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.  

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