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