2024 12th Annual DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge

On Wednesday, April 10, 2024, the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute hosted the 12th 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 6 p.m. Neil Shortland, Professor and Faculty Fellow of the College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, provided welcoming remarks to kick-off the event. He then introduced Chancellor Julie Chen, 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 with the judges.

Once all teams pitched, the judges went into a separate room to deliberate. Meanwhile, the audience did more networking and poster viewing.

Team ZipperBuddy showing a demonstration of their idea to the judges and audience.
Brian Rist and Holly Lalos posing for a photo with teams BeanHub, RAVI, Socket Tech Solutions and Sober Solutions for Honorable Mention.

Thank you to the panel of judges:

Lorna Boucher, ’86, Manning School of Business; Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Imperative Execution
Amy Hoey, ’88, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences; President, Lowell General Hospital
Brian Rist ’77, ’22, ’22 (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, Vice President of Engineering, Acacia Communications, Inc

At 8:30 p.m., the final awards ceremony and closing remarks took place. Holly Lalos, Director, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute welcomed everyone back. She 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 Award (sponsored by Kim and Brian Rist ’77, Manning School of Business), $6,000– SparkCell Technologies: Joshua Landis. (A company solving the issue of affordable and scalable elemental detection.)

Significant Social Impact Award (sponsored by Joy Tong Women in Business), $4,000– Zenyai: SaicharanMudiraj Banda, ArunKumar CoimbatoreDada, Julia Marino, Oluwatomisin Oladunjoye, Michael Reppucci, Palak Sharma. (AI sound software that guides users to emotional well-being through personalized AI coaching.)

Contribution to a Healthier Lifestyle Award (sponsored by Enterprise Bank), $4,000– ZipperBuddy: Sandi DeRuntz and Valerie Heath. (An adaptation solution to clothing in place of a zipper for people facing dressing challenges due to mobility constraints.)

Sutherland Innovative Technology Solution Award (sponsored by Andrew Sutherland ’94, Manning School of Business), $4,000– EV Guardian: Abdullah Jasim and Amanda Mello. (Advanced safety in EV vehicles, helping to prevent EV fires.)

Commitment to a Sustainable Environment Award (sponsored by Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy), $4,000– Next Gen Testing: Levon Markosyan. (An apparatus designed to enhance the concentration of impurities in test media.)

Jack M. Wilson First Product to Market Award, $4,000– EduX: Ahmed Ibreljic, Daniel Maienza, Joseph Nguyen. (A platform for high school and college students to optimize their schedules to make sure they are graduating on time.)

Honorable Mention Award, $2,000– BeanHub: Aiman Baig, Anirban Dasgupta, Ibrahim Haroon, Emir Kaplan, Mohammad Khan and Shafaat Osmani. (AI-powered fully automated order-taking software for coffee chains.)

Honorable Mention Award, $2,000– RAVI: Jacob Breen, Daniel Kusmaul, Trevor Landurand, Ian McLeod, Alexander Nunes. (A seeing-eye robot for the visually impaired with the intent of making a more affordable and convenient alternative to seeing eye dogs.)

Honorable Mention Award, $2,000– SocketTech Solutions: Hayden Dolan, Tyler Fanuele, Coleman Nee, Caleb Oakley, Sarah O’Meara, James O’Sullivan, Nishanth Potturu, Devansh Sethia, Justin Tarnowski. (Creating and maintaining open source software and hardware, focusing on multi-device infrastructure.)

Honorable Mention Award, $2,000– Sober Solutions: John Carozza and Zachary Richard. (An app that will assist drug users in recovery, avoiding relapses, and beating addiction.)

Fan Favorite Award, $1,000– TurtleTours: Trevor Landurand, Myron Chee, Vulindsky Fanfan, Michael Fisher and Nathan Uhunsere. (An AI tour guide robot.)

Thank you to everyone who attended the 2024 12th Annual DifferenceMaker $50K Idea Challenge Finals!

To watch the $50,000 Idea Challenge, click here!

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