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.
Ever wonder what it's like for a novice micromouse robot builder to compete in Japan?
Yukimi Hayafune, an intelligent young woman with a day-job supporting the accomplished robot builders at RT Corp in Japan, wanted to try robot construction and competition for herself. After assembling and testing a Pico Classic micromouse robot, she entered three major competitions here, starting with the Chubu Area Micromouse Beginner's Contest in September. She has another major competition scheduled for October, and then plans to try her luck at the All Japan Micromouse competition held in Tsukuba towards the end of November.
Hayafune-san was kind enough to share her experiences, along with a video, in the report below.
The July issue of ROBOCON Magazine hit the news stands yesterday and we were very pleased to see that it featured several articles near and dear to our hearts.
In addition to all the great, and always detailed, technical and event content that ROBOCON is known for, this issue included major articles covering RoboGames 2011, the Robot Japan First event, and Taylor Veltrop's master/slave robot control implementation using the Microsoft Kinect device.
The micromouse competition requires that the robot search a 16x16 maze grid, find the shortest path, then do speed runs to determine its fastest time.
At RoboGames 2011, the PiCo Classic micromouse robot, entered by RT Corp (Japan) turned in consistent 20 second run times to capture the Gold Medal.