DifferenceMaker Demo Day 2023

On July 13, from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m., DifferenceMaker hosted Demo Day. At this event, the 2023 DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge Finalists presented their updated and improved ideas since advancing in the 2023 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.

Holly Lalos, Director of Rist DifferenceMaker Institute welcomes guests to Demo Day and provides opening remarks.

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:

Demo Day helps teams advance their progress, gain critical feedback, and network with mentors. To begin 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, explained the steps needed to be made for the mentor matching process.

Jeremy Hilton, from Team NeuroLyze, networking before the Demo Day presentations.
Julie Sage, from Team Innovation, speaking to potential mentors about her teams project.

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

Nuno Mestre from Rent Scoop presenting on their idea.
Michael Ciampo and Matheus Fonseca from Catnap, 2023 Rist Campus Wide DifferenceMaker Award Winning team present their revised idea.
Haad Naeem, from Team Smart Azan, presenting information about his application.

The teams that presented were:

Catnap

CryptoPigeon

Innovation

NeuroLyze

Quick Release Window Bars

Rent Scoop

Shared Vision/Vision House 

Smart Azan 

Solar Sails 

Votecational

Sammy Santana, Rist DifferenceMaker Co-Op and Team Shared Vision / Vision House encouraging questions from the audience.
Mina Lam, Rist DifferenceMaker Co-Op and 2022 DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge finalist, networking with a mentor.
Two mentors networking before the start of Demo Day.
Members of the audience listening to the student teams present their ideas.

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

Here is a video of the 2023 DifferenceMaker Demo Day event.

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2023 11th Annual DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge

On Thursday, April 13, 2022, the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute hosted the 11th 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, at 6 p.m., David Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute Faculty Fellow provided welcoming remarks to kick-off the event. He then introduced Steven Tello, Vice Provost for Graduate & Professional Studies, 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 by the judges.

Once all teams pitched, the judges went into a separate room to deliberate. While they did so, there was more networking and poster viewing.

Team Crypto Pigeon presenting their idea to the judges and audience.
Team Solar Sails posing for a group picture at the 2023 11th Annual DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge.

Thank you to the panel of judges:

Lorna Boucher, ’86, Manning School of Business; Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Instinet

Amy Hoey, ’88, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences; President, Tufts Medicine Lowell General Hospital

Jacquie Moloney, ’75, ’92, College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Education; Chancellor Emerita and Professor, UMass Lowell

Brian Rist ’77, ’23, ’23 (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, Retired Vice President of Engineering, Acacia Communication

At 8:30 p.m., the final awards ceremony and closing remarks took place. David Vatalaro, Faculty Fellow, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute welcomed everyone back. He 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, $6,000– Catnap: A team of Biomedical Engineering Students: Fritznere BrutusMichael CiampoKhadija El Hadad, Majd El hachem, Matheus Fonseca, and Haris Kum. (A device that senses when toddlers are about to have a nocturnal asthma attack using their oxygen saturation and alerts their parents so they can properly administer the child’s medication.)

Significant Social Impact Award, $4,000– Innovation: Julie Sage, Physics, and Andrew Theobald, Computer Science (Kits that teach about inventions from all over the world throughout history, and they teach about how the inventions work, STEM concepts, and the inventors themselves.)
 
Contribution to a Healthier Lifestyle Award, $4,000– NeuroLyze: Jeremy Hilton, Mechanical Engineering, Anthony Lawlor, Computer Science, and Elliot Johnson, Applied Biomedical Sciences. (Working to make sports a safer environment through the monitoring and analysis of potential concussions.)

Innovative Technology Solutions Award, $4,000- Rent Scoop: Anthony Terravecchia, and Nuno Mestre. (A crowdsourcing and open rental data platform. Removing the obscurity around the cost of rent, utilities, and the condition of leases allows for a fairer market for tenants and landlords.)

Commitment to a Sustainable Environment Award, $4,000– Solar Sails: Six Mechanical Engineering Students: Quin Liang, Samuel Maracallo, Michael McCarthy, Aidan McKeon, Brian Nguyen, Mohammed Saif ur Rahman, Fuming Zhang, Computer Science, and Arun Kandasamy, Computer Science & business minor. (A drone that is powered using solar energy to be used by government agencies and has a theoretical infinite flight endurance.)

First Product to Market Award, $3,000– Smart Azan: Haad Naeem, Biology. (An app created to help Muslims listen to the call of prayer on their Google Home speakers or phone. They can also play the recitation of the Holy Quran as well.)

Honorable Mention Award, $2,000– Quick Release Window Bars: Deigo King, Business Administration. (A patented mechanical solution for mitigating fire hazards commonly found in homes in some developing countries.)


Honorable Mention Award, $2,000– CryptoPigeon: A team of Computer Science Students: Akshay KolliAnveshak Rathore, and Shivam Patel. ( Allows for a dependable messaging app that is not controlled by any one single entity, corporate or government, providing a messaging app that is free from third-party surveillance.)

Honorable Mention Award, $2,000– Shared Vision/Vision House: Sammy Santana, Architectural Studies and Writing. (An educational nonprofit that will bridge the gap between film industry professionals and individuals interested in film careers.)

Fan Favorite Award, $1000– Votecational: Dawson Durgin, Mechanical Engineering

Thank you to everyone who attended the 2023 11th Annual DifferenceMaker $50K Idea Challenge Finals! 

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2023 Preliminary Pitch-Off

On Wednesday, April 4, DifferenceMaker held its 11th Annual 2023 Preliminary Pitch-Off at O’Leary Library on South Campus. This year, 19 student teams got the opportunity to pitch their creative, innovative ideas to a panel of guest judges. Overall, 24 judges were a part of this event. At the end of the event, ten finalist student teams were announced and will be competing on April 13 at the 10th Annual DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge for a chance to win a portion of $50,000.

Team picture of Rist DifferenceMaker DiffernceMaker Co-ops (left to right Sammy Santana, Cameron Famiglietti, Nicholas Jarek, Mina Lam, and Rayyan Kherati) and Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow David Vatalaro

Congratulations to the ten finalist teams!

App Track: An app that allows users to be able to quickly and simply tailor job applications to employers and increase their chances of getting an interview.

Catnap: A device that senses when toddlers are about to have a nocturnal asthma attack using their oxygen saturation and alerts their parents so they can properly administer the child’s medication.

CryptoPigeon: Allows for a dependable messaging app that is not controlled by any one single entity, corporate or government, providing a messaging app that is free from third-party surveillance.

Innovation: Kits that teach about inventions from all over the world throughout history, and they teach about how the inventions work, STEM concepts, and the inventors themselves.

NeuroLyze: Working to make sports a safer environment through the monitoring and analysis of potential concussions.

Quick Release Window Bars: A patented mechanical solution for mitigating fire hazards commonly found in homes in some developing countries.

Rent Scoop: A crowdsourcing and open rental data platform. Removing the obscurity around the cost of rent, utilities, and the condition of leases allows for a fairer market for tenants and landlords.

Shared Vision/Vision House: An educational nonprofit that will bridge the gap between film industry professionals and individuals interested in film careers.

Smart Azan: An app created to help Muslims listen to the call of prayer on their Google Home speakers or phone. They can also play the recitation of the Holy Quran as well.

Solar Sails: A drone that is powered using solar energy to be used by government agencies and has a theoretical infinite flight endurance.

Lastly, we would like to thank Chancellor Chen for kicking-off the event and Joe Hartman, Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs, for announcing the ten winners.

Don’t forget to stop by the 2022 $50k Idea Challenge on April 13th from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m. in University Crossing, Moloney Hall, Room 260 to see the finalist student teams pitch their ideas! Also, vote for your favorite team(s) with our DifferenceMaker Dollars at the event. The team that had the most DifferenceMaker Dollars would be awarded the $500 Fan Favorite Award.

Sammy Santana sharing his pitch for Shared Vision/Vision House to team Rent Scoop)

Register for the Idea Challenge: https://www.uml.edu/DifferenceMaker/Forms/DifferenceMaker-Event-Registration.aspx

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Workshop 4: Delivering Your Rocket Pitch

On March 16, 2022, from 5:30 – 7:30 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, Professor Kevin Willett, Manning School of Business CEO of Friends of Kevin, and Rick Sherburne, CEO, SherburneCommunications

Semi-finalist teams attended this session to learn about delivering their rocket pitch for the Preliminary Pitch-off on April 6th. 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: 

App Track 

Bridged Connections 

Catnap 

CryptoPigeon 

EcoShield 

FilaMill 

Innovation 

MediLingo 

NeuroLyze 

Quick Release Window Bars 

RDZ 

Rent Scoop 

Riverhawk Risk Managers 

Shared Vision/Vision House 

Smart Azan 

So-Health Box 

Solar Crowdfund 

Solar Sails 

Underdogs of Lowell 

Votecational 

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. 

Afterwards, Rick Sherburne 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. In addition, he mentioned the reasons why people struggle with stage fright. Self-consciousness in front of large groups, past failures, and fear of being nervous are a few examples. He also talked about having relevant pictures on each slide, as well as limiting the words per slide, which helps keep the audience engaged. 

Rick Sherburne speaking about the challenge of presenting the idea.

Mr. Sherburne also facilitated an engaging activity where the students were encouraged to stand up and say “oh” to various scenarios. This allowed the students to see how tone changes based on the scenario you are in. For example, the volume and tone used is different when speaking to an infant versus seeing a win at a sporting event.

Students standing and being engaged during the “oh” activity.

To conclude the night, Professor Kevin Willett highlighted examples of past student team presentations, such as III Point Stick. 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. 

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

Additionally, the 2023 11th Annual DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge will take place on April 13 at University Crossing, Moloney Hall, Room 260. Register for the $50,000 Idea Challenge: http://bit.ly/3VNSxEa  

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Workshop 3: Developing Business Models and Solutions

On Wednesday, March 1st, DifferenceMaker held Workshop 3: Developing Business Models and Solutions at the Saab Center, Perry Atrium, from 5:30 – 7:30 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. He expressed appreciation from the Rist DifferenceMaker for the support we have gotten from Tom O’Donnell, Executive Director at Innovation Initiatives; Maria Matarazzo, Adjunct Faculty at Manning School of Business; Khaled Abul-Hassan, Director at Office of Technology Commercialization; and Vijayendra Kumar, Licensing Manager at Office of Technology Commercialization. Next, 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 presenters for the night, who were Professors Dr. Carter Keough and Dr. Kelilah Wolkowicz, Francis College of Engineering, and Tom O’Donnell, Senior Director, Innovation Initiatives

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. 

Then, Mr. O’Donnell went further in depth and explained the multiple components needed to have a successful business model. He 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 lessons, the guest presenters 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! 

Workshop 4 – Delivering Your Rocket Pitch, March 16

Questions? Email us at DifferenceMaker@uml.edu

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Workshop 2: Assessing Opportunities and Value Proposition

On Monday, February 27, 2022, DifferenceMaker held the second workshop series session to prepare students for the $50,000 Idea Challenge this semester. The topic addressed was assessing opportunities and value proposition.

To start off the event, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow David Vatalaro opened by providing a brief recap of what occurred during the first workshop session, which highlighted identifying problems. Then, he introduced the guest presenters for the night, which were Professor Yuho Kim, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences, and Professor Neil Shortland, College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

After the introduction, Professor Yuho Kim mentioned that while our ideas seem incredibly valuable to us, it may not be the case for potential customers and buyers. He provided an example of pickle toothpaste, which is unique to him. However, at the end of the day, no one ends up purchasing it. Assessing opportunities is important because it allows you to see if it is worthwhile creating the product before it is too late. If there are no willing buyers, the product does not fill a customer’s need or add enough value. Therefore, market research is imperative.

Then, students were given time to write down their opportunities on the “target market opportunity” and “competition opportunity” worksheets. Students presented their work to the audience, receiving feedback from the presenters.

Students brainstorming and writing down ideas as they fill out the DifferenceMaker worksheets.
A student presents their idea with students as the camera is recording the workshop for a reflection video.

Then, Professor Shortland presented the importance of value propositions. A value proposition demonstrates how a potential solution provides more value than what competitors are currently offering. Students broke out into groups again to work on their value propositions on poster boards, then were given the chance to share their ideas with the audience.

Thank you to everyone that joined DifferenceMaker for Workshop 2!

Questions? Email us at DifferenceMaker@uml.edu.

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DifferenceMaker Workshop 1: Identifying Problems

On Wednesday, February 22th, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute held the semester’s first workshop session at the Saab Center, Perry Atrium! The focus for Workshop 1 was on identifying problems. Over 20 students attended to learn and network with students interested in pursuing their ideas for the $50,000 Idea Challenge.

Students and Rist DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellows networking and eating dinner at the semester’s first workshop session!

To start off, Dave Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, welcomed everyone. He provided a brief overview of the DifferenceMaker program, what to expect from the workshop series, and the agenda for the evening. He introduced the Faculty Fellows guest presenters: Professor Tom Wilkes, Kennedy College of Sciences, and Professor Kevin Willett, Manning School of Business.

First, Professor Willett explains to students what makes a “good problem.” Next, Professor Wilkes showcased examples of problems presented by past DifferenceMaker student teams. Videos of their pitches were provided to give students clarity on how to move forward. For example, a team that was highlighted was the CAT Mat pitch, presented by students Katie Muise and Michelle Mailloux, both from the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences. The problem they identified is the inability of patients to practice relearning how to walk after experiencing a medical issue. Going outside to do so isn’t the safest option, while staying indoors does not fully prepare patients to go back to the real-world.

This is an example of a team who worked diligently during their time at DifferenceMaker, as they ended up winning first place against teams such as Harvard and MIT during the Beantown Throwdown competition in 2019!

Professor Willett presenting to students on the key points to highlight while presenting the problem being addressed.

Then, a brainstorming activity took place where students were able to discuss the problems, they are looking to solve with each other.

Students networking with each other and solidifying the problems they are working to solve!

Afterwards, students presented their ideas to everyone. The problems ranged from a variety of topics, such as stem literacy, crypto currency, lack of information and transparency on fair rent, sustainability in 3D printing, and more.

This allowed students to network with one another and gain new connections for potential teammates. Each person/group utilized the “DifferenceMaker Problem Toolkit Worksheet” to help with narrowing the specifics of the issue at hand.

Thank you to everyone that joined DifferenceMaker for Workshop 1! To revisit the topics discussed, watch our video, Spring Workshop Series 1: Identifying Problems.

Questions? Email us at DifferenceMaker@uml.edu.

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DifferenceMaker 2023 $50,000 Idea Challenge Kick-Off and Idea Hack

On January 24th, the Rist DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge Kick-Off and Idea Hack was held in the Saab Center, Perry Atrium from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Dave Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, opened the event by welcoming everyone and providing introductions.

Then, Provost Joe Hartman spoke about the importance of solving problems and having a social impact. Then, he encouraged all attendees to apply to the $50,000 Idea Challenge.

Next, Rist DifferenceMaker Co-Op students Mina Lam and Nick Jarek, introduced the DifferenceMaker program. They explained details for the 11th Annual $50,000 Idea Challenge taking place this semester. The 2023 DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge application is due February 13 at 5 p.m.!

After the introductory presentation, the real-life DifferenceMaker Panel and Q&A session took place! The panel consisted of members from past DifferenceMaker teams who answered questions from Nick Jarek and shared their entrepreneurial experiences with DifferenceMaker. First up was Visal Veng of Green Fertilizer, who won the 2021 Contribution to a Sustainable Environment prize, a $4,000 award. The Q&A was then followed up with Ariel Shramko and Eliot Pirone of Terminus, who won the 2021 Honorable Mention, a $2,000 award, answered questions and provided advice to the student audience.

Nick Jarek asked the panelists a series of questions which gave the student audience a better understanding of the requirements to be in the DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge and more information about their startups. The audience then got the chance to ask the panelists valuable questions.

Real-life DifferenceMaker Panel members from left to right; Ariel Shramko, Eliot Pirone, and Visal Veng. Rist Rist DifferenceMaker CO-OP, Nick Jarek, far right, being introduced by Dave Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow.

Following the Q&A, David Vatalaro, Rist DifferenceMaker Fellow, led the students in the Idea Hack Activity to get students brainstorming potential ideas they could apply to the challenge. Students split into groups sat at two tables.

The students started to brainstorm problems and then started to discuss possible solutions. They were able to collaborate with each other and with the DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellows. Towards the end of this activity, students shared their problems and solutions with everyone.
A group of students networking and discussing the problem of ensuring clean tanks for consumable water.
A student presenting their group’s idea of solving the problem of plastic waste.

To close off this engaging event, Mina Lam spoke about the next steps in getting involved in DifferenceMaker and participating in the $50,000 Idea Challenge. The $50,000 Idea Challenge application is due by February 13 at 5 p.m.

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2022 Francis College of Engineering Prototyping Competition 

On Tuesday, December 6, 2022, the 2022 DifferenceMaker Francis College of Engineering Prototyping Competition was held at University Crossing from 4:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. This event consisted of a preliminary round, fan favorite voting, and final round.  

The fifteen teams competing during the preliminary demonstration round were: 

  • Catnap, team members Majd Elhachem, Michael Ciampo, Khadija El Hadad, Fritznere Brutus, and Matheus Fonseca  
  • FilaMil, team members John Monsen, Garett Mallinson, Lethycia Sanchez, Rayyan Kherati, Jared Saye, and Emily LaBelle 
  • Helping Hand, team members Chris Sabu, Justin Sousa, Sara Pourgol Mohamad, and Hermela Mekonen 
  • JAMM Labs, team members Jacob Stover, Madelin Salazar, Allison Kelly, and Matthew Ikini  
  • Oersted, team members Manuel Magayanes and Eduardo Magayanes 
  • PackStrap, team members William Donohue, Katie Mcdonagh, Meredith Citrone, and Mattias Kantor 
  • Physical Engineers, team members Kyle Callahan and Alexander Johnston 
  • Pregnancy Back Brace, team members Marcela Villalta, Maria Belhous, Trevor Powers, Raygan Matte, and Kyle Laguerre 
  • Project Poseidon, team members Abdullah Jasim, Dylan Cormier, Abdelsalam Abutabikh, Amr Elkordy, Jeswin Jees, Jessica Borst, Charles Kenny, and Mustafa Al Hado 
  • RehaBand, team members Alexa DeVito, Maria Ferreira, Helen Kham, Timothy Roach, and Ardon Zibel 
  • Sociable, team members Sydney Campano, Paulo Henrique Borges, Scott Harwood, Kileigh Crail, and Jerry Takang 
  • Solar Crowdfund, team members Tolotra Samuel Randriakotonj, Muhammad Khalil, and Borna Doroudi 
  • Solar Sails, team members Quin Liang and Aalap Patel 
  • The Spectacle, team members Aryan Patil, Nicholas Sparages, Navya Garg, and Isidor Jankovich 
  • Vital Sensing, team members Haris Kum, Thang Do, Wynn Wiggins, Dayang Wang, and Tran Thien Quy Nguyen. 

The prototype demonstration and idea pitching round was held from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. in the lobby of University Crossing. Each team had five minutes to present their product to a panel of preliminary judges, followed by a five-minute Q&A session. The preliminary judges were: 

  • Jim Biggins, ‘03, Francis College of Engineering, President and CEO at Access Vascular 
  • Bob Findlen, ‘81, Francis College of Engineering, Director of Sales and Marketing at PolySource 
  • Joe Hallisey, ‘01, Francis College of Engineering, Director of Engineering, Automation Solutions Group at Brooks Automation 
  • Beth Haskell, ‘84, Francis College of Engineering, Vice President of Business Development for Advanced Electronic Systems, Excelitas Technologies Corp
  • Ken Horton, ‘79, Francis College of Engineering, Managing Director, C2C LLC
  • Dave Janeczek, ’82, ’85, Francis College of Engineering, Former Manager Process Development Center of Raytheon Technologies Corporation 
  • Joe Lane, ‘87, ‘93, Francis College of Engineering, CEO of SafePath Medical
  • Bill Perciballi, ’86, Francis College of Engineering, Founder and President, Force Engineering
  • Leigh Sharrock, ’03, Francis College of Engineering, Director, Systems Engineering of Brooks Automation, Inc 
Team RehaBands ready to pitch their idea to the judges at the preliminary round.  

During the prototype demonstration round, the judges scored each team based on the problem that was being solved, the opportunity that it holds, prototype quality, resources/implementation needed, presentation effectiveness, and overall project. After seeing each team’s pitch and demonstrations, the preliminary judges deliberated on which teams would move forward for the final round. 

The teams that moved onto the final competition were: 

  • Catnap, team members Majd Elhachem, Michael Ciampo, Khadija El Hadad, Fritznere Brutus, and Matheus Fonseca  
  • FilaMill, team members John Monsen, Garett Mallinson, Lethycia Sanchez, Rayyan Kherati, Jared Saye, and Emily LaBelle 
  • PackStrap, team members team members William Donohue, Katie Mcdonagh, Meredith Citrone, and Mattias Kantor 
  • Physical Engineers, team members team members Kyle Callahan and Alexander Johnston 
  • RehaBand, team members Alexa DeVito, Maria Ferreira, Helen Kham, Timothy Roach, and Ardon Zibel 
  • Solar Sails, team members Quin Liang and Aalap Patel 
Team Solar Sails pitching their idea and prototype to a panel of preliminary judges. 

Meanwhile, the prototype public viewing was held from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. in the lobby of University Crossing. Event attendees which consisted of students, faculty, community friends, and family each had three votes to disperse to the teams they liked the best. The team that had the most DifferenceMaker Dollars would be awarded the $500 Fan Favorite Award. 

The Final Round Competition was held in Moloney Hall from 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. It began with opening remarks by Dean Sherwood and Provost Hartman. Next, the five finalist teams pitched their ideas on stage and demonstrated their prototype to the panel of final judges. 

The judges during the final round were: 

After all the presentations the final judges deliberated and selected the winners for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes. Additionally, the Fan Favorite votes were counted and the winner of the Fan Favorite award was announced. 

The final awards were: 

TeamCatnap accepting their 1st place award with Dean Sherwood. 
  • 1st Place, $2,500, as well as automatically advancing to the Rist DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge Preliminary Pitch-off in April 2023, Catnap – Majd Elhachem, Michael Ciampo, Khadija El Hadad, Fritznere Brutus, and Matheus Fonseca  
  • 2nd Place, $1,500, Solar Sails – Quin Liang and Aalap Patel 
  • 3rd place, $1,000, – RehaBand –  Alexa DeVito, Maria Ferreira, Helen Kham, Timothy Roach, and Ardon Zibel 
  • Fan Favorite, $500 – Project Poseidon – Abdullah Jasim, Dylan Cormier, Abdelsalam Abutabikh, Amr Elkordy, Jeswin Jees, Jessica Borst, Charles Kenny, and Mustafa Al Hado 

Thank you to everyone who attended and supported this event!  

Interested in pitching an idea and getting funding? Applications for the 11th Annual $50,000 Idea Challenge are open now – apply today! 

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2022 DCU / Manning Innovation Contest

On December 1, 2022, Rist DifferenceMaker Institute held the 10th Annual DCU/Manning School of Business Innovation Contest from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. at University Crossing, Moloney Hall. To kick off the event, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs for the Manning School of Business and Event Emcee of the evening, Amit Deokar provided welcoming remarks.  

After the remarks, the finalist judges were introduced. The judges for the evening were: 

 – Edward Gallagher ‘84, Senior Vice President (retired), Northeast Division, Comcast Business Services 

– Hoang Nguyen ‘07, Director of Finance, DCU 

– Sandesh Parulekar, Director of Information Systems Development, DCU  

– Darcie Sunnerberg ‘87, Vice President/Sovereign Analyst, Loomis Sayles and Company 

Once all judges were introduced, the event began! Five student finalist teams were given ten minutes to present their ideas, along with five minutes of Q&A from the judges. The teams that presented were: 

– AlgoPal, team members Edvard Nordlund, Matthew Crasa, Gabriel Blanchard, Isac Jonsson, Stefan Owens  

– Bridged Connection, team members Isaac Carpio and Dumark Ramirez 

– PayDay, team members Nick Woolsey, Andrew Tarnowski, Daniella Pacheco 

– PTB – Private Teller Booths, team members Nicole Chanquet, Sharon Banks-Obanor, Jesse Kajko, and Mustafa Bellakhdar 

– Solar Crowdfund, team members Tolotra Samuel, Muhammad Khalil, and Borna Doroundi 

Each semi-finalist team member won $100. The teams’ idea ranged from topics such as algorithmic trading, AI teller booth, crowdfunding platform, and more. After each pitch, judges asked questions to help them further understand the ideas. The judges ranked each team based on how clearly they explained their executive summary, mission statement, business goals, market analysis, how they would utilize funding, and project timeline.

Judges listening to a business pitch given by Dunmark Ramirez from Team Bridged Connection, alongside with team member Isaac Carpio

Following the presentations, judges went to a separate area to deliberate the final winner. During this time, all attendees got food, networked with each other, and further discussed the inspiration and details of the ideas that were pitched. 

Around 8:00 pm, the judges returned to announce the final award. Congratulations to team Solar Crowdfund for winning the final prize of $500 per team member! They also automatically advance to the DifferenceMaker Preliminary Pitch-off this spring. 

Team Solar Crowdfund with team members Tolotra Samuel and Muhammad Khalil, announced as the 10th Annual DifferenceMaker DCU / Manning School of Business Innovation Contest Winners.  

In total, DCU awarded $2,300 to student teams at this event.  

Interested in pitching an idea and getting funding?

Applications for the 11th Annual $50,000 Idea Challenge are open now – apply today

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