Skip to Main Content

Idea Challenge

Join us at all our 2016 spring events!

Please check back in November 2016 for updated information regarding the 2017 $35K Idea Challenge.

Spring 2016 Idea Challenge Information

The UMass Lowell Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship will be hosting the Fourth Annual DifferenceMaker $35K Idea Challenge this spring 2016. 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.

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 climate change, access to health care, support for the arts, cyber security, regional unemployment, etc.

$35,000 in prizes will be awarded to UMass Lowell student teams that present the best ideas and strategies for addressing these timely social and business challenges.

If you have 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 2016 Idea Challenge. All student teams will receive guidance and coaching in refining their concept and final presentation.

The DifferenceMaker $35K Idea Challenge awards ceremony will be held at University Crossing, Moloney Hall, on April 13, 2016 from 5-8:30 p.m.

 2016 Dates

  • January 28: 2016 Idea Challenge Kick-Off and Idea Hack
  • February 5: 2016 Idea Challenge application closes
  • February 11: Workshop Series: Identifying Problems
  • February 16: Workshop Series: Assessing Opportunities and Value Propositions
  • February 23: Workshop Series: Developing Business Models
  • February 25: Workshop Series: Delivering Your Rocket Pitch
  • February 29: Idea Plan and presentation deck due due by 5 p.m. to
  • March 8: Semi-finalists announced
  • March 8-11, March 21-23: Individual team rocket pitch coaching sessions
  • March 23: Revised Idea Plan, presentation deck, and poster due by 5 p.m. to
  • April 1: Preliminary Pitch-Off, 3-6:30 p.m. in University Crossing, Moloney Hall, Room 260
  • April 13: 2016 Fourth Annual DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge, 5-8:30 p.m. in University Crossing, Moloney Hall, Room 260


  • 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 must take a leadership role in developing, presenting and implementing the concept and proposed solution.
  • Students are encouraged to form interdisciplinary teams, meaning students from different majors should work together in developing and implementing the solution. If you haven’t yet connected with team members from other majors, we will help facilitate this. Please see our TeamMaker platform to help with team formation.

 Challenge Details and Deadlines

Idea Challenge Kick-off and Idea HackathonJanuary 28

  • 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. RSVP with your name, major, and year in school to
  • Idea Challenge Applications are due by midnight on February 5, 2016
  • Finalists will be chosen from the pool of applicants and be notified via email

Idea Concept DevelopmentFebruary- March 2015

  • 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 submission due online. Please log in with your student credentials and fill out the form.Submit the form online by 5 p.m. February 29, 2016.
  • PPT Rocket Pitch Presentation due by 5 p.m. February 29, 2016 via email to
  • Each team must submit their proposed solution in an Executive Summary format, along with a concise PowerPoint Pitch Deck. This is an absolute deadline. Teams submitting plans past the deadline will not be included in this years challenge.

Idea Challenge Pitch Events

Preliminary Pitch Off

April 1, 2016, 3-6:30 p.m.

Location: University Crossing, Moloney Hall, Rm. 260

  • Each team will present a 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. The judges will convene to select the finalists for the Idea Challenge Event.


  • February 5: Idea Challenge application due online
  • February 29:
  • March 23: Revised/Final Rocket Pitch PPT Presentation and Idea Plan due to (Please name submitted documents with your project's title)
  • April 1: Preliminary Pitch Off Event
  • April 13: Fourth Annual DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge

Idea Challenge Finals Pitch Ceremony

April 13, 2016, 5-8:30 p.m.
University Crossing, Moloney Hall, Room 260

  • Selected finalist 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 Q&A session with the judges. The judges will select the winners of the Idea Challenge Event and prizes will be awarded.


A total of $35K in prizes will be awarded.

For more information contact: