Ng Beng Kiat thoroughly enjoys robotics. In addition to his 'day job' as a lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Singapore, he has done leading edge work in Micromouse, RoboCup, and other fields of robotics. In 1997 he had the opportunity to watch the 18th All Japan Micromouse Competition, which was dominated by Korean builders that year, and was totally hooked on the sport.
Since that time, he has racked up an amazing string of victories, including winning the championship in Japan several times, the APEC championship in the US, and numerous Singapore based competition.
At the 31st All Japan Micromouse Robot Competition, he captured 2nd place in both the half-sized mouse and full sized (Expert) categories. Here's his full sized robot in action at the event:
We uploaded the 2010 All Japan Micromouse Robot Competition photoset, including photos of all the Expert Class robots that were on display. Unlike previous years, this time the robots were placed on a table behind a barrier which made getting detailed shots a bit more challenging. Luckily we were blessed with long arms.
Kato's full size Tetra micromouse champion robot that took 1st place in the Expert category.
We weren't able to capture a lot of video showing the surprisingly well designed micromouse robot that uses a video camera instead of the more normal LED/sensor pairs. So, we decided to split the footage and insert a description of the design and how it works.
Notice how the robot doesn't need to go down a lot of blind alleys. It just glances down them quickly determining whether or not they are worth exploring.
After the 31st All Japan Micromouse Robot Competition wrapped up on Sunday night a group of us headed over to a local restaurant to relax and debrief. David Otten, Harjit Singh, and Peter Harrison share their observations and opinions on what took place during the event:
The pressure was incredibly intense yesterday for the Expert Class finals at the 31st All Japan Micromouse Robot Competition. The event, held once a year, is the longest continuously running micromouse competition in the world and draws top robot builders, and attention, from around the globe. In recent years the strongest competitors have flown in from Singapore and have managed to capture the top positions in this premier event. Characteristically, the “home team” crowd here has been very polite, respectful, and honored the overseas robot designers with accolades and admiration. But, at the same time, it has been easy to see that they have been anxious to recapture the top prize for Japan.
Last year they came within a hairs-breath of making that dream a reality. Kato-san, a young Japanese micromouse builder who also excels at designing top level line followers and half-size micromouse robots, almost managed to win the championship, but failed due to what turned out to be a fairly minor programming problem. Over the past 12 months Kato fine tuned and perfected his approach, and performed extremely well in the regional competitions leading up to yesterday's final. Micromouse fans, us included, have been closely following his progress. We don't know for sure whether or not the Japanese place any side-bets on robot competitions, but if they do, this particular event would have been the one to draw all the action.
Needless to say, all eyes were on Kato yesterday afternoon, and he certainly didn't disappoint the crowds.
The initial maze mapping run was absolutely perfect. His mouse does the mapping at a speed faster than many robots are able to achieve during their final speed runs. The only heart stopping moment was when Kato's robot paused for a bit towards the end of mapping run to digest all the data it had accumulated and calculate the optimum path. Even Kato was a bit concerned that something might have gone awry, as you can see in the video.
His first speed run of 4.942 seconds was strong, and would have captured the title in previous years. Heading back into the maze for the second speed run he set the bar even higher achieving 4.693 seconds. His final two attempts turned out to be a little too aggressive and resulted in high speed crashes, but in the end no other competitor could touch him.
ROBOtic'10 is coming up on Saturday, November 27th at Millennium Point in Birmingham (UK). The exciting event, organized by the Birmingham City University Technology Innovation Center, has been going strong for six years running and features robot competitions including Maze Solver, Wall Follower, Time Trials, Mini-Sumo, Line Follower, Drag Race, and Freestyle. It's open to the public, admission is free, and there is no fee for entering your robot – just show up on the day.
In the meantime, we're headed out to the 31st All Japan Micromouse Robot Competition this weekend where we expect to see some new micromouse world records set, or at least have a whole lot of fun trying.