The 2014 National Schools and Colleges Micromouse competition took place on Saturday 28th June as part of the TechFest event at the Technology Innovation Centre in Birmingham. This was the seventh year that the event has been hosted in Birmingham and the number of competitors registered reached a new high of 27.
Regular attendees Wycombe High School provided 5 competitors and the organisers were pleased to welcome 8 entries from Claires Court School Maidenhead, 5 from King Edward VI School Stratford and 7 from Tendring Technology College, Frinton, all making their first appearances in the competition. “Old hands” Benjamin Houghton and Samuel Houghton from Burbage Primary and St Thomas More School respectively in Buxton, Derbys were back and Benjamin was once again by far the youngest of the competitors.
Schools have caught on to 3D printing technology very quickly and many of this year’s mice had mechanical parts made by this technique. Most were however using old “through-the-hole” technology for the electronics. Surface mount technology has many advantages over conventional soldering techniques but schools have been very slow to adopt it. Secondary age pupils with their steady hands and good hand-to-eye coordination are ideally suited to placing 1206 size surface mount components.
Competition started this year with the Line Follower event. The mice had to follow a 19mm wide white line on a black background for one lap employing optical sensors. A fairly short track had been set by the organisers but there was one section with three tight 150mm radius curves in short succession which caught out several otherwise well-performing mice. The pace was set by debutants Tendring Technology College with their very well controlled mouse “Larry” posting a lightning fast 18.95 second lap early in the competition. Several other mice were in with a chance but nobody else managed to tweak their mouse to below 20 seconds.
The next event was the crowd-pleasing drag race. In this event the competitors have to race against each other in twin lanes of a 7 metre long track tightly following a central 19mm white line then stop before hitting the end buffers 1.5 metres beyond the finish line. Each mouse recorded a qualifying time in the preliminary round so that a Wimbledon-type seeding could take place to ensure that the faster mice only competed against each other as the event reached its final stages. There were the usual hard luck stories with mice stubbornly refusing to get off the start line in the early rounds but very few jumped the start. The unluckiest competitor was Eve Cowley of WHS with her mouse “Thunderbolt” who was beaten in the quarter final with a 4.904 second time only to see that the eventual winning time was 5.038 seconds. Once again reaction time at the “traffic light” start gate proved to be the key to this event. The final was the closest the judges can ever recall. The winning time recorded by Zenab Maher’s “Philadelphia” was 5.038 seconds, only six thousandths of a second faster than Georgia Wilson’s “SolderMouse”.
The wall-follower event requires the most complex and specialised mouse and twelve mice from two schools contested the Schools event this year. Qualifying times were obtained in the practice maze with the fastest five mice competing for the final place in the full-size senior maze in front of an appreciative audience. The path to the centre of a maze is negotiated by getting the mouse to sense and follow the left-hand wall and turn away from any walls immediately in front of the mouse as it trundles along. With numerous sharp left and right turns, dead-ends and long straights, the qualifying maze was a harder test than in previous years. Competitors did well to reach the centre without having to rescue a trapped mouse with a touch, penalised by a three second penalty. The maze for the final was about a third shorter than the qualifying maze but the layout was particularly tricky. The top five all reached the centre and the top three mice all finished with no touch penalties. Special mention should be made of Eleanor Coward’s move from fourth in qualifying to 2nd in the final after making critical adjustments to the sensor set-up of “eMouse”. Bethany McDermott of Wycombe High School was the fastest qualifier and a worthy winner in the final with her mouse “Snooksie”.
Overall, it seems that the longer association of Wycombe High School with UK schools micromouse than all the other school teams was a key factor. The WHS girls took 8 of the 9 available event trophies. More than promising performances from the schools competing for the first time was highly encouraging and undoubtedly having had a taste of the day’s excitement, Tendring College and King Edward VI School will come back stronger and be even more competitive next year.
Once again we are indebted to Duncan Louttit who expertly ran all the Schools events and also donated the certificates and trophies. And finally thanks are due to the school staff and very supportive parents who accompanied the boys and girls to the competition and to Tony Wilcox and his team for providing us all with such excellent facilities.
Lightest Mouse: 139g, “KFC Mascot”, Matthew Hurst, Claires Court School
The judges noted that many of the mice had 3D printed parts of similar design and that by fettling and drilling, the entrants could have easily lightened their mice by a few grams without affecting their structural integrity.
Best Described Mouse: “Larry”, Jonah Pears, Millicent Lord & Toby Tweed, Tendring Technology College.
The Judges were delighted to have to choose the winner from several entries this year. The competitors often spend the majority of their time on the construction and testing of their mice and neglect this important part of their project.
Judges’ Award 1: Jessica Baines, Tendring Technology College
Jessica wrote the Basic programme in her mouse “Wham” from scratch. This was a complex task which no other competitor managed to do so well.
Judges’ Award 2: Charlie Boucher, Claires Court School, Maidenhead
Charlie produced an excellently engineered mouse “Lightbeam” which competed in all of the events.
Judges’ Award 3: Peter Isaac, King Edward VI School, Stratford.
Peter did a first class job as the KES team leader.
A “Raspberry Pi” credit card sized computer was donated to King Edward VI School, Stratford, judged Team of the Event by Jane Dickinson on behalf of CompTIA UK Ltd. Jane is keen to promote IT and Technology to students. The award was accepted by David Hannaford, the KES Mentor who assured Jane that it would be put to good use in the school by next year’s micromousers.
1st Place: “Philadelphia”, Zenab Mazher, Wycombe High School. (5.038 seconds)
2nd Place: “SolderMouse”, Georgia Wilson, Wycombe High School. (5.044 seconds)
3rd Place: “eMouse”, Eleanor Coward, Wycombe High School. (5.904 seconds)
The fastest recorded time this year was Bethany McDermott’s “Snooksie” at 4.844 seconds in the quarter final.
1st Place: “Larry”, Jonah Pears, Millicent Lord & Toby Tweed, Tendring Technology College, Frinton. (18.95 seconds)
2nd Place: “Thunderbolt”, Eve Cowley, Wycombe High School. (20.24 seconds)
3rd Place: “Philadelphia”, Zenab Mazher, Wycombe High School. (20.40 seconds)
|Mouse Name||Competitor||School||Time (s)|
|Larry||Jonah Pears, Millicent Lord, Toby Tweed||Tendring Technology College, Frinton||18.95|
|Thunderbolt||Eve Cowley||Wycombe High School, Bucks||20.24|
|Philadelphia||Zenab Mazher||Wycombe High School, Bucks||20.40|
|Snooksie||Bethany McDermott||Wycombe High School, Bucks||22.55|
|SolderMouse||Georgia Wilson||Wycombe High School, Bucks||25.00|
|Wham||Jessica Baines||Tendring Technology College, Frinton||30.42|
|The Screaner||Benjamin Houghton||Burbage Primary, Buxton, Derbyshire||39.09|
|Rainbow Wire||Benjamin Houghton||Burbage Primary, Buxton, Derbyshire||40.45|
|KES M||Miles Kitching||King Edward VI School, Stratford||51.86|
|The Flash||Samuel Houghton||St. Thomas More School, Buxton||66.92|
|eMouse||Eleanor Coward||Wycombe High School, Bucks||DNF|
|KES C||Charlie Thomas||King Edward VI School, Stratford||DNF|
|Fiona||Ellis Massingham||Tendring Technology College, Frinton||DNF|
1st Place: “Snooksie”, Bethany McDermott, Wycombe High School. (29.10 seconds)
2nd Place: “eMouse”, Eleanor Coward, Wycombe High School. (30.15 seconds)
3rd Place: “Thunderbolt”, Eve Cowley, Wycombe High School. (32.15 seconds)
|Mouse Name||Competitor||School||Qual. (s)||Final (s)||Pos|
|Snooksie||Bethany McDermott||Wycombe High School, Bucks||47.19||29.10||1|
|eMouse||Eleanor Coward||Wycombe High School, Bucks||58.99||30.15||2|
|Thunderbolt||Eve Cowley||Wycombe High School, Bucks||51.83||32.51||3|
|Crash||Daniel D'souza||Claires Court School, Maidenhead, Berks||57.33||36.36||4|
|Lightbeam||Charlie Boucher||Claires Court School, Maidenhead, Berks||59.19||40.04||5|
|KFC Mascot||Matthew Hurst||Claires Court School, Maidenhead, Berks||62.75|
|Philadelphia||Zenab Mazher||Wycombe High School, Bucks||66.13|
|Solder Mouse||Georgia Wilson||Wycombe High School, Bucks||68.29|
|Squiggle||Nathan Foy||Claires Court School, Maidenhead, Berks||70.30|
|Stan Lee||Edward Bennett||Claires Court School, Maidenhead, Berks||80.22|
|Smoothie||Ronan White||Claires Court School, Maidenhead, Berks||96.64|
|Lazer||Henry Wheeler||Claires Court School, Maidenhead, Berks||114.90|