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Student entrepreneurs bring home prestigious Throwdown title

A team of UML student entrepreneurs hoping to help physical therapy patients walk more easily outdoors bested the competition from several universities, including runners-up Harvard and MIT, at the 7th annual Beantown Throwdown competition.

The Beantown Throwdown is the largest college pitch-off in Boston, an event that draws top student entrepreneur teams to pitch their startups. Thirteen teams representing Tufts, Northeastern, Boston College and Brandeis also competed. The Nov. 19 event drew a sellout audience of 200 to software company LogMeIn’s Cambridge headquarters.

Ambulatory Innovations co-founders and third-year graduate physical therapy students Michelle Mailloux and Katherine Muise took the team to the title. Mailloux delivered a three-minute pitch. Also representing the team were undergrads Tyler Clifton, a business major, and chemical engineering major Nicholas Draper. Travis Cohen, a working chemical engineer, rounds out the team.

“To be honest, we were very hopeful of this,” says Muise. “We’ve done well in some competitions, and we were ready for this one.” Ambulatory Innovations won the popular vote following a presentation at the university’s Convocation in September for its CAT Mat and took honorable mention in last spring’s Rist DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge.

Steven Tello, now vice provost of graduate, online and professional Studies, hatched the DifferenceMaker program in 2012.

“It is very exciting to see the hard work of our UMass Lowell students recognized by the Boston entrepreneurship ecosystem,” says Tello. “The success of the Ambulatory Innovations team highlights the interdisciplinary reach and collaborative nature of our DifferenceMaker program. We are very proud of this team and their mentors.”

Ambulatory Innovations is the company’s name and the Community Ambulation Tool (CAT) Mat is the name of its product, an artificial environment simulation tool designed to be used by physical therapy patients. It is a slip-free mat that simulates walking outdoors, using textured tiles that mimic rocks and sand to help patients prepare for walking outdoors. It helps with balance, stability and more.

Prizes for the Throwdown competition include a series of educational opportunities (mentoring, marketing and legal consulting sessions), startup tools, incubator access and a trip to Montreal for a week at the city’s leading innovation hub.

Muise said that the team is weighing next steps for its idea, including pursuing it full-time following graduation in the spring.