The annual All Japan Micromouse robot competition is just a little over a month away, so everyone here has been watching the regional preliminary contests like a hawk. And, the one builder that everyone has their eye on is Kato-san, who demonstrated unbelievable expertise in all categories of last year's competition, but due to a small miscalculation ended up not winning the big prize.We were lucky enough to get an exclusive close-up look at his latest half-size micromouse design, named "Egg Torte".
The robot is tiny that he carries around in a small Tupperware container that not only contains the robot but spare parts and adjustment tools.
When you openly carrying box you can see the tools plus another even smaller Tupperware box that looks just big enough to contain a few batteries.
Open the smallest box, and you discover what we believe has to be the world's fastest wheeled autonomous wheeled robot on a distance/weight basis.
It's basically a flying printed circuit board.
Normally we associate small devices with fragility, and at first we were hesitant to even touch this exquisite robot. However, Kato has made the robot surprisingly robust. He has taken into account the electronics, software, drive system, power requirements, mechanical design, and high-speed dynamics, to the extreme.
For example, the weight, center of gravity, balance, and wind resistance of every single part played a factor in their selection, and positioning on the board.
The layout of the main printed circuit board not only had to follow good electrical design rules, it also had to accommodate the positioning of the drive motors, infrared sensors, battery, and other components.
Everything had to come together almost perfectly. That's difficult enough for a standard size micromouse. And it that he is also one of the top level micromouse robot developers in the standard size category, and the line follower category. It's obvious that a lot of the know-how he acquired competing in line follower robot matches made its way into the design for his latest half-size micromouse.
The most recent regional micro mouse competition was held last weekend, on the 17th, in the Chubu District. How did Kato's robot creation fare? Well, you be the judge:
Keeping in mind that he still has about four weeks to fine-tune the robot's performance and tweak the software, we're betting that he will not only win the annual competition, he will also blow away all previous record times. We are definitely looking forward to the competition.
Many thanks to Kato-san and RT Corp for their kindness and support in giving us access to Egg Torte.