Yukimi Hayafune participated in the All Japan Micromouse Contest last year, including making into the final competition in the Freshman Class, which is quite an achievement. She was kind enough to submit this contest report and photos documenting her experience and the event:
The All Japan Micromouse Contest 2011 was held at the Tsukuba Capio building, Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture. It was the biggest micromouse crowd I have ever seen with over 300 participants, friends, and robot fans.
I competed in the Freshman Class. There were 99 competitors entered in the preliminary contest that is used to select the 30 fastest micromouse robots for the final.
[Note: “Freshman” refers to an entrant who considers themselves to be a micromouse beginner excluding those who completed the maze in the past All Japan Contest or the equivalent overseas contests. Also, those who are judged as an expert during the competition by a jury president are also excluded from the category of a freshman.]
The preliminary Freshman Class contest was held using a quarter-size maze (8 x 8 sections) with the goal set at the opposite end of the maze from the start position. Contestants were allowed three runs within a total time limit of 3 minutes.
Each contestant wore a chest banner clearly showing their entry number to avoid any identification mistakes. I was number 90, the 90th starter. Given the large number of competitors, four quarter mazes were setup within the conventional 16 x 16 size maze, so that four micromouse robots could run at the same time.
My turn came. I carefully pressed the "start" button of my micromouse and it slowly left the starting cell. The maze searching succeeded and my micromouse reached the goal. I picked up my micromouse and switched it to the "fast-run" mode. Once again I pressed the "start" button. It ran faster than the first time and again, reached the goal. It took about eleven seconds. The third run was almost same as its second run. Eleven seconds… I couldn’t figure at that time if my robot was fast, slow, or average compared to the others.
It was really a tense moment when the time came to announce the names of the contestants who passed the preliminary. An official called the name and the time of the players in decreasing order of their preliminary goal times with the fastest times first. The fastest mouse only took two seconds to reach the goal! My mouse took eleven. I was worried. I didn’t feel relieved until my name was announced at last. I managed to pass the preliminary in the 23rd position, phew.
The Freshman Class Contest finals began only about 30 minutes after the announcement. All the contestants had to leave their micromouse in a designated place until their turn came. This was to avoid the contestants modifying the software after seeing the contest maze. All the robots were gathered together in one location where everyone could look at them.
Looking at them, I noticed that almost all the freshmen's mice use stepping motors to drive the wheels and therefore they somehow look about the same. Some of the competitors had decorated their robots.
The time came for me to compete. Since it was the finals, the crowd had grown considerably. I pressed the "start" button of my mouse. Compared to the preliminary 8 x 8 maze, the 16 x 16 maze used for the finals seemed huge.
My micromouse couldn’t find the goal during its first two runs. I was so nervous, but tried to calm down. For the third run, I carefully wiped the robots tires used by the stepping motors so that it wouldn’t lose steps by slipping. I quickly prayed and then, pressed the "start" button. This time, it made the goal!
My robot took more than one minute to reach the goal during the search run. After the third run, I changed its mode to "fast-run". For the fourth run, it reached the goal in about 40 seconds. The fifth run was unsuccessful. My exact best goal time was 00:41:140. That put me in 16th place. First place went to a Korean participant with a time of 00:07:500.
The 2011 micromouse contests were completed. I happened to participate in the contest for the first time in my life during 2011. I enjoyed, worked hard, worried, was sometimes disappointed, and laughed with my micromouse and the micromouse contests. I will surely try again during 2012 with some improvement. The first regional micromouse contest starts around July in the Kansai area. I’m really looking forward to it!