Technology, and robotics, know no borders. In this day and age when people use high speed internet connections to talk via Skype, or watch videos on YouTube, it's not unusual to find people experimenting, learning, sharing, and having a tremendous amount of fun with robot all over the globe.
For example, we just found out about a really exciting robot and technology competition that will take place next January in Bombay, and the way that we came across the information involved at least five different countries and at least as many timezones.
Although we grew up in the United States - Southern California to be more precise - and have a technical/engineering background, our first exposure to micromouse competitions was just a few years ago here in Japan.
We happened to drop by one of the All Japan Micromouse events that have been staged for the past 27 years and were totally blown away, and captivated, by the advanced designs and lightening fast speeds. Of course logically we knew the basic premise was to build a small mobile robot that could find it's way through a complex maze, and then make a speed run. But what we saw at the event threw logic and reason out the window.
The micromouse robots in competition were primarily from Japan, Singapore, and Korea with a few entries from the US. The robots literally traversed the maze so fast that we couldn't keep up with their movements with our hand-held video camera. Ever since that day we've been dyed-in-the-wool micromouse fans (fanatics?) and try to attend every competition here in Japan that we can.
Micromouse, as a robot competition, was first originated in the U.S. going back all the way to 1972. In the late 1970's the maze solving aspect was added quickly followed by the "Amazing Micromouse Maze Contest" that took place in June, 1979. Most of the rules used in global competitions are still based on that original contest regulations with very few changes. The Japanese first started holding micromouse competitions about 27 years ago, and have staged them continuously ever since. Many of the most well known Japanese robot leaders have been involved in micromouse at one point or another in their careers.
For example, Nishimura - who heads the ROBO-ONE organization in Japan also plays an active role in the micromouse activities and events, and Morinaga, the creator of Metallic Fighter - the ROBO-ONE champion, has designed and built several top micromouse robots over the years. While his primary focus recently has been on the ROBO-ONE humanoid robots, Morinaga is still very active in the micromouse world and is expected to compete in the All Japan Micromouse Contest scheduled to be held in Nagai this coming November.
At the same time, active organizations developed on the opposite side of the globe in Europe and the U.K. And so, earlier today we (American) were browsing the internet from Japan where we happen to live and work, and happened to check a micromouse website in the U.K. and happened to read a post by an engineering teacher in Singapore that was looking for overseas micromouse contests that his students could enter. And, in response to his request, two people had responded - one encouraging him to consider having his students participate in an upcoming UK micromouse competition, and a second response from Bombay, India also encouraging participation in a micromouse event next January. So, we felt compelled to follow the links - kind of like a mouse who can smell some tasty cheese just around the next maze corner.
We weren't disappointed. What we found was some very, very tasty robotic cheese indeed.
The Bombay event, Techfest 2007 includes quite a number of robot competition events in addition to micromouse. Held annually, the event draws participation from all over the world. Here's what they had to say:
Techfest is the Annual International Science and Technology Festival of IIT Bombay, India. With the distinction of being the largest of its kind in Asia, Techfest attracts a crowd of over 30,000 from various colleges in India and abroad, in competitions that are considered to be a class of their own. Techfest has always been known for devising novel competitions that incorporate latest trends in technology and demand only the best efforts to emerge victorious.
This year Techfest has 3 major competitions which are projected on an international platform: Micromouse, SNAP and Full Throttle (Afterburn).
Micromouse has been the centre of attraction in Techfest, with participants from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Singapore, Iran and as far as USA battling it out and setting newer records every time. The Micromouse maze in Techfest is considered to be the most coveted in Asia, with a cash prize of USD 750 along with glory to take away. The details about Micromouse can be seen at www.techfest.org/ibots/micromouse ,
For international teams, Techfest provides travel reimbursement once they qualify certain elimination criterion.
The details about the international policy can be seen at www.techfest.org/international.
Techfest 2007 - Bombay, India
Micromouse @ TIC - U.K.