If you’ve been paying close attention, you might have noticed an addition to the FlySorter website on the About page: my brother, Matt Zucker, now makes an appearance. The truth is that Matt has played a key role in FlySorter from the very beginning, it’s just recently that we’ve codified his position as co-founder.
Matt & I have a history of collaboration that goes pretty far back – we learned to program together from our dad using BASIC on our Atari family computer, and we’ve worked at the same place a few times over the years. We were both employed by the Physics Lab at NIST in high school and college, creating web pages to present databases to the public, and then we worked together again at Bluefin Robotics, a Boston-area company that builds autonomous underwater vehicles. Later, my career turned toward mechanical engineering and product design while Matt’s path led him to software and a PhD from the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. He wrote his thesis on path planning for mobile robots, with an additional focus on computer vision and machine learning, all packed in to his 5 years in Pittsburgh.
Incidentally, Matt was instrumental in helping me complete one of my fun side projects over the past few years: Sir Mix-a-Bot, a bar tending robot. I used a PUMA arm as the starting point, and when it came time to write the inverse kinematics code (to translate a point in X/Y/Z space to angles for the various joints), it turned out he’d already written a version to complete an assignment in one of his graduate classes. How fortuitous! He also helped me debug a few issues as I got the arm up and running.
After he finished his doctorate, Matt took a position as Assistant Professor of Engineering at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where he now teaches classes in robotics, computer vision, numerical methods, and digital systems.
Starting FlySorter happily presented another great opportunity for us to combine forces. Matt’s expertise in computer vision and machine learning has been a key part of progress so far, and we share the goal of bringing the power of automation to Drosophila labs, especially when it involves building and programming robots.