Press Release – 2014 DifferenceMaker™ Kick-off Events


DifferenceMaker held its two spring kick-off events from 6-7:30pm on Monday, January 27th, in the Saab, ETIC Atrium on North Campus and on Tuesday, January 28th, in the O’Leary Library Mezzanine on South Campus. Over 30 students attended each event to meet real-life DifferenceMaker students, be introduced to DifferenceMaker faculty and staff, and to learn more about the program, applying to it and the Idea Challenge which is taking place this spring on April 15th.

IDEA_SOUT_KICKOFFSteven Tello, Associate Vice Chancellor of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, began each kick-off by introducing the program. Professor Deb Finch from the Manning School of Business and Professor John Brown from the Graduate School of Education then presented the upcoming Idea Challenge at the north and south kick-off events, respectively. Holly Butler, Program Manager then interviewed multiple real-life DifferenceMaker students that went through the process last year and won. At the north campus kick-off event these students included, Jonathan DeAlderete and Erin Keaney from NONSPEC and Santiago Paredes and Rohit Krishnan from HIVE. At the south campus kick-off event these students included Kevin Doherty from @That, Vanessa Colomba from Bright Future Generation, and Andrew Webb from Grab a Bite. These real-life DifferenceMaker students were asked a series of questions regarding their projects, their process through DifferenceMaker, and their success at the 2013 Idea Challenge.  This panel engaged the student audience as they asked additional questions and spoke to the various teams.


The events both ended with an engaging team building exercise where students were able to network with their peers from various majors. They were then asked to share their ideas with everyone and won a prize for doing so.


For more information regarding the DifferenceMaker program, please visit or email


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Press Release – FAHSS and DCU Innovation events!

On Wednesday, December 4th from 4-9pm, the UMass Lowell DifferenceMaker program co-sponsored two exciting pitch contests back-to-back: The College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Creative Venture Competition and the Digital Federal Credit Union Innovation Contest.


The night started on South Campus at the Creative Venture Competition where FAHSS undergraduate students from four teams pitched their creative ideas for a viable product, service or program capable of delivering a tangible social benefit or launching a new business venture. These teams included @THAT, Band Together, Dream Share and Playright. Each of these finalist teams received $250 for their achievement. In the end, Ethan May, a senior in Graphic Design won first place consisting of a $2500 award for his idea called Dream Share. Dream Share is a social networking website that allows users to share, discuss and explore their dreams in an innovative way.  The judges for this event included UMass Lowell alumni Glenn Morgan, partner, Skyworld Inc., and Nickolas Pappas, manger, Advance Polymer Inc.. along with Skyworld Inc. partner, Michael Ratner.

At 6pm, the DCU Innovation Contest kicked-off at the M2D2 Innovation Hub.  Six student teams pitched cutting-edge banking and financial concepts which could drive future success in the banking industry. These teams included Electronic Register, Auto Credit, For When it Matters, DCU Money Management: Receipt Tracking, Complexity. Simplicity. Convenience., and Financial Analytics Software.  Each team member received $100 for making it into the finals.  In the end, Auto Credit won first place and was awarded $1000. Auto Credit is a banking credit card concept that would link one’s personal checking account to a credit limit equal to the account balance. The differentiator for this concept is its emphasis on eliminating overdraft fees and building customer credit history. This team consisted of Alexander Martinez-Forte, a freshman majoring in business, economics, and mathematics, and Greg Bohenko, a senior majoring in business with concentrations in both finance and management.


There was a twist in the DCU event when two second place winners were also chosen. These two teams had similar ideas, so the hope is that they will utilize their $250 award and combine ideas to develop an even better concept and prototype. These teams included Electronic Register (Joshua Carter and Matthew Gleason), and DCU Money Management: Receipt Tracking (Domenic Tutela, Joseph Polcari, and Michael Zangri). The judges for this event included UMass Lowell alumni James Regan, President & CEO, DCU;  Dr.Kathryn Carter, Dean, Manning School of Business; Dr. Steven Tello, Associate Vice Chancellor, and David Araujo, Vice President, Information Systems, DCU.

The winners of each event are automatically qualified for the DifferenceMaker $25K Idea Challenge which will be held on campus in April 2014. For more information regarding the DifferenceMaker program please visit or email .


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DifferenceMaker WordPress October Innovation & Entrepreneurship Month Kickoff

Hello UMass Lowell Students!

Today is October 1st, the beginning of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship month at UMass Lowell and our first WordPress post. We here at DifferenceMaker are hosting two events over the next two days; these are information seminars to let students know what DifferenceMaker is doing and where we will be over the course of the semester. It is also an opportunity to meet other students interested in starting a team to make a Difference, so don’t miss out. We will have information on getting involved and what events we are hosting along with celebrating the beginning of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Month!

DifferenceMaker Season Kick-off

Wednesday, October 2
5-6:30 p.m., Atrium, Saab ETIC, North Campus

Thursday, October 3
5-6:30 p.m., Mezzanine, O’Leary, South Campus

  • Come learn more about DifferenceMaker
  • Eat and greet! (food and drinks will be provided) Meet other students whose ideas are making a difference
  • Learn about several funding and team-building opportunities
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A Year In Review

Here is our summary of DifferenceMaker’s first proper academic year, taken from the DifferenceMaker Annual Report:



These orientation sessions were a collaborative effort between UMass Lowell’s office of Orientation, Student Activities and Leadership, and Residence Life in order to introduce all incoming freshmen to the DifferenceMaker Program, as well as engage them in creative problem-solving within the University, community, region, and world.



A series of in-class discussions in collaboration with the Manning School of Business, The Francis College of Engineering, The College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, and The College of Health Sciences in order to introduce the DifferenceMaker Program to students of all disciplines and to inspire them to explore their passions through creative problem solving.



A partnership was formed between the DifferenceMaker Program and the Division of Student Affairs in order to provide freshman with the opportunity to reside in a dorm with an entrepreneurial atmosphere consisting of creative problem solving and innovation. The LLC aims to expose students to social problems in the University, the community, and the world.  In addition, it provides students with critical thinking exercises to help them find solutions to various problems.




DMLEGOThis Lego activity was a collaboration effort between the DifferenceMaker Program and The Manning School of Business to acquaint students with the ideation development process and problem solving method, as well as helping them strengthen their ability to work in a team.



This activity was a collaboration effort between the DifferenceMaker Program and The Francis College of Engineering to introduce freshman engineering majors to the DifferenceMaker Program, innovation, and entrepreneurship. In this introductory activity, the students’ innovative ideas were explored and presented in a format which would enable their projects to be candidates for both the DifferenceMaker Program Idea Challenge and Campus Catalyst program.



The Honors Program was a collaborative effort between the DifferenceMaker Program and The Commonwealth Honors Program to create a three credit lecture/seminar course. This course features dynamic speakers from across all colleges, to introduce a wide variety of innovation and facilitate discussions on innovation and its social impact.



A series of events where students were introduced to DifferenceMaker Program concepts, shared their ideas and interests, explored innovative solutions for common problems, and connected with each other to form teams. These events included DifferenceMaker Convocation, Climate Change Teach-in, DifferenceMaker Team Building Dinner, and many more.



The DifferenceMaker Program worked closely with the Merrimack Valley Sandbox, a community business incubator, to encourage students to generate and develop their entrepreneurial ideas. The Sandbox Campus Catalyst program information was provided to students at all DifferenceMaker events. Students also received consultation when applying to the Campus Catalyst Program.  The DifferenceMaker application and Campus Catalyst application were similar in content so that unity between these programs would be maximized.



DSC_0251In order to market DifferenceMaker, many efforts were taken to raise awareness and provide updated information to faculty, staff, and students about the program’s activities across the University. These activities included program launch events, website, Facebook, Twitter, posters, postcards, presentations to classrooms, workshops, office hours, email blasts, and information tables.



Faculty Fellows were hired as an effort to involve all departments and majors in the DifferenceMaker Program. Seven faculty members (at least one from each department) were recruited to actively support and contribute to the development of the DifferenceMaker Program. Furthermore, the faculty helped in recruiting and mentoring the student teams that applied to the Idea Challenge.



The Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship recruited and sponsored four DifferenceMaker Enterprise Co-op students throughout the year.  These students were from various disciplines and worked together to assist in the implementation of DifferenceMaker activities.




DifferenceMaker Central was opened in May 2013.  This space is a dedicated entrepreneurial area with a vibrant start-up community atmosphere.  The space was made for all entrepreneurial teams to come together to work, brainstorm, and network. Student teams have access to flexible workstations, televisions, computers, mentors, and a dynamic meeting space to developtheir ideas and collaborate amongst their teammates and fellow students.



The DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge is an annual event held to engage UMass Lowell students in creative and innovative problem solving around major issues such as Climate Change, Access to Health Care, Support for the Arts, Cyber Security, and Disability Access that affect our region and our future.


We hope to compliment our successful endeavors so far with a successful future. To see what’s coming next, subscribe to our RSS feed and bookmark our blog!

You can also follow us on facebook and twitter:

Twitter: @Difference_UML


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The 2013 DifferenceMaker™ Idea Challenge

DifferenceMaker and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship hosted the first annual $25K Idea Challenge in Spring of 2013. The goal of this challenge was to engage UMass Lowell students in creative and innovative problem solving around major issues that affect our region and future; it is a competitive place to pitch your idea to make a difference. Real solutions to real problems were the focus, addressing issues that people in the real world face every day.  Interdisciplinary teams were encouraged in order to help students understand that different approaches to the same problem can yield more creative and effective solutions.

45 teams participated in the Idea Challenge, working hours on end identifying problems, evaluating possible courses of action, and developing solutions to these problems that are competitive in the real world. 19 teams went on to pitch at the preliminary judgement round, and ten teams went on to pitch


at the final Idea Challenge. Winning the idea challenge represented the ultimate success: getting funding for the project to lift off the ground and become successful. With the prizes, the winners were able to fund their project and continue their research, effectively enabling them to spearhead a start-up with the help of DifferenceMaker.

Out of six categories, there were ten winners of a total of $25,000:


Grand Prize: Campus-Wide DifferenceMaker

Developing Nation Prosthetic – $5,000


Low cost high functionality replacement limb with an acceptable amount of customization for children in other nations.

Katherine Cain
Jonathan De Alderete
Brendan Donoghue
Sean Gibson
Olivia Keane
Erin Keaney


Significant Social Impact

1st Place – $3,500

Healthy Habits

Inspire children to achieve healthier lifestyles by eating nutritious foods, exercising and being active to prevent sedentary lifestyles.

Jacqueline Bradley
Meghan Hathaway
Katerina Kafkas
Nicole Leblance
Haley Mayne
Michelle Racioppi

2nd Place – $1,500

Bright Future Generation

Non-Profit organization: Mental health services addressing the needs of Rwandan youth.

Vanessa Colomba
Steve DiPerna
Isaie Mihigo
Yousef Theeb


Sustainable Environment

1st Place – $3,500

Lowell Sprouts/Lets Grow Lowell


Uses school gardens as a way to educate middle school children about the importance of sustainable, organic agriculture.

Mary Beth Burwood
Sean Hicks
Christopher Horne

2nd Place – $1,500

Hybrid Power Tricycle

Assistive Tricycle for handicap kids that utilizes pedaling power and a motor together. It also has a full support system and wireless shutoff.

Anthony Capone
Derek Dempsey


Innovative Technology

1st Place – $3,500

Robotic Feeding Arm


Produces robotic arms to assist people where debilitating circumstances inhibit them from performing daily living activities.

Philip Colangelo


2nd Place – $1,500


School enrichment collaboration application. It provides modules for student note-taking, book trading, as well as discussion groups.

Avery DeCesare
Rohit Krishnan
Eric Marcoux
Tanjil Mustafa
Brian Tran


First to Market

1st Place – $3,500

Grab a Bite

Social Food Network that engages users and helps increase restaurants customer traffic through marketing, ease of use and convenience.

Aldo Beqiraj
Denis Lemos
Andrew MacRobert
Andrew Webb

2nd Place – $1,500



A produce that gives tactile/kinesthetic feedback for both correct spinal alignment and correct breathing mechanics to demand quality movement.

Ramez Antoun
Nick Bleil
Ryan Connor
Michael Tadros
Robert Roufail


Honorable Mention DifferenceMaker

U.R. Corp – $500

Recognizes the importance of small businesses and what they do for the economies of local and national marketplaces and helps them compete with larger companies by expanding their market reach.

Robert Fisher

The next Idea Challenge is being planned for 2014, with the hopes of being even more successful than 2013’s with more funding and more overall participation.

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DifferenceMaker™ Workshops

From February to April before this past Spring’s Idea Challenge, DifferenceMaker and our Faculty Fellows held five workshops to educate teams on how to properly conduct themselves not only through the Idea Challenge, but as an independent company promoting themselves to investors and management.

The first DifferenceMaker Workshop, Team Building, was held on February 6th, 2013. It focused on building team strength and strengthened the teams’ sense of power with diversity. Different walks of life, different schools of education, and different points of view of each member are all important to the overall quality of the team’s product. Also outlined is the need for a rich, comfortable intelligent environment where each team member trusts that everyone is there for the positive development of the team and the product. Students learned that this is the key to criticism being taken in a positive way that will promote team growth.

On February 19th, 2013 DifferenceMaker held its second Workshop, Identifying Problems and Opportunities. Here, students were shown how to focus on pitching solutions in a way that will pique the interest to people that have problems that need solving. Ways to become the best candidate for a solution were discussed, and a focus on keeping the demographic, personal team value and overall solution quality helped students form a way to give themselves a concrete problem to work with and find opportunities in places they would not have otherwise known to look.

Developing Solutions, the third DifferenceMaker workshop on March 1st, 2013, took the information students learned in the previous workshop to the next level. DifferenceMaker showed the students that solving the smaller parts of the problem and learning from solving those problems kept teams in flexible development, enabling them to dynamically work on the different issues their problem called for. Students were also taught that gaining trust through confident and consistent branding is one of the best ways to enable themselves to be the trusted, first-chosen problem solvers of any given problem.

The fourth Workshop hosted by DifferenceMaker was Identifying Resources, held on March 20th, 2013. DifferenceMaker informed the many options that the student teams have to secure resources, especially the resources that work with DifferenceMaker. Investors, grants, and mentors are all available to the students and they were instructed to identify the cost of their project and to figure out ways to raise awareness of their solution. Students learned that this will attract investors and other resources that will better help them reach the solution they are working towards.

The final DifferenceMaker WorkShop was the Rocket Pitch Coaching on April 4th, 2013. Associate Vice Chancellor Dr. Steven Tello, along with the other DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellows, worked together to prepare student teams for a Rocket Pitch during the preliminary round of the Idea Challenge. The focus was to give teams a solid understanding of what was expected, and hone in on what will engage people to believe in their product and trust their solution. During the Workshop program, Professor Tello also did a mock Rocket Pitch to give students a better understanding of what pitch like that looks like.

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