Friday, May 18, 2012

Robotic Mice Take Over Qualcomm Center at Jacobs School Sunday

Don't worry, these mice don't bite. They're really robots designed to find the center of a maze as soon as possible, without needing cheese as a reward.

In all, 28 teams, and their micromice, will compete all day Sunday, May 20, at the Qualcomm Center, on the ground floor of Jacobs Hall, also known as EBU 1 on the UC San Diego campus. The teams hail from as far as China, and as close as UC San Diego. Teams from UCLA, UC Riverside and other Southern California campuses also are set to attend.

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 is open to the public and hosted by UCSD IEEE at the Jacobs School of Engineering.

Shake, Rattle and Roll

Jacobs School researchers put a five-story building through motions from the 7.9 earthquake that took place in 2002 in Denali, Alaska. The results were quite impressive. See for yourself in the video below: