2023 201 E2

RoboCam: A Flexible High-Throughput Machine for Biological Research

By: Sergio Gonzalez, Jr.

Department: Biology, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Faculty Advisors: Dr. Raymond Esquerra, Thomas Zimmerman (IBM)

Biologists often repetitively apply methods and protocols in experimental biological research to generate datasets for analysis. The latest instrumentation technology has been developed to increase the efficiency of these laborious processes by incorporating computers and robotics. These instruments can automate tasks such as liquid transfer, cell culturing, and microscopy on well plates and nanofabricated devices. However, the existing systems are often designed to perform a single function, making them prohibitively large, costly, and inflexible, and thus inaccessible to many researchers. We developed the RoboCam platform, which utilizes the robotic capabilities of economical 3D printers, the cost-effectiveness of Raspberry Pi computers, the affordability of digital cameras, and the availability of open-source image processing libraries (OpenCV) and programming language (Python). We demonstrate the feasibility of this approach by imaging, detecting, and counting the number of fly embryos as a function of time using a high-throughput 48 well microplates. This platform offers a cost-effective solution that is accessible to any research laboratory, enabling them to automate repetitive laboratory procedures and accelerate their research efforts.