Micromouse

Micromouse is an engineering design competition created by IEEE where small robotic mice solve a 16x16 maze. The mice are completely autonomous robots that must find their way from a predetermined starting position to the central area of the maze unaided. The mouse will need to keep track of where it is, discover walls as it explores, map out the maze and detect when it has reached the goal. Having reached the goal, the mouse will typically perform additional searches of the maze until it has found an optimal route from the start to the center. Once the optimal route has been found, the mouse will run that route in the shortest possible time. Mice can run at up to three meters per second, with current world records around 6~7 seconds.

The Micromouse competition is held annually at the Region 6 Southwest Area Spring Meeting. The location changes each year and moves between universities in the western United States. There are cash prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place of $500, $300, and $200, respectively.

UCSD's Micromouse team was founded by Christopher Aprea in 2006 with the help of Roger Ying, past IEEE UCSD Chair. The project has come a long way in just a few years. At the 2007 competition, the robot didn't move because of sensor problems. In 2008, the robot almost made it to the center, but got stuck on the corners of the maze due to its square mechanical design. In 2008-2009, the team built a new mouse from the ground up (shown above). Jeff Wurzbach designed the mechanical platform and Alex Forencich designed the electronics, including custom boards for the CPU, power supply, and motor controller. In addition, the team designed and built a to-spec maze for the 2009 competition (right), which we hosted here at UCSD.

The Micromouse team is always looking for students interested in hands-on mechanical, electrical, and software engineering. If you want to get involved, send us an email!

Why Join Micromouse?

Students working on Micromouse have to apply knowledge learned inside the classroom and learn a number of skills not taught at UCSD. This project teaches a number of skills including:

Circuit design. The typical ECE class involves analyzing circuits, not designing circuits. In a typical ECE lab, students are given a circuit and have to solve for some parameter to make it work correctly. In Micromouse, the team is given an abstract problem - build a robot that solves a maze - and must translate that into a concrete implementation that solves the problem.

PCB layout. Since ECE classes use breadboards, PCB design is not even mentioned. In Micromouse, the team must choose parts from hundreds of manufacturers and dozens of suppliers with myriad specifications and footprints, then lay out the circuit boards in CAD software, and send it off for fabrication.

SMD soldering. The typical ECE class involves building circuits on breadboards from a bin of already ordered parts. It's good for learning and rapid prototyping, but you won't find a breadboard inside your laptop.

Mechanical design. The chassis of the robot was designed in SolidWorks. SolidWorks is the standard in professional CAD software, and is widely used in industry. Right, a SolidWorks rendering of a preliminary design using an acrylic material.

Mechanical fabrication and assembly. The team sent some of the CAD drawings out for professional fabrication, and made others themselves using standard machine shop tools including lathe and drill press.

Embedded programming. The robot uses an ARM microprocessor - the same kind of processor found in iPhones, Blackberries, Windows Mobile devices, and other high performance embedded systems. They use the GNU toolchain to cross-compile for ARM, and JTAG interface to program the chip. Since there is no OS, the students get to program at a very low level - stepper motor drivers, sensor interfaces, interrupt handlers, memory management.

Artificial Intelligence. After writing the low-level code, the team gets to write the maze solving code.

The Competition

IEEE UCSD Micromouse teams attend two competitions annually. The first is the IEEE Region 6 Southwest Area (SWA) Spring Meeting and the second is the California Micromouse Competition (CAMM). The SWA meeting rotates among universities in the southwestern United States, and Micromouse teams get to travel to the SWA meeting for the competition and compete against other Region 6 schools. CAMM is organized and hosted by IEEE UCSD. It allows Micromouse teams from all over the United States to compete against one another, fostering better mice through more competition. Both SWA and CAMM have cash prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place of $500, $300, and $200, respectively.

Competition Results

Year Team Lead Location Date Place
2011 Anton Valencia Phoenix, Arizona (SWA) April 30th, 2011 3rd
2011 Jeff Wurzbach, Jordan Rhee UC San Diego (CAMM) May 22, 2011 2nd
2011 Alex Forencich UC San Diego (CAMM) May 22, 2011 1st
2010 Alex Forencich UC Los Angeles (Unofficial) May 22, 2010 2nd
2010 Alex Forencich Arizona State University April 10, 2010 1st
2009 Alex Forencich UC San Diego April 25, 2009 1st
2008 Chris Aprea Univ. of Arizona April 12, 2008 2nd
2007 Chris Aprea Univ. of Las Vegas April 14, 2007 2nd

Media

2012 California Micromouse Competition at UCSD (Youtube, 2012)

UCSD Micromouse at UCLA (Youtube, 2010)

UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering Micromouse Video (UCSD Jacobs School, 2009)

UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering Micromouse Press Release (UCSD Jacobs School, 2009)

How to build a Micromouse maze

Sponsors

This project is funded by the IEEE San Diego section and the Jacobs School of Engineering. The UCSD Electrical and Computer Engineering department generously provides the team with room EBU-I 4710.

Contact Us

If you'd like to join Micromouse, or have questions about the project, contact Gabriel at gabrielseemann[at]gmail.com

Lead Agreement

Lead Agreement

Rules

Micromouse Rules for IEEE Region 6 Southwest Area: htmlpdfdocx

NOTE: the rules for the California Micromouse Competition (CAMM) are different from the Region 6 rules. The CAMM rules can be found here


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