Team | PickNik

Our Team

Founded in 2015 for the Amazon Picking Challenge, PickNik’s team now has over 127 years of combined experience in the field of robotics and automation, bringing together deep academic background of robotic theory and robotics software development experience.

Dave Coleman, PhD

Co-Founder, CEO / Roboticist

Mechanical Engineering B.S. at Georgia Tech, Computer Science PhD at CU Boulder focusing on motion planning. Dave has 12 years experience working in the field of robotics automation and is a leader in the open source MoveIt and ROS communities. His insights into robot-agnostic platforms for different morphologies, theoretical approaches, and different end-user requirements give him a well-rounded understanding for powerful robotic software. He has worked and consulted for all types of robotics companies including Google Robotics, Open Robotics, and Willow Garage.

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Rob Coleman

Co-Founder, COO

B.A Political Science and B.A. Public Administration, Auburn University; and M.A. Asia-Pacific Studies, international trade and economic policy, National Chengchi University (Taiwan). Rob has lived on four continents and developed a talent for seeing the big picture while working for both startups and large organizations. Over the past ten years Rob has served in breadth of roles, including policy analyst, team leader of Marines, trade advocate, project manager, and business development manager. Rob enjoys new challenges and moving the status quo.

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Mark Moll, PhD

Director of Research

M.S. Computer Science University of Twente (the Netherlands) and PhD Computer Science Carnegie Mellon University. Mark has worked in robotics for more than 20 years, with a focus on motion planning. He has been leading the development of the Open Motion Planning Library, which is used by MoveIt as the default planning library. He has over 80 peer-reviewed publications. He has extensive experience deploying novel algorithms on a variety of robotic platforms, ranging from NASA's Robonaut2 to autonomous underwater vehicles and self-reconfigurable robots.

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Mike Lautman, MSE

Co-Founder, Roboticist

B.S. Computer Science and Electrical Eng, M.S. Robotics from Univ. of Pennsylvania. While a full-time student, Mike founded Nebu, a Machine Learning and Data Science consultancy that he grew to 10 engineers. One of the projects that Mike is especially proud of was building an ETL pipeline that feeds millions of escort advertisements from the web into a singular database used by law-enforcement against child-traffickers. After Nebu, Mike joined up with KindredAi, an AI and Robotics venture backed startup, where he took on leadership of its motion planning efforts on a number of internal and external products.

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Nathan Brooks, PhD

Applied Robotics Scientist

B.S. Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at University of Tulsa, M.S. and PhD Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. Nathan's graduate research focused on developing team planning techniques and interaction strategies improving operator supervision of large robot teams. Through this research, he has extensive experience with simulation platforms and field deployment logistics for unmanned vehicles on land, sea, and air.

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Henning Kayser, MSE

Applied Robotics Scientist

B.S. Computer Science at University of Hamburg w/focus on distributed systems. M.S. Computer Science w/focus on motion planning and machine learning. Broad experience with autonomous robots and scenarios with unstable dynamics like liquid pouring or pushing of objects. Expertise in motion planning, trajectory optimization, constrained and Cartesian path planning as well as 3D-perception and image processing. Winning team participant in the IROS 2018 Mobile Manipulation Hackathon.

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Andy Zelenak, PhD

Controls Engineer

B.S. ME/EE from Colorado School of Mines, PhD from the University of Texas. Andy has focused on bringing a more responsive, delicate touch to industrial robots, with emphasis on control theory. Andy has collaborated with roboticists in the nuclear, oil/gas, and aerospace domains. Some of his favorite projects were joint current based collision detection, balancing an egg between Motoman SIA5 manipulators, and design of teleoperation software for a dual-arm Clearpath robot.

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Stephen Brawner, PhD, PE

Applied Robotics Scientist

PhD, Sc.M Computer Science from Brown Univ, B.S Eng from Harvey Mudd College. Stephen has an interdisciplinary background in electromechanical engineering, robotics, and AI. Prior to grad school, he designed and built robots culminating in an automated heliostat cleaning system for eSolar, Inc - a concentrating solar thermal technology developer. Currently he leverages his broad expertise to develop automated behaviors for robots, incorporating machine learning, sensing, and perception. Stephen is also the developer of the SolidWorks to URDF Exporter.

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Tyler Weaver

Software Engineer - Robotics

B.S. Comp Engineering from DeVry Univ. Tyler has a talent for C++ and Python programming, having created many different software applications over the past decade. In 2013 he supported Special Operations in Afghanistan, and at DeVry Tyler built a stereo vision sensor for a robot competing in the CO Robotics Challenge. He has since developed software defined radio libraries for wireless communication and sensing applications. In that position, Tyler worked on a large legacy codebase adding new signal types and improving the accelerated math library.

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Chris Heckman, PhD

Senior Perception Researcher

B.S. MechEng UC Berkeley, PhD Theoretical & Applied Mechanics Cornell University and two Postdocs. Asst Professor in the Dept of Computer Science. Chris's research focuses on autonomy, perception, field robotics, machine learning, and AI. His work is used by industry in the development of autonomous vehicles, agricultural robotics and other mobile robots including for medicine and automation, as well as the federal government for civil environmental monitoring, intelligence and defense.

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Omid Heidari, PhD Candidate

Applied Robotics Scientist

M.S. MechEng from Babol Univ. of Technology; currently PhD candidate in Robotics, Idaho State University. Omid has worked extensively on forward & inverse kinematics as well as the dimensional synthesis of serial and parallel manipulators. He has studied human upper extremity kinematics for rehabilitation purposes which led to suggesting a task-based methodology for designing exoskeletons and a virtual reality environment for kinematics synthesis. His most recent work focuses on human-robot interaction through augmented reality.

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Guilherme Sartori Natal, PhD

Controls Engineer

PhD Robotics at LIRMM/France and two Post-Docs: KU Leuven/Belgium and ITA/Brazil. Specialist in advanced control of robots/nonlinear systems. During his PhD, Guilherme implemented an adaptive controller on the World's fastest robot (able to reach more than 100G of acceleration), which granted him a nomination for the IEEE ICRA'12 Best Automation Paper Award. At KU Leuven, he implemented control improvements on the PR2 robot, from Willow Garage, using a state observer to improve its joint velocity estimations. At ITA, he worked on the control of a robotic flight simulator and on 3D simulations of new robotic structures.

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Jafar Abdi

Software Engineer - Robotics

B.S. Mechatronics Engineering from Karabuk University. Jafar started as an embedded system enthusiasm before getting interested in robotics and software development; his favorite programming languages are C++ and Python, while he is also a fan of "Modern C++", a math lover, and believer in life-long learning.

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Tahnee Foley

Operations Assistant

Tahnee has over 20 years experience in business operations over a variety of industries including architecture and advertising. She was the Administrative Manager to the Design Team for the 2010 Olympic Village in Vancouver, Canada, a project that included coordinating over a dozen offices working to design and build 24 buildings in four years. Her passion is to see an efficient and effective organization while ensuring client satisfaction.

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Andy McEvoy, PhD

Advisor

M.S. Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M focusing on dynamics and controls and a PhD in Computer Science from CU Boulder focusing on robotic materials. Andy has worked in the aerospace sector on spaceflight and military grade hardware. Since then he has worked for MDA helping to develop the next generation of robotic arms for on-orbit assembly and servicing. Andy has a wide breadth of experience that extends from the initial mechanical design and analysis to the final software deployment of robotic systems.

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Ioan Sucan, PhD

Advisor

PhD in Computer Science, Rice University, Ioan is the original author of MoveIt and the Open Motion Planning Library. In 2016 he was the winner of the IEEE RAS Early Career Award "for contributions to open source software for robot motion planning." He is currently a manager on the planning team at Alphabet's Waymo self-driving car division.

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Brian Gerkey, PhD

Advisor

Brian is CEO of Open Robotics, where they develop and drive adoption of open source software in robotics. Before Open Robotics, he was Director of Open Source Development at Willow Garage, where they focus primarily on ROS. Before Willow, he was a computer scientist in the SRI Artificial Intelligence Center. Before that, he was a post-doctoral scholar in Sebastian Thrun‘s group in the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab. And before that, he did his PhD with Maja Matarić in the USC Interaction Lab.

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Mike Hurowitz

Advisor

Michael is a serial entrepreneur and startup advisor. Michael's expertise is in research commercialization, bringing new technologies from the lab to market. He has delivered over $24B of space missions, $7B of commercial aircraft, and 127 new products developed working with 35 Fortune 500 companies and almost 60 startups, 14 federal agencies, and 16 university research groups.

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Jeff Rose

Advisor

Jeff is a Partner of Origin Rose, a strategic consulting company. Over the last 3 years, he also led ThinkTopic, a Boulder based AI company, as Co-founder and CEO. ThinkTopic has worked with a wide range of organizations, from the Asian Development Bank to Conde Nast and Digital Globe. Before starting ThinkTopic, Jeff was one of the first research engineers at (Google) DeepMind, where he collaborated with neuroscientists to develop novel machine learning algorithms.

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Mission
Statement

Support the worldwide open source robotics movement through community building, consulting expertise, and the development of highly-capable motion planning software.