2023 DCU / Manning Innovation Contest

On Thursday, December 7, 2023, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute held the 11th Annual DCU/Manning School of Business Innovation Contest from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the Saab Center on North Campus. To kick off the event, Rist family Endowed Dean, Manning School of Business and Event Emcee of the evening, Bertie Greer provided opening remarks.

After the remarks, the finalist judges were introduced. The judges for the evening were:

  • Tim Dowd ‘08, FAHSS
    • Campaign Management Specialist, DCU
  • Jonathan Geanakos ‘84, Manning School of Business
    • Member, Board of Directors, Sculptor Diversified Real Estate Investment Trust
    • Member, Board of Directors, Holland Partner Group
  • Michelle LaPointe
    • Digital Banking Product Manager, DCU
  • Greg Sydney ‘81, Francis College of Engineering

Once all judges were introduced, the event began! Four student finalist teams were given ten minutes to present their ideas, along with five minutes of Q&A from the judges. The teams that presented were:

  • Bean Hub – An AI-functioning customer service chat box to satisfy customer’s banking needs – Team members Aiman Baig, Ibrahim Haroon, Emir Kaplan, Mohammed Khan, Shafaat Osmani, and Saim Siddiqui
  • Card Tracker – An app that is integrated with online banking to freeze and track lost debit and credit cards – Team members Dulce Galan, Matthew Hayes, Colin McKallagat, and Scott Redgate
  • Consumer-I – A website that guides consumers to purchase from ethical companies – team members Andre Bachman, Liam Buckley, Valerie Heath, and Michael Nasr
  • FinVenture – An online personal financial management app where users can connect bank and investment accounts to track day-to-day purchases, and investments, and compare interest rates for loans – team members Tanish Araveti and Arnav FNU

Each semi-finalist team member won $100 in prizes. After each pitch, judges asked questions to help them further understand the ideas. The judges ranked each team based on how clearly they explained their executive summary, mission statement, business goals, market analysis, how they would utilize funding, and project timeline.

Team CardTracker pitching their business idea to a panel of judges.

Following the presentations, judges went to a separate area to deliberate the final winner. During this time, all attendees got food, networked with each other, and further discussed the inspiration and details of the ideas that were pitched.

Around 7:45 pm, the judges returned to announce the final award. Congratulations to team Bean Hub for winning the final prize of $500 per team member! They also automatically advance to the DifferenceMaker Preliminary Pitch-off this spring.

Team BeanHub accepting their 1st place award and title of 11th Annual DifferenceMaker DCU / Manning School of Business Innovation Contest Winners.

Interested in pitching an idea and getting funding?

Applications for the 12th Annual $50,000 Idea Challenge are open now – apply today!

View a video of the event.

2023 DifferenceMaker High School Idea Challenge 

On November 29th, the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute held the 5th Annual High School Idea Challenge from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the UMass Lowell Mark & Elisia Saab Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center. 

To kick off the event, Provost Joseph Hartman gave opening remarks. He then passed the stage to Gina Mustoe, teacher at Westford Academy, who shared inspiring words to the students about the importance of making a positive impact in the world by developing creative ideas. Next, Sara Lewis, Massachusetts DECA State Officer, gave a few words of inspiration regarding her journey and the High School Idea Challenge Eexperience to the student teams. 

Next, Holly Lalos, Director, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute, UMass Lowell, presented an overview of DifferenceMaker, sharing the benefits and opportunities the program offers.  

The judges were Kim Carman, Teacher, Upper Cape Tech, Retired, Deborah Finch, Professor, Manning School of Business, UMass Lowell, Cintya Gajardo-Véjar, Professor, Manning School of Business, UMass Lowell, and Stephanie Guyotte, Associate Director, Haverhill Innovation Hub, UMass Lowell. 

After the judge introductions, the event began. The audience was excited to hear the creative ideas from each high school student team. The schools competing include Millis High School, Woburn High School, Quincy High School, Groton Dunstable Regional, King Philip Regional High School (Wrentham, MA), Westford Academy, Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational High School, Nashoba Regional High School, and Chelmsford High School. Each pitching team had 5 minutes to present, followed by 5 minutes of judge Q&A. The judges deliberated after the presentations! 

1st place winning team Schwink with their advisor Gina Mustoe from Westford Academy after their pitch presentation.

Congratulations to all teams that presented and won awards! 

1st place, $500 – Devesh Khamitkar, Adam Wedlake, Griffin Lewis, and Stephen Lewis, Westford Academy – “Schwink” – a powder-based product that serves as a simple way for people to ensure they are consuming the proper daily vegetable amount.  

2nd place, $300 – Owen Keenan, Noah Sheldon, Fabyana Maitre, and Michael Nicolas, Woburn High School – “Inclusive Eats” – a partnership with food pantries to ensure that they have more culturally diverse food options. 

3rd place, $200 – Bridget Swezy, Ashleigh Guenette, Luke Anderson, and Steve Quartrone, King Philip Regional High School – “ProCaf” – a drink that includes both caffeine and protein for convenience and delicious taste.  

After the presentations, lunch was served, and round-table mentor meetings took place with DifferenceMaker teams and Co-op students and the high school teams. Each high school team had a 15-minute mentor session with the DifferenceMaker college students, in which they got the opportunity to speak with every mentor. 

A group picture of the teams, judges, and advisors who were a part of the 2023 5th Annual DifferenceMaker High School Idea Challenge.

Thank you to the past DifferenceMaker teams who volunteered their time to support and inspire the high school students: 

Vital Sensing Patch, Wynn Wiggins 
Rent Scoop, Nuno Mestre 
Rist DifferenceMaker Co-op, Madeline Gear 
Rist DifferenceMaker Co-op, Cameron Famiglietti 

Thank you to DECA Inc. and Donna McFadden, Massachusetts DECA State Advisor, for sponsoring the event prizes. Another thanks to all partnership schools and teachers involved in this collaboration. 

View a video of the event.