elliot Johnson, Applied Biomedical Sciences. (Working to make sports a safer environment through the monitoring and analysis of potential concussions.)

Innovative Technology Solutions Award, $4,000- Rent Scoop: Anthony Terravecchia, and Nuno Mestre. (A crowdsourcing and open rental data platform. Removing the obscurity around the cost of rent, utilities, and the condition of leases allows for a fairer market for tenants and landlords.)

Commitment to a Sustainable Environment Award, $4,000– Solar Sails: Six Mechanical Engineering Students: Quin Liang, Samuel Maracallo, Michael McCarthy, Aidan McKeon, Brian Nguyen, Mohammed Saif ur Rahman, Fuming Zhang, Computer Science, and Arun Kandasamy, Computer Science & business minor. (A drone that is powered using solar energy to be used by government agencies and has a theoretical infinite flight endurance.)

First Product to Market Award, $3,000– Smart Azan: Haad Naeem, Biology. (An app created to help Muslims listen to the call of prayer on their Google Home speakers or phone. They can also play the recitation of the Holy Quran as well.)

Honorable Mention Award, $2,000– Quick Release Window Bars: Deigo King, Business Administration. (A patented mechanical solution for mitigating fire hazards commonly found in homes in some developing countries.)

Honorable Mention Award, $2,000– CryptoPigeon: A team of Computer Science Students: Akshay KolliAnveshak Rathore, and Shivam Patel. ( Allows for a dependable messaging app that is not controlled by any one single entity, corporate or government, providing a messaging app that is free from third-party surveillance.)

Honorable Mention Award, $2,000– Shared Vision/Vision House: Sammy Santana, Architectural Studies and Writing. (An educational nonprofit that will bridge the gap between film industry professionals and individuals interested in film careers.)

Fan Favorite Award, $1000– Votecational: Dawson Durgin, Mechanical Engineering

Thank you to everyone who attended the 2023 11th Annual DifferenceMaker $50K Idea Challenge Finals!