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Tech Company Co-Founded by G-D Grad Mentors Startups

How to State a Start-Up

UMass Lowell Program Inspired 33 Companies, Raised Over $2.5 million For Startups & Filed or Received 8 Patents
The DifferenceMaker program at UMass Lowell teaches students of all majors entrepreneurship skills and helps them launch business and nonprofit ventures. Since the program began in 2012, participants have founded 33 companies, raised more than $2.5 million in funding for their startups and have filed or received eight patents.
     One of the earliest successes boosted by the DifferenceMaker program became Nonspec, a company co-founded by Groton- Dunstable grad Erin Keaney, to design and mass-produce affordable prosthetic limbs. Ms. Keaney is Chief Operating Office of the Lowell-based company she co-founded.
Nonpec was one of the early success stories mentored and motivated by the UMass Lowell program. Now Nonspec is "paying it forward," using its accumulated experience to help mentor a new women-founded startup company called Ambulatory Innovations, boosted by the program. UMass Lowell students Michelle Mailloux of Lowell and Katherine Muise of Saugus, formed Ambulatory Innovations to develop the Community Ambulation Tool or C.A.T. Mat.
     The C.A.T. Mat is a slip-resistant floor surface made of interlocking tiles filled with compression beads that simulate the feel of walking on grass, sand and gravel. The portable plastic mat allows patients to practice walking on uneven terrain so they can regain their confidence when walking outdoors.
Nonspec provided valuable technical advice and mentoring in how to fabricate the plastic mold for the C.A.T. Mat’s square- foot interlocking tiles, which can be configured to fit a variety of spaces.
     Inspired by friends injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, the C.A.T Mat invention won the top prize at the seventh annual Beantown Throwdown, Boston’s largest pitch contest for college students with ideas for new products, services, technologies and startups.
     The win at the Beantown Throwdown is just the latest coup for the team. Over the past year, Ambulatory Innovations has competed for and received more than $10,000 in funding and in-kind assistance from entrepreneurship experts in support of the invention. The C.A.T. Mat team beat out 13 others from colleges and universities from throughout the U.S. and Canada, including Harvard, MIT and Boston College.
     The win is motivating the students behind the product to bring it to market. They are working to achieve this goal through the DifferenceMaker program.
Ambulatory Innovations founders Mailloux and Muise are pursuing doctoral degrees in physical therapy at UMass Lowell. Other team members include business administration major Tyler Clifton of Ayer and chemical engineering major Nicholas Draper of Framingham. Travis Cohen, a chemical engineer from Brighton, who is a friend of the students, rounds out the group.
     Mailloux was inspired to become a physical therapist after watching two family friends learn to walk again after sustaining critical injuries in the Boston Marathon bombings. Muise’s interest in the field grew from her experience as a patient during her childhood.
     They came up with the idea for the C.A.T. Mat while gaining real- world clinical experience as part of their studies with physical therapists in the community. There, they heard from patients who wanted to practice walking on surfaces that mimic the uneven terrain of the world beyond a rehab setting.
“I found it frustrating I couldn’t take patients outside to walk on different types of surfaces,” Muise said. “Our rotations and our classroom studies contributed to our idea. We had a DifferenceMaker representative speak at one of our classes and that’s when Michelle and I started discussing the concepts that led to the C.A.T. Mat.”
     Here are just a few of the ideas developed by the DifferenceMaker Program at ULowell:
• Personalized Learning is a team that ensures students have the education that’s best for them in their college career by optimizing every student’s academic path.
• Guardian is a sensor platform that can attach to any commercially available drone for use in search and rescue operations.
• Clot Catch is developing a new design to replace the current inferior vena cava (IVC) clot filters that are currently on the market.
• Buddies Without Borders aims to bridge the gap between domestic students and international students.
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