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.
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Registration is open for the MINOS 2010 event coming up April 10th & 11th at Royal Holloway, University of London. For those not familar with the event, it is a fantastic opportunty to not only see great micromouse and line follower robots in action, but also to hear how it’s done from the top designers.
Typical technical presentations include in depth coverage of algorithms, sensor and chassis design, motor control, and actual user experience from experts like Peter Harrison and David Otten.
Whether your interested in building and competiting or just want to see what it’s all about, MINOS is just what you are looking for.
The latest generation of micromouse robots are lightening fast, so fast that it’s actually hard for camera people to track them.
The video clips below were captured during practice sessions for the 30th All Japan Micromouse Competition by Peter Harrison (Decimous) using a Casio FC100 camera set for 640x480 at 210 fps. While the high video frame rate effectively slows down the robots speed by a factor of 7X, the micromouse robots still seem to run surprisingly fast.
Watch for the mouse with extremely low ground clearance and four drive wheels towards the rear. That’s Kato’s TETRA robot design.
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The right and right front LED/sensor pairs (top of image) used to sense the micromouse maze walls turned out to be a critical factor in TETRA’s performance.
The performance of Kato-san’s amazingly fast TETRA micromouse robot design delighted fans, and competitors, at the 30th All Japan Micromouse event in November, but due to technical difficulties it failed during the final competition on Monday. Everyone was puzzled, including Kato-san, since they fully expected TETRA to walk away with top honors.
There was no question that TETRA was technically capable of mapping and then running the maze in world-record time. In fact, the robot ran the same maze after the competition was finished in a blazing 4.766 seconds.
So, what went wrong on that fateful day?
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