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Third Year of DifferenceMakers Kicks Off

New Mentor Program to be Introduced

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Members of Support Our Students, winners of the 2014 Campus-wide DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge, present their business plan to judges.

By David Perry

As the third DifferenceMaker season gets underway, the program is poised for continued growth with more teams participating and new resources available to help students bring their ideas to life.

At the Oct. 9 kickoff, a new Mentor Program was introduced and a trio of college competitions – Manning School of Business, Francis College of Engineering and the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – was launched. Teams of students are competing for seed funding to advance their ventures. In December, students will also have a chance to enter the 2015 DifferenceMaker $35,000 Idea Challenge, which will award cash prizes for winning ideas in a variety of categories during the spring semester.

Past winners of DifferenceMaker student challenges returned to offer updates on their projects, including Support Our Students, the 2014 campus-wide DifferenceMaker winner. Other guests included Glenn Morgan ’86, co-owner of SkyWorld Interactive, David Araujo, vice president of Information Systems for Digital Federal Credit Union and Joe Hartman, dean of the Francis College of Engineering.

“The DifferenceMaker program welcomes and encourages students of all majors to apply and get involved in innovation and entrepreneurship through creative problem solving,” said Steven Tello, Associate Vice Chancellor for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, who added the program is growing “rapidly.” Applications to compete nearly doubled after the first year, from 40 teams to 70. Past teams continue to have an impact, Tello noted.

The 2013 winner, Nonspec, creates adjustable, low-cost prosthetic limbs for children in developing nations. They won $5,000 from the 2013 Idea Challenge but have since raised an additional $75,000, won other competitions and have a patent pending.

Introduced in 2012, the DifferenceMaker initiative encourages students to find their place as innovators in the global marketplace. Involving students and faculty from each of UMass Lowell’s schools and colleges – from engineering to liberal arts, business to health sciences and education – the program provides academic and extracurricular activities that expand students’ understanding of entrepreneurship and how they can make an impact in the world.

See a complete list of upcoming DifferenceMaker events.