Workshop 4: Delivering Your Rocket Pitch

On March 14, 2024, from 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute held its fourth workshop series session at the Saab Center, Perry Atrium, North Campus. The guest presenters for the evening were Professor Cathy Levey, College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and Professor Kevin Willett, Manning School of Business.

Semi-finalist teams attended this session to learn about delivering their rocket pitch for the Preliminary Pitch-off on April 3rd. At this event, teams have a chance to advance to the $50,000 Idea Challenge Final event. The semi-finalist teams who will be pitching at the Preliminary Pitch-off are: 

Accessible Assistive Devices





EV Guardian





IntoGreat Pocket Trainer 

Irradiant Wind

Mirrored Image



RAVI (Robot for the Visually Impaired)



Shay G Productions (TBD)

Sober Solutions

Socket Tech Solutions


SparkCell Technologies

Thought Tracks 





To start off the workshop, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, David Vatalaro provided a recap of the past workshop sessions, which addressed topics such as Identifying Problems, Assessing Opportunities and Value Proposition, and Developing Business Models.  

Then, Professor Cathy Levey opened and discussed the content that should be addressed during the DifferenceMaker pitch presentation: the problem, opportunity, solution, needed resources, as well as being prepared for judge questions. She also spoke about additional considerations to look out for during and after the rocket pitch session. 

She then showed videos of past teams, including III Point Stick and BioBubbler pitching their idea so students would have an example to follow after learning about what makes an effective pitch. This allowed students to compare what they just learned to an actual pitch presentation that occurred. Students can watch and learn from other past pitches that are on the DifferenceMaker YouTube page, which can be utilized while practicing for the Preliminary Pitch-off.

Professor Levey speaking about developing a pitch.

To conclude the night, Professor Kevin Willet spoke about the challenge of presenting an idea. To tackle this, he discussed being confident and sharing your topic with lots of energy and passion. He also talked about having relevant pictures on each slide, as well as limiting the words per slide, which helps keep the audience engaged.

Professor Willet showing an example of a pitch from a past team.

Thank you to everyone who attended Workshop 4! Good luck to all teams pitching at the Preliminary Pitch-off on April 3 at the O’Leary Library, Mezzanine. Register for the Preliminary Pitch-off here.

Additionally, the 2024 12th Annual DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge will take place on April 10 at University Crossing, Moloney Hall, Room 260. Register for the $50,000 Idea Challenge here.

To revisit the topics discussed, watch our video, Spring Workshop Series 4: Delivering Your Rocket Pitch.

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Workshop 3: Developing Business Models and Solutions

On Wednesday, February 28, 2024, DifferenceMaker held Workshop 3: Developing Business Models and Solutions at the Saab Center, Perry Atrium, from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. This session helped student teams who applied to the $50,000 Idea Challenge to focus on their idea’s solutions by piecing together their business models.

Students attending the workshop to network and work towards growing their ideas.

To kick off the night, Dave Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute welcomed everyone. Additionally, he provided students with information on submitting their Idea Plan, announcements for semi-finalists, and reminders to schedule a meeting for one-on-one coaching with mentors. He then introduced the guest presenter for the night, who was Professor Dr. Carter Keough, Francis College of Engineering.

Professor Keough started off by providing examples of companies such as Gillette, FedEx, Zipcar, and Pill Pack. Each are successful companies in their own way, all from various industries in today’s market. For example, Gillette makes their profit by selling cheap razor handles that go along with expensive, high quality razor blades that attach to them. This allows customers to stay loyal to their brand, as they need to continually purchase specific Gillette blades that fit the handle that they already own. 

Furthermore, Professor Keough went in depth and explained the multiple components needed to have a successful business model. She discussed factors such as the new venture timeline and each component of the business model canvas, such as customer segments, value proposition, revenue streams, and more. This allowed students to think deeply about details that will drive their ideas to success in the real world. 

After the detailed lesson, the guest presenter encouraged students to work on their business models and solutions. They utilized business model canvas poster boards and solution worksheets to assist with this process. A business model canvas glossary was also provided to each student to help refresh their memory on the information that was provided.

Students working with each other on their business models correlated with their ideas and solutions.

Thank you to everyone that joined DifferenceMaker for Workshop 3! If you are interested in learning how to further develop your project for the $50,000 Idea Challenge, recruiting new team members, and gaining new skills, please register for the final workshop this semester. Dinner will be served! 

To revisit the topics discussed, watch our video, Spring Workshop Series 3: Developing Business Models and Solutions.

Workshop 4 – Delivering Your Rocket Pitch, March 14

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