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Middle Bit: Minnesota plans for driverless future; Computer science training for Iowa City teachers

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The creators of “Olli,” an autonomous bus, have submitted a bid to the Minnesota Department of Transportation to test in Minnesota, according to a story in the StarTribune.

According to the story, self-driving cars are creeping into discussions about the future of transportation in the Twin Cities. Researchers say the technology could be required in new cars by 2030.

This technology could lead to parking ramps becoming repurposed for office or living space, roads can be narrower because driverless cars can follow more closely and people with disabilities could have more independence, according to the story.

The self-driving bus will be tested later this year on snowy Minnesota roads and possibly during Super Bowl festivities in February.

Iowa City teachers go back to school

Junior high and high school math and science teachers are asking for more training to boost computer science lessons, according to a story this week in the Iowa City Press Citizen. 

According to the story, a new Iowa law that took effect July 1 encourages teachers to increase computer science lessons in elementary, middle and high schools and comes with a professional development fund to help prepare teachers. The fund will launch in July of 2018.

A computer science professional development workshop was held last week—part of a Google Computer Science for High School initiative—gave 18 teachers a chance to prepare for a pilot project starting this fall that will incorporate computer science lessons into existing junior high math and science curriculum.

Teachers will meet monthly to discuss their progress, according to the story.

Chicago named top startup city

Chicago, Ill. was named the top startup city in the Midwest on Tuesday by crunchbase.

Minneapolis, Minn; Detroit, Mich; St. Louis, Mo. and Cincinnati, Ohio rounded out the top five; Des Moines was the only Iowa city to be in the top 15.

To see the complete list and grading rubric can be found here.

What else happened…


Bitcoin teller machines in Boulder led customers jump into the market – The Denver Post

Marijuana legalization fuels black market in other states – USA Today

Popular Colorado company sold Texas engineering giant – The Denver Post


Library toys teach coding, without a computer – Chicago Tribune

Cook County residents not happy with soda tax – Chicago Sun Times


Why drones are becoming important to Iowa farmers – The Des Moines Register

Iowans gear up for tax-free weekend – The Des Moines Register


Pretzel makers to open third store – St. Louis Post Dispatch

Rack performance beefs up with seed investment –

LaunchCode instructor appeals to inspiring techies –

Lambert endorses $3 pickup/dropoff fees – St. Louis Post Dispatch


Target steps up its game for the college crowd – StarTribune

Branch Messenger Inc—a Minneapolis-based—employee self-service platform for hourly workforces, raised more than $10 million in funding. March Capital Partners led the round and was joined by investors including CrossCut Ventures, and Techstars Ventures, Matchstick Ventures.


Foxconn’s Wisconsin payroll could reach $800 million annually – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Farmers provide food for the state fair – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Middle Bit: Minnesota plans for driverless future; Computer science training for Iowa City teachers | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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