The micromouse competition has been running since the late 1970s around
the world. As far as I know, the modern form of the competition originates
in 1980 or so.
Essentially, you have a wooden maze made up of a 16 by 16 grid of cells.
Mice 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. As if that was not enough, the winner is
the mouse that manages this the fastest. There are many versions of the
full rules on-line and there are a number of minor variations on how the
score of the mouse is determined.
Although modern micromice are relatively sophisticated beasts, this is
an extremely challenging undertaking. One of the earliest mice, now about
20 years old is still regularly entered in competitions and puts up a
very respectable show.
The micromouse competition appears to have waned a little in popularity
in recent years. The UK events haven’t attract very large entries. There
still seems to be plenty of interest in the US and Japan.
With the ownership of the UK competition moving from IEE to
Royal Holloway College, things should improve significantly. There is a definite hard core of enthusiast who wish to see this competition and others like it do well in the UK and around the world.
Since the event is very competitive, there seems to be something of a
lack of useful information available on the Internet. While there are
many sites, and search engines produce plenty of hits, real details beyond
general descriptions and patchy progress reports are few and far between.
Some time ago, I decided to build a micromouse. Well, after four years
it is finally ready and has taken part in a competition. It reached the
centre but did not bother to look for a better route. Next step – speed.
As part of the research I have collected all sorts of resources including
magazine cuttings that go back twenty years. One of my students recently suggested that I don’t have much of a life. Hah!
However, I am far too hung up on design issues in the small slices of
time that I get to look at this toy and so I tend to achieve very little.
Thus, you can take what you read here in any spirit you like. It is wordy
– mostly because I am no good at drawings. I have tried to present as
many thoughts on building mice as I can. Some ideas are my own, some come
from published sources, some are from watching other peoples mice, others
come from discussion with others at the Royal Holloway events and the
micromouse mailing list. The intention here is not to provide any kind
of how-to or recipies for instant success. Instead you can simply choose
to have a look and see if I have thought of as many things as you – probably
not. Wanna tell me stuff I can include? Please.
A large amount of the information contained in these pages has been adapted
from from the articles published by Dave Otten in Circuit Cellar INK June/July
199 and August/September 1990. This pair of articles probably contains
more useful information in one place than any other. There are many other,
obscure, published resources.
A good list of references, originally compiled by Robin Bradbeer and extended by Martin Smith was published in the IEE Technical Information pack in 1993. This list can be viewed here:
And the guide is available here:
If you want to contribute anything – other ideas, any information, criticisms
or corrections then please do.