Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Late June sees an influx of teams from a mix of schools and colleges from as far afield as Singapore, China, Pakistan, India, Iran and Spain to compete in the UK’s annual International Micromouse Competition as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.
Birmingham City University has become the home of ‘UK Micromouse’ as it organises the event for the seventh year in succession at its city-centre campus. The 2010 event, which takes place on 26th June, sees two schools from Singapore, as well as several other student groups, teams and individuals from Asia, the Middle East and Europe, fly in to compete in various classes of mini-robotic competition.
UK Micromouse features wide-ranging categories for senior and junior competitors, as well as for school teams. Robotic competitors range from simple starter robots, capable of sensing and following a route marked with a line, through to highly-sophisticated maze-solving robot mice. Supporting events include a fun drag race challenge which tests the straight-line speed and acceleration of robots. There is also a robotic ‘mini-sumo’ challenge, in which contenders seek out their opponents and then ‘push them out of the ring’. The event also encompasses competitors in the Schools Micromouse Competition in which there are categories that serve as stepping stones enabling school teams to graduate to the senior competition.
The top ‘maze-solver’ challenge sees autonomous mini-robot ‘mice’, race against the clock to be fastest to find their way unaided to the centre of a specially constructed maze. Using a combination of sensors, motors and software, the robots are constructed to negotiate the maze, map its surroundings and work out the optimum route to the centre in a series of timed runs. The quickest will be declared UK Micromouse Champion 2010. Last year’s winner Peter Harrison from South Staffordshire College has subsequently represented the UK at events in Taiwan, Japan and the USA .
The 2010 event is receiving significant support from event partners. These include Phaedrus Systems, Swallow Systems, Matrixmultimedia, Beta Layout, Renesas, Phaedrus Systems and Farnell through their “Element 14” brand.
Event organiser, Dr Tony Wilcox, of Birmingham City University’s School Of Computing, Telecommunications and Networks (CTN) explains: “Most modern devices depend on electronics, under sophisticated software system control. The underlying technology can seem remote and is taken for granted. Involvement with Micromouse robots, as a participant or spectator, is a valuable way for those interested - particularly young people - to explore these technologies. ‘Hands-on’ experience sparks interest and helps gain understanding. UK-Micromouse 2010 promises to be extremely competitive and fun.”
For the first time, the event encompasses a Midlands regional Scalextric4Schools competition which has seen secondary school pupils design Scalextric-based race cars as part of a national challenge. This part of the day’s competition is also supported by Birmingham City University’s close technology partner - major, US-based, engineering-design software company PTC Inc. The University has been actively promoting Scalextric4Schools in conjunction with PTC, in support of the national STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) agenda for secondary schools.
Plans are now being discussed to expand Micromouse step towards what is expected to be an enhanced event in 2011. Details of Birmingham City University’s plans for its expansion will be announced at Micromouse 2010 which opens to the public at 10 am on 26th June. The day-long event concludes with prize-giving at about 5 pm and entry is free to the public.
Head of the University’s School of Computing, Telecommunications and Networks, Mak Sharma, says: “UK Micromouse is a valuable way of engaging young people with technology – electronics, computers and mechanics. More and more young people seek to study with us in these and related technological fields, particularly as our relationships with numerous industrial can greatly enhance their career prospects.”