All posts by cyanzhong2019

Show-stopping concept vehicles grandstand music and grill fresh pizza at Chicago Auto Show

By Cyan Zhong
Medill Reports

As the flashiest fleet revved its way into the 2019 Chicago Auto Show, one special model boomed into spectators’ ears and eyes at the pre-show media exhibition. Penetrating bass and beats came from the back of the vehicle.

Kicks DJ, an orange Nissan vehicle adapted into a music powerhouse, has four diaphragms bouncing on what was supposed to be the rear window. Standing near a mixer board extending from the window, the knob-twisting, button-pushing “badass” DJ, Eric Shimp, jammed to the beats.

Eric Shimp of Vehicle Effects in California mixes music with the Kicks DJ’s mixer. (Cyan Zhong/Medill Reports)

“It’s not something that you would really want to drive, but it is fun to be able to take this into a concert venue or a field or a warehouse in this, roll it off the truck and rock a party,” Shimp said.

Aside from being a “superstar DJ,” Shimp is also project manager at Vehicle Effects, a small car-making team in Sun Valley, California. He works with Dennis McCarthy, a famous car builder for Hollywood films including the Fast and Furious series, Justice League and Batman v Superman.

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How this nano startup tackles big problems at the smallest scale

By Cyan Zhong
Medill Reports

A floating birthday balloon that sticks to the wall. A sponge absorbing water. An exploding soda can. A bottle rocket.

These seemingly unrelated items are all analogies Benjamin Hernandez uses to explain his startup, NuMat Technologies, a nanotechnology company in Skokie that tackles big problems at the smallest possible scale.

Think of birthday balloons. When they float around and rub against the wall, they stick to it because the electrical properties of gas determine that it likes to stick to surfaces, the 35-year-old founder said. Continue reading

Cleantech innovations in the Midwest need more venture capital money

By Cyan Zhong
Medill Reports

Though still an industrial metropolis, Chicago is actively becoming a clean energy innovation hub for microgrids, electric cars and next generation battery research.

But the startup momentum in the energy sector isn’t matched with enough venture capital enthusiasm.

“There are great founders working hard on great new inventions and new technologies, and there’s simply a lack of capital here,” said Ben Gaddy, chief technology officer at Clean Energy Trust, a not-for-profit providing venture capital for early-stage cleantech startups in the Midwest.

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