In reading through the new Introduction to Micromouse Robots for Embedded Developers article on MONOist, authored by The March Hare, I was struck by the fact that participation in the annual All Japan Micromouse Competition has increased consistently over the past two decades, to the point that there were 3 times as many competitors for the 2011 event compared to when the same event took place in 1991.
The participation chart, based in part on 2009 RoboCon magazine article data, illustrates the trend quite clearly, with the post 1990 trends plotted with Expert Class in blue, Freshman Class in red, and the total in yellow. The Half Size micromouse classification started in 2009 and is shown in light green. Keep in mind that the chart numbers only represent participants in the All Japan competition. There are quite a few regional competitions held throughout Japan from the summer through late fall leading up to the All Japan event, and only the top developers make it all the way to the national competition.
While interest in engineering and design careers waned in many First World countries over the same time period, and was severely depressed during tough economic times, it appears that the Japanese not only remained dedicated to the initiative, they actually increased in number quite dramatically.
I'm not sure what conclusions can be drawn from this trend, especially since micromouse development represents a very unique sector of robotics where participants are highly motivated to compete against themselves - to beat their own best times and improve their skills and know-how - rather than attempting to defeat each other.
Nevertheless, it's a stark contrast to what took place in robotics in other countries, like the U.S., during the same period of time.
Via: ＠IT MONOist
The center attraction at the Birmingham TechFest Competitions is the UK Micromouse championship, an event that has been held continuously in the UK sine 1980.
This year, TechFest will take place Saturday, June 16th, and will include the traditional UK Micromouse Maze Solver competitions as well as Wall Follower, Time Trials, Drag Race, Line Follower, and Mini-SUMO events. Registration is now open.
Derekchall (Youtube) from the UK was kind enough to share some videos from the recent APEC 2012 Micromouse Robot competition held in Florida.
’APEC 2012 Micromouse Robot Fast Runs (Video)’ continues
Micromouse has to be the longest running, and perhaps least well known, robot competition. Micromouse robot builders tend to be almost obsessive about their chosen sport, often flying half way around the globe to test their designs against the best the world has to offer. It's not about the glory - very few papers and even fewer television networks ever mention the sport. It's not about the prize money - there isn't any. And, it's not about beating your competitors. Unlike other sports, Micromouse is all about beating yourself - improving your own personal performance. Like long distance running, it can be an extremely lonely sport requiring endless hours fine tuning arcane software algorithms, shaving fractions of a second off times, and developing new drive systems.
Several times a year the top Micromouse builders gather to compare notes, explain and share their research, and to see who can clock the fastest times. The next international event is MINOS 2012, scheduled for April 14-15th at Royal Holloway, University of London. MINOS always draws the leading Western micro mouse gurus including Peter Harrison - who has competed in competitions as far afield as Japan and Taiwan, David Otten - one of the leaders of the micromouse initiatives since it's inception, and others.
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.]
Ng Beng Kiat is literally The Wizard when it comes to micromouse robotics. Yesterday at the 2011 All Japan Micromouse Robot Competition in Tsukuba, Japan he proved, once again, that he's the man to beat. HIs full size micro mouse robot entry, named Min7.1 blazed through the maze course in 3.921 seconds, which I believe is a new record. Breaking the 4 second barrier, something no one would have believed possible a few years ago. It's tantamount to Roger Bannister breaking the 4 minute mile barrier.