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.
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".
Robot competitions in the US tend to be about winning while knowledge transfer often takes a backseat, if it happens at all. Of course the smaller local robot clubs and education focused organizations make learning and improving the art a priority. But many of the US competitions appear to offer minimal opportunities for sharing and spreading know-how.
In the UK, and to a large extent in Japan, the situation is almost the reverse. Competitions take place, winners are honored, and trophies are carted home, but more time is spent on sharing learning between the attendees than battling it out in the ring or competition field.
A good example is the MINOS Micromouse Event held regularly in the UK. MINOS 2010, which took place last weekend, featured numerous presentations by expert competitors, including micromouse legends like Dave Otten, Peter Harrison, and Duncan Louttit, just to name a few. They delivered presentations on subjects as varied as "Robot friendly Arduinos", "Shiny Walls and accelerometer progress", "DC motors and encoderless odometry", "Power supplies", "Tuning the maze solver", and others. And, they've made their presentations available online, with few exceptions.
We'd like to see more competitions adopt this type of format in addition to the battles and head-to-head events. It's really critical if we want to attract more people to the sport and hobby of robotics.
For readers that are really interesting in micromouse robots and would like to see how an expert like Yuki Nakagawa of RT Corp assembles one, we’ve attached a UStream feed from RT featuring the PICAXE MicroMouse kit. It starts off a bit slow, but stick with it. Things start to get interesting after a few minutes.
’PICAXE MicroMouse Kit Assembly (Video)’ continues