2024 applications are now open!

  • Application opened: December 1 at 5 p.m.
  • Due: February 12 by 5 p.m.

Thank you for your interest in applying to the $50,000 Idea Challenge. Please follow the instructions below.

Each team must be officially registered by completing the application process in this section. This includes creating a profile, adding a team, and having the team apply to the competition by providing brief answers to the application questions. At this part of the process a very basic description of your idea is needed, we understand specifics are not determined at this point. The workshops in February help with more details.

How to Apply to the Idea Challenge

Create a DifferenceMaker Idea Platform Profile:

Log in to the DifferenceMaker Idea Plan Dashboard

  1. Click on the Create Profile button
  2. Complete your profile:
    • If you are the team captain, select TeamMaker.
    • If you are looking to join a team, select TeamSeeker.
    • If you are not sure whether you're a TeamMaker or TeamSeeker, select New Profile.
    • Each team member will need to create a profile.
      • Team members can also join after a team is approved.

Submit your Idea Challenge Application:

  1. Create or Join a team
  2. Click on the Application button within team.
    1. NOTE: Only team captains will be able to apply
    2. If you have multiple teams, select the team you wish to apply with
  3. Complete the form and click the submit button
  4. Application approval.
    1. Can take one to three days.
  5. Wait for the Idea Plan portal activation (Typically the same Due Date for taking applications closes).
  6. You can now start adding items and submit your idea plan when complete.

NOTE: If team leaders need to be reassigned, please email: differencemaker@uml.edu.


You can preview a version of the application (pdf) but please remember to apply online.

Team Assistance

Do you have a team? Are you seeking specific members with certain skills? Or are you a seeker looking to join an existing team? Use the TeamMaker Platform!
  • Follow the Current Projects or Current Seekers links to join an existing project team or to find team members.

Rules and Important Dates

Click on the plus signs below to expand and contract the different sections.

    • Applicants must be UMass Lowell students:
      • Undergraduate
      • Graduate
      • Or have graduated from the university within the past year.
    • Teams:
      • UMass Lowell students as defined above must:
        • Take a leadership role in developing, presenting and implementing the concept and proposed solution.
        • Make up the majority of the team.
      • Interdisciplinary Teams
        • Students are highly encouraged to form interdisciplinary teams of two or more students from different majors for developing their solution.
        • If you need help seeking additional team members, please see our TeamMaker platform or email: DifferenceMaker@uml.edu.
        • Having an interdisciplinary team is taken into account during judge scoring.
  • Idea Concept Development Workshops

    • Workshops introduce all student teams to the Problem-Opportunity-Solution-Resources approach to problem-solving helping teams:

      • Examine their selected problem.
      • Explore the potential opportunity.
      • Develop possible solutions.
      • Identify needed resources.
    • Workshop 1, Identifying Problems

      • February 22from 5-7 p.m.
      • Help your team focus on better identifying the problem you wish to solve.
    • Workshop 2, Assessing Opportunities and Value Propositions

      • February 26 from 5-7 p.m.
      • Methods to determine the opportunities and values associated with your defined problem.
    • Workshop 3, Developing Business Models and Solutions

      • February 28 from 5-7 p.m.
      • Techniques to define your solution and build your business model.
    • Idea Plan submissions:

    Announcement of teams going to the preliminaries

    • March 12
    • Semi-Finalists Announced via Email and Social Media

    Please note: these are enforced deadlines. Teams submitting past these deadlines will not be included in this year's challenge.

    Finalists will be chosen from the pool of applicants and be notified via email.

  • Mandatory Pitching Workshop

    • March 14 from 5-7 p.m.

    • Mandatory for all Preliminary Pitch-Off teams.
    • Geared towards semi-finalist teams to help prepare and practice your rocket pitch.

    Mandatory Rocket Pitch Coaching

    • March 18-22 during weekday daytime working hours.
    • Details are provided to Preliminary Teams.

    Deliverables for the Preliminary Pitch-Off Competition

    • Due: March 27 by 5 p.m.

    • Using your original Idea Plan submitted to generate items.
    • The following documents submitted using the corresponding method by the due date and time:

      1. Required Documents submitted by email by the due date and time.
        1. Rocket Pitch Poster
        2. Rocket Pitch Presentation
      2. Optional - Revised Idea Plan using the Idea Challenge Dashboard

    • Revised Idea Plan (Optional)

      • Due: March 27 by 5 p.m.
      • Due online using the Idea Challenge Dashboard
      • Log into the Manage Your TeamMaker page
      • Click on the "Start Idea Plan" link for your project.
      • Complete the form.
      • Select Submit.

    • Rocket Pitch PowerPoint PPTX Presentation and Poster (Both Required)

      • Rocket Pitch Poster Information:

        • Use the Poster Template (pptx)
        • Please submit with the following requirements:
          • A PowerPoint File with extension PPTX.
          • File Name: Your_Team_Name-Poster-DM.pptx
      • Presentation Application Note - If you are using a presentation application other than Power Point and converting to a .PPTX file, test it on power point before submitting.
        • In a browser, open the MYUML website
        • Under the Info for Students heading select "Student Email"
        • Login using your credentials
        • Select your PPTX files and they will open using online PPTX.

    Please note: these are enforced deadlines. Teams submitting past these deadlines will not be included in this year's challenge.

  • Idea Challenge Pitch Events

    Preliminary Pitch Off

    April 3:

    • Team Presentations and Judging: 12:30 - 5 p.m.
    • Announcement of Winners and Networking: 5-6 p.m.
    • Location: O'Leary Library, Mezzanine, 2nd Floor, South Campus

    Team Presentations and Judging:

    • April 3 from 12:30 - 5 p.m.
    • Student Teams are required to pitch to judges
    • Judges and Staff
    • Each team has 5 minutes to present their Rocket Pitch describing their problem and proposed followed by a brief 5 minute question and answer session before a panel of alumni judges.

    Announcement of Winners:

    • April 3 from 5-6 p.m.
    • A minimum of one team member of each student team is required to attend.
    • Open to the public
    • Announcement of the finalists.
    • Networking with judges, guests, faculty, staff, and other teams.

    Optional Pitch Coaching for Finalist Teams

    • April 4, 5, 8, or 9 for finalist teams.
    • Teams and DifferenceMaker staff will schedule times based on coaching requests and scheduling availability.

    DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge Finals Pitch-Off and Award Ceremony

    • April 10 from 5 - 8:30 p.m.
    • Location: University Crossing, Moloney Hall, Room 260
    • Finalist teams present their Rocket pitch describing their problem and proposed solution followed by a brief question and answer session before a panel of alumni judges. The judges deliberate and select the winners of the Idea Challenge named categories and honorable mention awards and prizes will be awarded.

    Summer Boot Camp

    • Summer Boot Camp is mandatory for winning teams and teaches student entrepreneurs how to bring their product or service concept closer to market.


    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 (Sponsored by UKG)
    • Contribution to a Healthier Lifestyle (Sponsored by Enterprise Bank)
    • Sutherland and Innovation Technology Solution (Sponsored by Andrew Sutherland ‘94)
    • Jack M. Wilson First to Market
    • Commitment to a Sustainable Environment (Sponsored by the Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy)
    • Honorable Mention
    • Fan Favorite

    Finalist teams:

    1. Receive Part of $50,000 as follows:
      1. Part of 35,000 of funding toward your idea from the Idea Challenge Finals
      2. Eligible to apply for one of three $5,000 awards of in-kind legal services sponsored by Foley and Lardner during summer boot camp
    2. Attend summer Boot Camp to learn more about customer discovery and business models.


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