“In 30 years, a robot will likely be on the cover of Time magazine as the best CEO." — Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba
- A basketball robot
- Trains going electric
- Michigan's autonomous vehicle corridor
- Fueling the Future
- Can bricks store energy?
- Name that Flyover City!
September 3, 2020
Because we all need a robot to dunk on
We’ve known for a long time now that our robot overlords are coming after our jobs. But you might not have guessed that one of those jobs was shot-blocker. A Minneapolis hardware startup called JockLab has created a basketball-training robot that plays tenacious D. The robot, called D-Up, looks sort of like someone affixed a cardboard cutout atop a Roomba. D-Up follows a shooter around a basketball court with its "hands" up, trying to keep a human player from scoring.
The company took first place in the Twin Cities’ BETA Showcase, a tech competition for early-stage companies. It’s also developed partnerships with universities, including Minnesota State University, Mankato, and the University of St. Thomas.
The startup is also working closely with the athletes that will eventually use its end product. JockLab Founder and CEO Alijah Nelson says, "When I put videos up, a lot of coaches reach out asking to know more. We've had a lot of good conversations."
We tip our hat to the students from Gustavus Adolphus College who created the robot and the company.
Trains getting in on the electric vehicle revolution
Car and truck manufacturers are quickly moving to produce electric vehicles, but electric trains? Can those heavy-haulers schlep their massive cargo on batteries? Turns out, yes, they can. And an early leader is Wabtec, a Pittsburgh-based manufacturer of locomotives, freight cars, and passenger cars. The company’s history goes all the way back to 1869 but it got a big boost last year when it merged with GE Transportation.
The company is planning to test drive its hybrid electric choo-choo on a 350-mile route in California. It’ll be the first experiment of a battery-powered train pulling thousands of tons.
The barrier to electric trains isn’t so much the weight they’re hauling as the software required to regulate energy transfer. Wabtec thinks it’s got that mastered and is touting the lower carbon emissions and environmental benefits, as well as a commitment to sustainability and safety.
Building an autonomous vehicle corridor
What might once have sounded like a futuristic vision appears to be closer to reality, as Michigan officials, Ford Motor Company, and infrastructure developer Cavnue recently revealed plans to build an autonomous vehicle corridor connecting downtown Detroit and Ann Arbor.
Although the route hasn’t been nailed down, the idea is to have the roadway connect to the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, paralleling parts of I-94 to Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
It’s not happening tomorrow, though—a feasibility study could take up to two years.
NC's Altis completes $3.1M seed round
Altis Biosystems, located in Chapel Hill, has completed a $3.1 million seed round that was oversubscribed by almost 50%. The biotech research tools company has developed an in vitro platform for drug testing.
M25 invests in Ann Arbor cybersecurity startup
Ann Arbor-based cybersecurity startup Blumira has landed $2.6 million in funding. The round was led by Chicago’s M25, a Midwest-focused VC firm, with additional investment from San Francisco’s Array Ventures.
New fund launched by Betsy Brandt
St. Louis entrepreneur Betsy Brandt has launched a search fund with the goal of acquiring and operating a business in the Midwest. (The search fund model, aka “entrepreneurship through acquisition,” gives young founders a chance to fast-track their careers and become CEOs.) The fund, called Forest Park Capital, brought in 10 investors. Although the amount of capital is undisclosed, Brandt says it will fund a two-year search.
Purdue startup receives investment
Amplified Sciences, a diagnostics startup headquartered in Purdue Research Park, has received a $25,000 investment from the IU Angel Network. The funding comes on the heels of a nearly $1 million seed round in April. Amplified Sciences is focused on “detecting and pre-empting the risks of debilitating diseases.”
WashU scientists use bricks to store energy
What if ordinary red house bricks could store the energy we need to power our homes? As crazy as that sounds, it’s a serious question that scientists at Washington University in St. Louis are looking into. The key to this potential energy breakthrough is lowly rust, or iron oxide. It turns out that rust is what makes red bricks red, and it works sort of like an “ion sponge” to store and conduct electricity.
Scientists have previously noticed red bricks’ ability to absorb and store the sun’s energy but the WashU researchers kicked it up by developing a conducting polymer that remains trapped in bricks and essentially converts a brick house into a supercapacitor. So some day we might be using “smart bricks” to power our homes. The WashU team noted that any red bricks, even used ones, will work. For their experiment, they bought bricks at Home Depot for 65 cents each.
It's time for our favorite trivia game!
Test your Flyover geographic knowledge with these three "stumpers." There are no prizes (except for bragging rights).
- It has consistently been the best-selling car for toddlers. Wait, what? We're talking about the Cozy Coupe, the feet-powered toy with the yellow top and red body made by Little Tikes that is a consistent top-seller, year in and year out. In what city did its inventor live?
- What city is the home of the oldest continuously operating professional soccer team in the United States?
- In what city is the Domino's Pizza headquarters located?
Click here for today's answers.
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