DifferenceMakerTM $50K Idea Challenge Online Registration

If you have any questions, please email: DifferenceMaker@uml.edu.

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Foley & Lardner LLP is an international law firm started in 1842. According to The American Lawyer, the firm ranked 39th on The American Lawyer's 2011 AmLaw 100 rankings of U.S. law firms, with $633,000,000 in gross revenue in 2010. Foley & Lardner has been in The American Lawyer's annual AmLaw 100 rankings of U.S. law firms by revenue since 1986.

Thank You To Our 2022 Corporate Sponsor

Spring 2022 $50K Idea Challenge Information

DifferenceMaker will be hosting the Tenth Annual DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge this spring 2022. The goal of the Idea Challenge is to engage UMass Lowell students in creative and innovative problem solving around major issues that affect our region and our future. Students will work to create a positive social impact in the community and world.

Student teams will be asked to develop real solutions to real problems. They will then be coached and guided to present a concept proposal for a needed service, product or business that addresses a real world challenge such as education, climate change, access to health care, support for the arts, cyber security, regional unemployment, etc.

$50,000 in prizes will be awarded to UMass Lowell student teams that present the best solutions and strategies for addressing these timely social and business challenges.

If you have creative and innovative ideas for solving these types of problems, or want to work with others to try to figure this out, please consider forming a student team and entering the 2022 $50,000 Idea Challenge. All student teams will receive guidance and coaching in refining their concept and presentation.

The DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge awards ceremony will be held on April 13, 2022 from 5 - 8:30 p.m.

Join us at our spring 2022 events to learn more!


  • Applicants must be UMass Lowell students (graduate or undergraduate) or have graduated from the university within the past year.
  • UMass Lowell students or recent alumni (graduated in the past year) must take a leadership role in developing, presenting and implementing the concept and proposed solution.
  • UMass Lowell students must makeup the majority of the team. 
  • Students are highly encouraged to form interdisciplinary teams of two or more, meaning students from different majors should work together in developing a their solution. If you need help connecting with team members from other majors, we will help facilitate this. Please see our TeamMaker platform to help with team formation or email: DifferenceMaker@uml.edu. Having an interdisciplinary team will be taken into account during scoring.

Challengeidea Challenge Details and Deadlines

Idea Challenge Kick-Off and Idea Hack Hack - January 25

  • Come learn more about the DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge and brainstorm your ideas with other students, faculty and staff. This event will explain the Idea Challenge, highlight current student DifferenceMaker projects, and allow you to share your idea with others, as well as meet potential teammates and mentors. Register for the 2022 Idea Challenge Kick-off and Idea Hack.
  • Idea Challenge Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Feb. 11
  • Finalists will be chosen from the pool of applicants and be notified via email

Idea Concept Development – February to March

  • All student teams will be introduced to the Problem-Opportunity-Solution-Resources approach to problem solving. A series of workshops are scheduled to help teams examine their selected problem, explore the opportunity, develop possible solutions and identify needed resources.
  • Idea Plan submissions are due online. Please log into the Manage your TeamMaker page and click on the "Start Idea Plan" link for your project. Please complete and submit your Idea Plan by 5 p.m. on March 3.
  • Revised Idea Plans are due online by 5 p.m. on March 28. Please log into the Manage your TeamMaker page and click on the "Start Idea Plan" link for your project.
  • PPT Rocket Pitch Presentations are due by 5 p.m. on March 28 via email to: DifferenceMaker@uml.edu.
  • Posters are also due by 5 p.m. on March 28 via email to: DifferenceMaker@uml.edu
  • Please Note: These are enforced deadlines. Teams submitting past these deadlines will not be included in this years challenge.

Idea Challenge Pitch Events

Preliminary Pitch Off
April 6: 12:30-6p.m. (for students); 5-6 p.m. (open to the public)
O'Leary Library, Mezzanine, 2nd Floor, South Campus

From 12:30-5p.m.: Each team will present a Power Point rocket pitch describing their problem and proposed solution before a panel of alumni judges. Each presentation will be followed by a brief Q&A session with the judges. 

From 5-6p.m.: Networking will take place and the 10 finalist teams will be announced.

Important Dates and Deliverables

  • Feb. 11: Idea Challenge application is due online by 5 p.m.
  • March 3: Idea Plan submission due online by 5 p.m. Please log in with your student credentials and fill out the form. Please log into the Manage your TeamMaker page and click on the "Start Idea Plan" link for your project.
  • March 28: Revised Idea Plan is due online (please log into the Manage your TeamMaker page and click on the "Start Idea Plan" link for your project); PPT presentation and Poster due to DifferenceMaker@uml.edu (be sure to use the templates). 
  • March 28: Rocket Pitch PPT Presentation is due to DifferenceMaker@uml.edu (Please name submitted documents with your project's title). An example of the Rocket Pitch (pdf) is available to review
  • April 6: Preliminary Pitch-off
  • April 13: Tenth Annual Rist DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge

Idea Challenge Finals Pitch Ceremony

April 13, 5 - 8:30 p.m.
University Crossing, Moloney Hall, Room 260

  • Selected finalist student teams will present a pitch describing their problem and proposed solution before a panel of alumni judges. Each presentation will be followed by a brief judge Q&A session. The judges will select the winners of the Idea Challenge event and prizes will be awarded.


A total of $50,000 in prizes will be awarded. We would like to give a huge thank you to our prize category sponsors! Your support has been instrumental to the growth and success of DifferenceMaker.

Award Categories:

  • Rist Campus-Wide DifferenceMaker (Sponsored by Brian Rist ’77)
  • Significant Social Impact
  • Contribution to a Healthier Lifestyle
  • Sutherland and Innovation Technology Solution (Sponsored by Andrew Sutherland ‘94)
  • Jack M. Wilson First to Market
  • Commitment to a Sustainable Environment 
  • Honorable Mention
  • Foley and Lardner, LLP

For more information email: DifferenceMaker@uml.edu.