September 6, 2017 | Autor: Antonio Valente | Categoria: Robotics
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International Conference on Innovative Technologies, IN-TECH 2014, Leiria, 10. - 13.09.2014



INESC TEC, Campus da FEUP, Rua Dr. Roberto Frias, 4200-465 Porto, Portugal

Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, School of Sciences and Technology, Edf. Engenharias, 5000-801 Vila Real, Portugal 3

IEETA, Campus Universitário de Santiago, 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal

Keywords: Micromouse, robotic contest, didactic robotics Abstract. There is a need to attract students to science and engineering courses. Robot competitions are one of the most auspicious ways to attract students to the field of robotics and thereby to science and technology. Micromouse Contest is one of promising contests where a small autonomous robot has to navigate its way through an unknown 16 X 16 cells maze. The Micromouse Contest not intended to be only a competition but a complete project. This paper presents all the Micromouse Project that includes, in addition to the annual competition, the development of a kit, workshops for students and their teachers, and dissemination activities. The project was started in 2011 and all the preliminary phases are concluded. First results show that there is great interest and participation of all stakeholders. In the near future it will be necessary to add to the project a graphical language (Blockly, Scratch, among others) in order to facilitate and stimulate the participation of younger students. Introduction The enchantment of robots for many children (and adults) is noticeable in the surge of robotics animation films, such us Wall-E and Robots, in the proliferation of affordable robot toys and construction sets, or in the publication of robotics magazines and websites. At the same time, there is a generalized concern about the falling numbers of science and technology students leaving to the need to attract them to these courses as early as possible [1]. Marian Petre [1] described examples of children learning subjects that they previously considered difficult and inaccessible, in order to solve problems in robotics. Furthermore, secondary school students working in teams learned that this programming and engineering knowledge has a social context. Robotic contests are one of the most promising ways to attract students to the field of robotics, since winning an award at a competition not only gives students a sense of accomplishment but also gives pride and visibility to schools. In RoboCup Jnr., Robot World Cup Initiative [2] for primary and secondary school children, there are competitions in specific challenges: Soccer - matches between 2-on-2 teams of autonomous robots on a 90 X 150 cm grey-scale pitch; Rescue - autonomous robots race to identify ‘victims’ in a line-following task incorporating obstacles and uneven terrain; Dance - one or more autonomous robots perform to music in a competition judged for creativity. In the recent years a 35 years-old contest is become very popular - the Micromouse Contest. These contests are very visual attractive and they be held around the world (UK [3], USA [4], Japan [5], Singapore [6], and Taiwan [7]). In 2013 the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro starts to organize the first edition of Micromouse Portuguese Contest [8] trying to encourage students to pursue careers in technological fields. In 2013 only high level university students take part but the contest aims the participation of secondary school students and, in a near future, people from 8 to 80 years old. Micromouse is a small autonomous microcontrolled robot vehicle that has to navigate its way through an unknown maze. The main challenge for the contestant is to impart to the micromouse an adaptive intelligence to explore different maze configurations and to work out the optimum route for the shortest travel time from start to finish. The maze, depicted in Fig. 1, consists of 16 X 16 squares of 18 cm X 18 cm each. The horizontals and verticals passageways are 16.8 cm wide and the diagonals are 11.03 cm. The walls are 5 cm high, white on the sides and white on the top (in some events the top is red). The floor of the maze is black. The start of the maze is in one corner (S); the goal (G) is the center four squares.


S Fig. 1 Typical maze layout.

International Conference on Innovative Technologies, IN-TECH 2014, Leiria, 10. - 13.09.2014

The scoring procedure is quite complicated, rewarding efficient maze exploration algorithms, and penalizing the inefficient ones. It is not only speed that determines the winner; reliability and intelligence are also taken into account. For example, if a mouse is touched in anyway, then it is heavily penalized. State-of-the-art micromouse can even run at a speed of 3 m/s and in a diagonal path [9]. The combination of easily defined goals, plus a scoring system that rewards efficient and reliable design makes micromouse an ideal student project that can be taken from low to high level students. The Micromouse Contest not intended to be only a competition but a complete project delivering a high potential for learning. The project includes, in addition to the annual event competition, the development of a kit and conducting various workshops. This paper presents all the Micromouse Project starting from a summarized description, followed by the proposed micromouse kit, workshops prepared, and ending with the participation on Micromouse Portuguese Contest 2013. Final conclusions and future work are presented at the end. The Micromouse Project The Micromouse Project comprise a contest (Micromouse Portuguese Contest), a robot kit (Grígora S), firmware and Arduino libraries with GitHub community support, several workshops for high school teachers and/or students/contestants, and dissemination activities in schools and robotics festivals. The project started in 2011 with some dissemination activities to publish the contest, its rules and captivate the interest of students to this robotic event. Figure 2 shows one of these activities at Santo Tirso high school robot competition (RoboTop).

Fig. 2 Introducing Micromouse Contest at schools. In 2012 the contest was presented in some robotics festivals and began the preparation of the Micromouse Portuguese Contest 2013. The contest takes is first appearance in 2013 and also began the development of the Micromouse Kit (Grígora S). The requirements for the kit emerged from this first edition competitors ideas. In 2014 the first workshop begin with the presentation of the kit where, drawing, how to assemble and solder are some of the topics covered. Upcoming workshops will address topics about programming obstacle detection, control of stepper motors, odometry and algorithms to solve the maze. For now, are excluded from the scope optimization strategies since the target audience of these workshops are high school students. The Micromouse Kit – Grígora S The development of a kit to facilitate the participation of secondary school students was always present in the formulation of this project. Having in mind the target audience and the need to foster the robot electro-mechanical development, a kit was designed based on a hardware platform widely disseminated (Arduino) and uses stepper motors to facilitate their control. Therefore, the micromouse kit, whose block diagram is shown in Fig 3, is steered with NEMA 8 (very small, only 20 mm X 20 mm by 30 mm long) 1.8º steeper motors. The microcontroller, controls four infrared light emitting diodes (IR LED) in three directions (front, diagonal left and diagonal right), detecting the intensity of the reflected light to determine the maze wall information and to correct robot navigation. The main unit (controller unit) is based on Arduino Leonardo [10] containing a 16 MHz ATmega32U4 microcontroller from ATMEL with 32 kB of flash memory and 2.5 kB of SRAM.

Fig. 3 Micromouse Kit block diagram.

International Conference on Innovative Technologies, IN-TECH 2014, Leiria, 10. - 13.09.2014

The microcontroller is programmed through a micro USB port that can also be used as serial communication port (useful for debug). The firmware in the microcontroller can interact with the user through buttons, LED, buzzer, and serial port connector (could be used to plug a Bluetooth module for debug - not allowed during official runs). By using the functions libraries (C and C++), students should contrive their own maze-solving algorithm to help the micromouse find out the goal and decide and optimal route from the start to the goal. A real photography of the kit is presented in Fig. 4.

Fig. 4 A real photography of the Micromouse kit.

Workshops The Micromouse project includes two types of workshops for two distinct audiences: students and teachers. For students there is an initial talk on assembling the kit that includes a session in a hot air welder for SMD components on the PCB (Fig. 5). In the end, closer to the event, there will be another workshop where students can test their robots on a track with official dimensions. These dimensions are approx. 3 m X 3 m and their cost does not allow, in many schools the existence of such a structure. Thus, this workshop is a moment of contact with the official track and also a good opportunity to have contact to more experienced teams composed of university students. Footnotes should be single spaced and separated from the text. Ideally, footnotes appear on the page of their reference, and are placed at the foot of the text, separated from the text by a horizontal line.

Fig. 5 Micromouse kit hot air welder session. The workshops dedicated to teachers have as principal objective to form them so they can then give full support to their students. These workshops begin with an introductory session to the hardware and the programming context of the kit (Arduino integrated development environment). The following workshops involve the different modules of the kit software: wall detection; controlling stepper motors, pre-defined movements (turning right and left by 90 degrees, moving forward, U-turn, among others) and odometry; finally, algorithms for solving the maze (turn left/right, flood-fill, among others) [11]. At the end of these workshops, teachers are able to provide their students all the necessary skills to obtain a good performance in the contest. This link between university and secondary school teachers and/or students will promote a proximity, leading to greater attractiveness of engineering degrees. Additionally, the entire Micromouse project promotes interaction among secondary school students given student-learning opportunities that goes beyond learning to build and program a robot. The 2014 contest The 2013 edition of the Micromouse Portuguese Contest took place on April at the shopping center in Vila Real (Fig. 6). The tender shall always have the stage to its completion a public place (mall) to attract other public and not to close the contest to university and college. This second edition included the participation of 7 teams (Fig. 6) with two teams from universities in northern Portugal and the other five from high school using the Grígora S kit. The event always has a workshop (mandatory for participating teams) where contestants present their robots (design, construction prominors, algorithms, etc.). The jury form SPR (Portuguese Robotic Society~\cite{SPR}) assigns an honorable mention for best presentation.

International Conference on Innovative Technologies, IN-TECH 2014, Leiria, 10. - 13.09.2014

a) The 2014 edition

b) Participating teams Fig. 6 Micromouse Portuguese Contest..

Conclusion and Future Work In this paper, a new contest for Portugal, based on a popular contest in Asia and United States was presented - the Micromouse Portuguese Contest. However, it is not only a competition, but a whole project that involves several phases (spreading, kit development, workshops, and annual competition). The project was started in 2011 and all the preliminary stages are concluded. First results show that there is great interest and participation of all stakeholders. Involved in this project are already 7 secondary schools in the district of Vila Real and the authors intending to extend the project to the entire northeast of Portugal. A full evaluation of the project is not complete because some of the students are from the 9th grade. When these students are at a university age it will be possible to know how many followed higher education and chose areas related to robotics. All students involved will be followed by the project and at the end all the results will be published. During the project the authors found important to involve not only students from the 9th grade, but the entire community. That is, make the Micromouse Portuguese Contest an event from 8 to 80 years old. Initially the project will focus on children but always with center attention to the elderly (majority of the population in the northeast region of Portugal). Thus, in the near future it will be necessary to provide the project with a graphical programming language (Bloclky [12], Scratch [13], ect.) to facilitate the participation of the newest and, at a later stage, also older people. Acknowledgment The authors would like to thank to the Electrical and Computer Engineering Students Group (NEUTAD), and to the Dolce Vita Douro shopping mall for all the cooperation on this project. References [1]

[2] [3] [4] [5] [6]


M. Petre and B. Price: Using robotics to motivate ‘back door’ learning, Education and Information Technologies, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 147–158, 2004. [Online]. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/B%3AEAIT.0000027927.78380.60Initial(s) Surname, Initial(s) Surname and Initial(s) Surname: Title of paper, Title of journal, Vol. volume number (year), No. number, pp. page number - page number. Robocup, “Robocup 2014 site,” http://www.robocup2014.org/ (visited on 2014-05-20). Micromouse UK: Micromouse UK contest site, http://www.tic.ac.uk/micromouse/ (visited on 2014-01-15). APEC Applied Power Electronics Conference and Exposition: Micromouse USA contest site, http://www.apec-conf.org/conference/participating-in-micromouse/ (visited on 2014-05-20). NTF - New Technology Foudation: All Japan Micromouse Competition site, http://www.ntf.or.jp/mouse/ (visited on 2014-05-20). Institute for Technical Education: Robotic Games Society (Singapore), Nanyang Polytechnic, Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic, Singapore Science Centre and Temasek Polytechnic., “The 21st Singapore Robotic Games 2014 site,” http://guppy.mpe.nus.edu.sg/srg/ (visited on 2014-05-20). Ministery of Education – Taiwan: Taiwan Micromouse and Intelligent Robot Contest site, http://http://robot.lhu.edu.tw/ (visited on 2014-05-20).


MPC: Micromouse Portuguese Contest site, http://www.micromouse.utad.pt/ (visited on 2014-05-20).).


N. B. Kiat, “Min7 micromouse robot site,” https://sites.google.com/site/ngbengkiat/Downhome/Topic1/min7 (visited on 2014-05-20).


Arduino, “Arduino Leonardo site,” http://arduino.cc/en/Main/ArduinoBoardLeonardo (visited on 2014-05-20).


S. Mishra and P. Bande; Maze solving algorithms for micro mouse, in Proceedings of the 2008 IEEE International Conference on Signal Image Technology and Internet Based Systems, ser. SITIS ’08. Washington, DC, USA: IEEE Computer Society, 2008, pp. 86–93. [Online]. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/SITIS.2008.104


SPR, “Sociedade Portuguesa de Robtica, http://www.sprobotica.pt/ (visited on 2014-05-20).


Google, “Blockly - A Visual Programming Editor,” https://code.google.com/p/blockly/ (visited on 2014-05-20).


Lifelong Kindergarten Group from MIT Media Lab, “Scratch - Educational Programming Language,” http://scratch.mit.edu/ (visited on 2014-05-20).

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