Rist DifferenceMaker 10 Year Celebration

On Wednesday, October 13, 2021, from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute held its’ 10 Year Anniversary Celebration at Moloney Hall in University Crossing! The purpose of this event was to reunite, celebrate 10 years of DifferenceMaker, and to support the success that our UMass Lowell alumni and students have experienced in the program.

The event started with poster viewing and networking. There were a multitude of posters from past and current teams, showcasing their mission and work. This was a wonderful opportunity to network, revive old relationships and form new ones!

Ariel Shramko, member of team Terminus, speaking with guests about their project that provides plants a friendly environment to grow in no matter what, tackling the issue of food insecurity.

After networking, there was a delicious dinner reception. This allowed guests to connect more while sharing a meal. Each guest also received a gift at their seats. Holly Lalos, director of the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute, made announcements and thanked everyone for attending the evening.

Following the dinner reception, Steve Tello, Vice Provost of UMass Lowell’s Graduate, Online and Professional Studies, gave opening remarks and introduced the night’s events. He then welcomed the Chancellor of the University, Jacqueline Moloney, who also provided welcoming remarks to all attendees and guests. Steve Tello, Holly Lalos, and Provost Joseph Hartman surprised Chancellor Moloney with a special award for co-founding DifferenceMaker and being instrumental in its development over the last decade. Then, another surprise award was presented to Steve Tello for co-founding the program and leading it to success. Congratulations to Chancellor Moloney and Dr. Tello!

Kim and Brian Rist, Manning School of Business ’77, established the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute in 2019. When Mr. Rist was in college, he learned a lot about business operations which helped him and StormSmart succeed. He guest spoke to the audience and shared positive comments about the institute and the importance of entrepreneurship education, something that he and Kim strongly supports.

Brian Rist, Manning School of Business, ’77, presenting on entrepreneurship and how it is wonderful to see DifferenceMaker student teams grow throughout the years.

Next, several successful DifferenceMaker startups shared updates, successes, and learnings. The businesses that presented were NonSpec, invisaWear, Operation 250, and Ambulatory Innovations.

Nonspec was created by Francis College of Engineering students, Jonathan Perez de Alderete and Erin Keaney, who won the 2013 Campus-Wide DifferenceMaker Competition. Nonspec is a company that supplies low-cost high functionality replacement limbs with an acceptable amount of customization for children in developing nations.

invisaWear was created by Kennedy College of Sciences and Francis College of Engineering Alumni Rajia Abdelaziz and Francis College of Engineering Alumni Ray Hamilton, who won the 2016 Innovative Technology Solution Award. invisaWear creates wearable safety jewelry that connects to a smart phone via Bluetooth. With a simple push of a button, it sends help messages and location information to predetermined emergency contacts and 911. They recently announced a partnership with ADT, the #1 name in household security, and have been featured on many news outlets nationwide!

Operation250 was created by Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Alumni Tyler Cote, who won the 2017 Campus-wide DifferenceMaker award. Operation250 is an online platform focused on educating both young adolescents and parents on how to prevent online radical extremist recruitment.

Tyler Cote, founder of Operation 250, presenting on the the impact that they have made to students through workshops on online safety, hate and extremism, and critical problem solving.

Ambulatory Innovations was created by Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences Alumni, Michelle Mailloux and Katie Harrington, who won the 2019 Honorable Mention prize. Ambulatory Innovations is an ambulatory mat that allows physical therapists to treat their patient’s deficits throughout the body, from the musculoskeletal system to sensory systems. It simulates walking outdoors to help patients prepare for community ambulation. They have won many additional startup competitions, like Beantown Throwdown where they won against schools like Harvard and MIT, and their product, the CAT Mat, is currently patent pending!

To conclude the event, Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs left the audience with some inspiring words. Then, more networking took place. Thank you to all attendees for celebrating this milestone event; the amazing tenth year Anniversary of the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute!

Watch a recap of the event here.

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2021 DifferenceMaker Kick-Off and College Competition Announcement

On Wednesday, September 22, 2021, from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. DifferenceMaker held its’ first in person event in a long time – the Season Kick-off and College Competition Announcement!

Holly Lalos, Director, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute, kicked off the event. She then introduced Brenda Evans, Dean, Student Affairs and Events Services, who also provided opening welcoming remarks.

Then, Adam Basma and Yeaharne Hout, two Rist DifferenceMaker CO-OPs, presented an overview about the program. Adam spoke about the opportunities that the program offers, such as the ability to be paired with mentors, learn about critical skills through the workshop series, and to be able to connect with students from varying backgrounds and form a team.

Yeaharne provided examples of student teams, such as TrueFIT, Digital Life, and Tommy Vi’s Gelato. She additionally spoke about the benefits and interesting statistics on DifferenceMaker teams, such as how over $5 million were raised by over 130 winning teams, and 40 companies formed since its’ inception in 2013.

Yeaharne Hout, DifferenceMaker Social Media Assistant and CO-OP student, spoke about the benefits of forming a DifferenceMaker team.

After they spoke, guest speakers were introduced to discuss ways to get involved with DifferenceMaker this semester through three College Competitions.

Thomaz De Moura, Innovations Director, Digital Federal Credit Union, announced details regarding the DCU/Manning Innovation Contest. This contest encourages innovations in the banking industry, such as ideas around financial literary or mobile technology solutions. The top prize is $500 in cash per team member and each finalist student is awarded $100 in cash. Registration for the DCU/Manning Innovation Contest opened on September 22, 2021 and closes on October 22, 2021 at 5 p.m.

Kavitha Chandra, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Affairs, Francis College of Engineering and Carter Keough, Professor, Francis College of Engineering and DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellow, announced the details of the Francis College of Engineering Prototyping Competition. This competition encourages students to work with a team to turn an idea into a product with any resources available – $100 is reimbursable for prototyping materials.

Participants must be students at the University and at least one member on the team must be from the Francis College of Engineering. Additionally, the team should have a faculty advisor from the Francis College of Engineering. The application registration opened on September 22, 2021 and will be closed on October 22, 2021 at 5 p.m.

Wael Kamal, Assistant Dean, Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (FAHSS), announced a new contest for this semester: The FAHSS Creative Community Competition. The competition is sponsored by the College of Fine Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Glenn Morgan ’86 FAHSS, and The Rist DifferenceMaker® Institute.  This competition’s goal is to inspire students to create products and services that make a change in their communities. The registration opened on September 15, 2021, and there is a workshop for teams on October 7th, 2021 at 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Ruairi O’Mahony, Executive Director, Rist Institute for Sustainability, spoke about the S.E.E.D Grant Program. This program provides students with funding to pursuing projects around campus that focus on sustainability and improve the campus atmosphere. Students are able to apply for grants up to $10,000 to put their campus sustainability projects into action.

Kavitha Chandra, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Programs, Francis College of Engineering announced the details of the Francis College of Engineering Prototyping Competition.

Concluding the announcements, David Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, presented the details for a fun, interactive, Ideation Activity. At this activity, each of the different tables had a central topic for which the teams based their innovations on. The topics included Art and Music, Environmental, Innovative Technology, Financial Baking, Social Responsibility, Healthcare, Customer Products, and Other.

Each table was asked to write down problems that relate to their topic. From there, each team chose a main problem to focus on for the remainder of the activity. Each person at the table then wrote down solution ideas on post-it notes and stuck them to the team’s board. Next, they voted on which solution would be the best. After that, the team members discussed their solutions even further and crafted models of it with Legos. Each table then were able to share to all attendees about the problem and the solution they had created.

Students and faculty fellows brainstorming ideas for problems and solutions to work on during the Ideation Activity.

Holly Lalos, closed out the event. Thank you to all students, faculty, alumni, and supporters who attended! Learn more about the college competitions and apply here.

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5 Year Anniversary of invisaWear!

invisaWear started off as an idea – at the time, there were no stylish, discreet safety devices on the market. Rajia Abdelaziz, ’16, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Ray Hamilton, ’16, Electrical Engineering, decided to take matters into their own hands and create one.

At the DifferenceMaker 2016 $50,000 Idea Challenge, invisaWear won the Innovative Technology Solution prize of $4,500. This was one of their first sources of funding for their project, which was part of their capstone as college students at UMass Lowell. They also won $500 from winning 3rd place at the Engineering Prototyping Competition in 2015.

Ray Hamilton, left, and Rajia Abdelaziz, right, presenting their invisaWear phone app at the Engineering Prototyping Competition.

Ever since their beginnings at UMass Lowell, invisaWear has came a long way! In 2019, one of their first ever life-saving stories was featured on WCVB. A woman got involved in a very bad car crash in Lowell, MA. Her phone was unable to be found among the ruckus, but she luckily had her invisaWear charm with her, a charm that she was gifted months prior. She double tapped her button and emergency crew & family immediately rushed to her and saved her life.

invisaWear was also selected as one of BostInno’s coolest companies to work for. They selected companies from all over Massachusetts. In addition, they have been featured on a variety of TV shows such as Rachael Ray, Good Morning America, ABC News, CBS News, and Fox News.

In 2021, invisaWear announced one of their most exciting partnerships – a collaboration with ADT, the #1 name in household security! This partnership provides customers with additional security. Not only does the double press of the button alerts loved ones & 911, but it also alerts ADT with their location. ADT will then notify the customer’s emergency contacts, alert authorities, share their location, and provide personally identifiable information to help emergency responders locate and identify them.

Rajia Abdelaziz, left, and Ray Hamilton, right, celebrating their collaboration with ADT!

On June 22, 2021, invisaWear was featured on  QVC® and HSN’s® The Big Find® product search. This provided them with exposure on one of the world’s largest video commerce platforms. Watch their featured segment here.

In July, invisaWear donated $5,000 to the inspirational non-profit Strong City. Strong City is dedicated to educating at-risk and underprivileged youth from ever getting to that point—through education, project-based giving, gun violence research, and citizen support. A few years ago, invisaWear received a check from EforAll which helped them start their company, and now they are supporting others to do the same.

Overall, invisaWear is a DifferenceMaker team that has made a huge difference in the community and in people’s lives. Rajia and Ray occasionally come back to UMass Lowell to mentor the newer generation of DifferenceMaker students.

Yeaharne Hout, DifferenceMaker Social Media Intern, with her invisaWear necklace.

P.S. invisaWear is also having a back-to-school sale! Rajia got her inspiration for these charms while she was an undergraduate in college. Grab yours for the semester here!

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DifferenceMaker Demo Day 2021

On July 13, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., DifferenceMaker hosted Demo Day. At this event, the 2021 DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge Finalists presented their updated and improved ideas since advancing in the 2021 DifferenceMaker Summer Boot Camp.

Holly Lalos, Director, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute, opened up the event for the evening. To start, she presented to the audience a brief overview of the DifferenceMaker program. DifferenceMaker is a campus-wide program that helps students define problems and create real-life solutions to those problems.

One of the ways this is done is during the DifferenceMaker Summer Boot Camp. The objective of the Boot Camp is to increase teams’ understanding of their customer segments, business model, revenue streams, and more. Teams are also encouraged to develop a one-year project plan with milestones and tasks for utilizing their winning funds.

Holly thanked everyone who makes DifferenceMaker possible – faculty fellows, co-op students, mentors, and advisors. The Boot Camp Advisors this year were:

Then, thank you’s for the Boot Camp Guest Speakers were also made:

  • Rajia Abdelaziz, CEO of invisaWear (2016 DifferenceMaker Team), alumni from the Francis College of Engineering & Kennedy College of Sciences, ’16.
  • Chris McKenna, alumni from the Francis College of Engineering, ’89, and David Kantaros, Partners of Foley and Lardner, LLP and an Idea Challenge Sponsor.
  • Katie Muise, Co-Founder of Ambulatory Innovations (2019 DifferenceMaker Team), alumni of the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences.
  • Jack Wilson, President Emeritus UMass System and Distinguished Professor of Higher Education, Emerging Technologies, and Innovation at UMass Lowell and an Idea Challenge Sponsor!

Next, the event opened to student team presentations! Each team had 4 minutes to present, and 5 minutes for Q&A. They pitched about their business plans, customer discovery findings, value propositions, and benefit that their products would have for society. Potential mentors asked valuable questions to the teams throughout the evening.

Smriti Kumar and Alejandra Luna Juarez, members of team Digital Life, presenting their research findings on customer discovery.

The teams that presented were:

Apple A Day

Digital Life

Green Fertilizer



Tommy Vi’s Gelato




Demo Day helps teams advance their progress, gain critical feedback, and network with mentors. To close out the event, David Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, discussed mentor matching steps. Surveys for both mentors and teams were sent out shortly after the event. From the survey results, teams will be paired to the appropriate mentor(s) based on their backgrounds, skills, and interests.

David Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, explaining the steps needed to be made for the mentor matching process.

Thank you to everyone that attended Demo Day and supported the students throughout the night!

Read about Boot Camp session 1.

Read about Boot Camp session 2.

Read about Boot Camp session 3.

Read about Boot Camp Session 4.

Read about Boot Camp session 5.

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DifferenceMaker Boot Camp Session #5

This week was last DifferenceMaker Boot Camp session. Students presented their research regarding partners, key resources, key activities, and costs, as well as their business model canvas. Students discussed how many prospective consumers they talked to throughout the boot camp, and what their top three findings were.

In doing further research and summarizing their findings, students are able to develop parts of their ideas based on innovations suggested by customers. The benefit of these conversations includes a more well-rounded product that is proven by the customer that they want through their interviews, as well as the opportunity to come up with further ideas due to consumer inputs.

For example, after interviewing 24 potential customers, nurses and children, Apple a Day found that individuals like the idea of mobility and safety features, and also to expand the idea, young adults would be interested in a mobile app with reminders for use. They also found that they wouldn’t be able to implement their product which is a portable stylish pill case, with nurses in schools, and it would only be used personally by students. If they hadn’t interviewed prospective customers, Apple a Day wouldn’t have known that the desire for a mobile app was there, and they also wouldn’t have known about the complications of implementing the product into schools.

Emily Philpot, co-founder of Apple A Day, presenting their research findings.

To show off their current business functions, ideas and future prospects, the business model canvas for each team was displayed which showed the boot camp advisors everything from the team’s unique value proposition to the key resources they will need for business success.  

The guest speaker for this Boot Camp was Rajia Abdelaziz ’16 Kennedy College of Sciences and Francis College of Engineering, 2016 DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge, Innovative Technology Solution Winner, $4,500, and the CEO of InvisaWear. InvisaWear was past DifferenceMaker team that had gone through DifferenceMaker and became wildly successful today. Rajia gave the students an overview of her emergency device that is hidden within their stylish jewelry as well as the history of her business and development since winning DifferenceMaker.

Over the past few years, CBS News, Fox News, and Good Morning America featured invisaWear on their news outlets. They also have grown to making over $1 million dollars in revenue in a single year as well as hiring their fifteenth employee just last week. Most recently they were featured on QVC which is a huge achievement for any product to attain as well as acquiring a partnership with ADT, the #1 name in security, to combine some of their services.  

Rajia Abdelaziz, CEO of InvisaWear, presenting about the success that her company has had ever since participating in the DifferenceMaker Boot Camp many years ago.

Rajia explained that her and her business partner Ray Hamilton ’16, Francis College of Engineering, turned down job offers from Dell and Google and fought against the doubt of family and friends. As they plowed along doing research into their customer base as students just have throughout this Boot Camp, they too found that their market could expand farther than just college-aged women.

When InvisaWear went through the Boot Camp, they were able to interview workers in night-shift positions, realty, and other sectors where women can be found in challenging and compromising situations. This research directly correlated to a shift in their focus and expansion of their customer base in turn driving further success, which was exactly the takeaway for students of todays boot camp.

Thank you to Rajia for guest speaking and for being a Boot Camp advisor this year. Another big thank you to the other Boot Camp advisors who helped guide the student teams:

Rajia Abdelaziz  Chief Executive Officer (CEO)invisaWear
Michele Holland  Co-founderPerformance Rehab. Inc.
Glenn Morgan  Chief Operating Officer (COO)Fuseideas
Brian Rist  ChairmanRist Family Foundation and created the Rist DM Institute
Brent Shell  Assistant Teaching Professor andZuckerberg College of Health Sciences

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DifferenceMaker Boot Camp Session #4

On June 22nd, 2021, DifferenceMaker held the fourth Summer Boot Camp Session. Holly Lalos, Director, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute, welcomed the student teams, advisors, and guest speaker. Then, each team presented their homework deliverables.

This week, the 2021 Idea Challenge winning teams shared their research findings on channels, customer relationships, and revenue. Each team presented on the channels in which they would engage with their target markets, the methods in which they would do so, and the expected outcome of using these channels, like social media or word of mouth. Teams then explained the ways in which they plan to get, keep, and grow customers. Lastly, the teams presented on their revenue streams.

Knowing the channels that will be used, customer relationships, and various revenue streams aids in understanding potential outcomes, planning for the future, and developing a more robust business model. For example, Tommy Vi’s Gelato, a team aiming to blend Asian flavors into classic Italian gelato, presented on using social media and word of mouth as their channels in hopes of targeting millennial and Gen-Z generations.

Tommy Vi, founder of Tommy Vi’s Gelato, presenting about his research findings for his Asian-Italian fusion of gelato.

In terms of how they plan to get, keep, and grow their customers, this team will post quality pictures, surveys, and weekly stories, and will advertise social media handles through flyers and on their website. Tommy Vi’s Gelato revenue streams will be through serving and catering hours.

Each team presented their findings and received constructive feedback from the advisors which helped further their research and development. Additionally, the student teams continued to interview customers through various methods, such as, surveys and Zoom interviews. Many teams researched and read research papers to gather more information about their ideas.

Jack Wilson, President Emeritus of the UMass System, Distinguished Professor of Higher Education, and founder of the Jack M. Wilson Center for Entrepreneurship, guest spoke about funding new ventures and the importance of being a leader and asking for help.

Jack Wilson presenting about the importance of venture funding, sources of personal financing, and local sources of capital – all ways to gain cash that can be used to help develop your startup.

Professor Wilson sponsors the Jack M. Wilson First to Market Award at the Annual $50,000 DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge. Professor Wilson explained the need for funding and how to find financing to start and grow a new venture.

Thank you to Jack Wilson for guest speaking at the boot camp and for guiding the student teams in the right direction when it comes to funding their projects and understanding all the funding opportunities within and outside of UMass Lowell!

Watch a recap of this Boot Camp session.

Read about Boot Camp session 1.

Read about Boot Camp session 2.

Read about Boot Camp session 3.

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DifferenceMaker Boot Camp Session #3

On June 15, 2021, DifferenceMaker held the third Summer Boot Camp Session. Holly Lalos, Director, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute, welcomed the student teams, advisors, and guest speakers. Then, each team presented their homework deliverables.

This week, the 2021 Idea Challenge winning teams shared their research findings on value propositions and customer segments. Once teams identify their customer segments, they can then discover the customer’s pains per segment. Once pains are understood, a value-added solution can be developed to solve the pains for each customer segment.

Value proposition can include both functional and emotional benefits. Additionally, it is important to understand customers (buyers) versus users. For example, Digital Life, a team that’s developing an affordable finger prosthetic for kids with congenital deformities, presented about how their buyers may not be the same as their end users. In their case, parents may be the buyers (customers), and children may be the end users. Understanding these concepts are important because it could change price points, marketing, needs, wants, and more.

All the teams presented their findings and received feedback from the Boot Camp advisors which helped deepen their research and development. Teams used various interviewing methods to gain information from their potential customers, such as Zoom. Surveys were also used. For example, VieVest creator Alexander Frawley, sent out surveys to local gyms to gather their current pains and needs while performing barbell exercises.

Chris McKenna ‘89, Francis College of Engineering and David Kantaros, both partners at Foley and Lardner, LLP guest spoke about business formation and intellectual property. Foley and Lardner, LLP sponsors $15,000 of in-kind legal services at the Annual $50K Idea Challenge.

Chris and David went into detail about the types of legal business entities students can pursue, such as a C-Corp or LLC, as well as the laws around intellectual property.

Thank you to Chris and David for being guest speakers at the Boot Camp and for teaching future entrepreneurs about the importance of business formation and intellectual property.

Read about Boot Camp session 1.

Read about Boot Camp session 2.

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DifferenceMaker Boot Camp Session #2

On June 8, 2021, DifferenceMaker held the second Summer Boot Camp Session! Holly Lalos, Director, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute, welcomed the student teams, advisors, and guest speakers. Then, each team presented their homework deliverables.

Each presentation lasted around five minutes. During the presentations, teams mentioned the problem that they are solving, along with a clear description of their solution. Problems ranged from children with hand deformities, food insecurity, and no secure way to seal a face mask.

To follow up with the solution, teams also presented the size of the market opportunity, as well as the target market for their product. This included their total addressable market, served available market, and target market. This information was collected through surveys, interviewing potential customers, and market research resources. Some teams also showed a summary of their business model canvas, which will be updated throughout the Boot Camp.

Siddhant Iyer, a plastic engineering graduate and co-founder of TrueFIT, presenting about how their skin-safe thermochromic adhesive mounting system works on existing face masks.

Then, advisors provided feedback, tips, and advice, and asked questions. Some advisors offered to make introductions based off their connections and the student ideas. This was a great networking opportunity for students to make connections with people in similar industries.

Following the homework presentations, Katie Muise, co-founder of Ambulatory Innovations, guest spoke about her product, the CAT Mat, and her experiences with DifferenceMaker. She also spoke about the various opportunities she received following the $50K Idea Challenge in 2019, and problems she encountered and overcame. Katie also provided informative, helpful tips to the student audience, such as, to always overestimate the amount of time a task will take to complete and dedicating time each week for a team meeting.

Katie Muise, co-founder of Ambulatory Innovations, presenting about additional pitch competitions that her team participated in following her experience with DifferenceMaker.

Thank you to Katie Muise from Ambulatory Innovations for being a guest speaker at the Boot Camp Speaker Series and for inspiring future entrepreneurs!

Read about Boot Camp session 1.

To learn more about Ambulatory Innovations, please visit their website and social media platforms:

Website: https://www.ambulatoryinnovations.com/

Email: info@ambulatoryinnovations.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ambulatoryinnovations

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/ambulatory-innovations/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ambinnovations

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2021 DifferenceMaker Boot Camp Kickoff

On June 1, 2021, DifferenceMaker held its’ Kickoff Boot Camp session!

Holly Lalos, Program Director, DifferenceMaker, led the session. The session started with introductions from each advisor. This years’ advisors are:

Then, introductions from each of the 2021 Idea Challenge DifferenceMaker Teams took place. The teams participating in this summer’s Boot Camp are:

2021 Idea Challenge DifferenceMaker teams providing introductions about who they are, along with a brief pitch about their project idea.

Following the introductions, Holly went through the outline of what to expect during future Boot Camp sessions. For example, there will be various guest speakers who will share advice and their entrepreneurial experiences. Each week, homework is assigned, where each team will create a presentation and receive real-time feedback from the advisors during each session.

Additional exciting opportunities were presented to the students. The teams are being offered $15,000 of in-kind legal services from Foley and Lardner, LLP. There is also an opportunity to collaborate with the Manning School of Business, where teams will be connected to sales/marketing students who will assist in creating marketing/sales plans. Both opportunities are great for the DifferenceMaker student entrepreneurs!

To end the session, there was a brief recap, followed by a Q&A session.

Congratulations to all winning teams! DifferenceMaker is looking forward to seeing your progress and growth.

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2021 DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge

The DifferenceMaker Preliminary Pitch-off took place in a virtual format on April 7th. The event engaged 24 student teams from all UMass Lowell academic colleges, each with different backgrounds and ideas. On April 8, ten inspiring student teams were selected to move on and compete for a portion of $50,000 in funding at the Idea Challenge.

On April 14th, from 5 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., DifferenceMaker held its 9th Annual $50,000 Idea Challenge! Holly Lalos, Entrepreneurial Initiatives Program Director, welcomed all attendees and provided the agenda for the evening. Then, she introduced Chancellor Jacquie Moloney who provided opening remarks.

After the remarks, Professor Neil Shortland, who was emceeing the event, was introduced. Each team received five minutes to pitch their ideas, followed by five minutes of judge Q&A after each presentation.

Thank you to all the judges for taking their time to attend the event and assist the student teams!

Lorna Boucher ‘86, Manning School of Business – Chief Marketing Officer, Instinet Holdings Incorporated

Cindy Conde ‘87 ‘91, Francis College of Engineering – CEO, CondeCo

Roger Cressey ’87, Fine Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences – Partner, Liberty Group Ventures, LLC

John Pulichino ’67 ’14 (H), Manning School of Business – Chairman and CEO, Group III International, LTD

Jim Regan ’88, Manning School of Business – President and CEO, Digital Federal Credit Union

Brian Rist ‘77, Manning School of Business – Chairman, Rist Family Foundation

Mark Saab ‘81 ‘13 (H), Francis College of Engineering – Founding Trustee, Saab Family Foundation

Jack M. Wilson – President Emeritus, UMass System and Distinguished Professor of Higher Education, Emerging Technologies, and Innovation, UMass Lowell

CONGRATULATIONS to the 2021 winning student teams!

Rist-Campus Wide DifferenceMaker (sponsored by Brian Rist ‘77), $7,000: TrueFIT – Siddhant Iyer, Justin Marcouillier, Pranav Ramaswamy.

– TrueFIT is a novel fail-safe mask fitting and sealing solution that significantly reduces exposure to infectious aerosols, improving filtration efficiency & saving lives. This product is reusable, secure, and can be used in all types of face masks!

Contribution to a Healthier Lifestyle, $4,000: Apple A Day – Emily Philpot, Jack Ryan, Param Rajeshbhai Patel.

– Apple a Day is a weekly pill case that is appealing for kids. The product consists of an apple shape, and it breaks out into seven individual slices for each day of the week. The portability of having your medications being contained into slices, combined with the unique fruit shape, makes children (and adults!) more willing to take their daily medications.

Significant Social Impact, $4,000: Digital Life – Smriti Kumar, Alejandra Luna Juarez, Tina Thuy Nguyen Hoang, Amy Nguyen.

– Digital Life is a prosthetic device for kids with digital congenital deformities. People with these deformities struggle with daily activities, and the current products on the market are not affordable for many families. This device is adjustable, low-cost, and can be used for a lifetime.

Commitment to a Sustainable Environment, $4,000: Green Fertilizer: Standalone On-demand Production System – Samuel Alpert, Visal Veng, Benard Tabu.

– Green Fertilizer is an idea to design, build, and characterize a standalone on-demand fertilizer production system. This is done with renewable energy – creating a synthetic fertilizer that reduces waste and emissions, while managing to innovatively grow healthy, fresh food.

Sutherland Innovative Technology Solutions (Sponsored by Andrew Sutherland ‘94), $4,000: NavLens – Asa Losurdo, Daniel Giuliano, Alden Giedraitis, Christina Haugh, Edwin Meriaux, Jack Houle.

– NavLens is a wearable device that enhances the spatial awareness of the visually impaired. This will be accomplished through the development of cost effective methods for converting visual-spatial information into audio-spatial sounds. This is a futuristic and technical pair of glasses!

Jack M. Wilson First to Market (sponsored by Jack Wilson, President Emeritus), $4,000:

Wonder Wheel – Sanskriti Sharma, Rasha Ghazal, Khang Nguyen, Alexander Hoefer.

– Wonder Wheel is an affordable wheelchair power assist device, with a unique design and low cost that similar products on the market can’t compare to.

Honorable Mention, $2,000: VieVest – Alexander Frawley.

– VieVest is a product carefully engineered to protect athletes from impact and abrasion sustained from common barbell movements. The mission is to provide peace of mind, comfort, and safety during the dynamic Olympic lifts regularly programmed for athletes at all skill levels.

Honorable Mention, $2,000: Terminus – Ariel Shramko, Brian Cleavitt, Michael Pottorff II, Rohan Goyal, Renin Jose, Eliot Pirone.

– Inspired by VEGGIE and Biosphere II, Terminus is a terrarium that can be used to grow food everywhere (even on Mars)! With its unique shape and design, the product can be placed in any room, making it possible to grow food in places never thought possible.

Honorable Mention, $2,000: Tommy Vi’s Gelato – Tommy Vi. – Tommy Vi’s Gelato introduces a new food concept to Lowell, where Asian flavors are combined with Italian machinery & technique to create a unique version of Gelato. The gelato is non dairy, with flavors such as matcha, thai tea, and jasmine tea.

Honorable Mention, $2,000: Concept Project – Garret Roberts, Adrian DelliCollo. – The Concept Project is a multi-media startup that creates awareness for various social issues while completing mental & physical challenges outdoors. This gets the community involved and inspires others to do the same!

Thank you to everyone who attended. View the 2021 DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge. Best of luck to all teams’ future entrepreneurial journeys! Questions? Email us at differencemaker@uml.edu.

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