Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jacobs School Students Win Micromouse Competition--Again

For the second year in a row, a team led by Alex Forencich, a fifth-year student at the Jacobs School, took first place at the California Micromouse competition, held on campus May 20. Forencich autonomous robotic mouse found the center of a maze in just 40 seconds.

It was a close finish: the team that took second place, led by Todd Yamakawa of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, took 11 seconds to solve the maze. But they also took a 30-second penalty for pick up the mouse at some point during the competition. The third place team also took a 30-second penalty, in addition to taking 55 seconds to solve the maze.

In all, 28 teams, and their micromice, competed all day Sunday at the Qualcomm Center, on the ground floor of Jacobs Hall, also known as EBU 1 on the UC San Diego campus. The teams hailed from as far as China, and as close as UC San Diego. Teams from UCLA, UC Riverside and other Southern California campuses also attended. The mice are completely autonomous and the goal is to get to the center of the maze as fast as possible. They typically use a microcontroller (a small computer on an integrated circuit) and infrared sensors reflecting off the walls to make their way through the maze. Some also use a wireless interface to transmit debugging data back to their team’s laptop.

Most teams build the robots with off-the-shelf components. But some prefer to put together a custom circuit board, chassis and other parts. All robots map the maze, then return to the starting point and make a run for the center, using the fastest route they’ve found. Some prefer to map the whole maze, then plot a route to the center. Others prefer to map the maze only until they’ve figured out where the center is, then make a run for it. Teams are not allowed to reprogram their robots after they’ve seen the maze. The competition was hosted by UCSD IEEE at the Jacobs School of Engineering.

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