Micromouse History

Note: This history is not my original work its a summary from work written by someone else. To see the complete history please see the City University of Hong Kong.

        According to the City University of Hong Kong the very first record of a 'mouse versus maze' problem was in 1950 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, This mouse contained a sensing finger that was moved by two motors.  Two years later an electric mouse was build and could find its way through a maze, guided by information "remembered" in a relay circuity underneath the maze.

       In 1972, Machine Design magazine sponsored a "Le Mouse 5000" contest in which mechanical mice, powered only by springs from mousetraps, pitted their stamina against one another to see which could travel the longest distance down the race track.

       In 1977, Machine Design sponsored another mouse contest, "The great Clock Climbing Contest", coupled with the rediscovered information of the 1972 "Le Mouse 5000" contest that spurred on the editors of the IEEE Spectrum magazine in their search for a truly electronic mouse.

New York, June 5-7, 1979. A highlight at the National Computer Conference had 15 micromouse gathered out of 6000 entries received.  Of the 15 mice, only 4 managed to solve the 8x8-foot maze during their first run and 2 more at their third attempts. The eventual winner was "Moonlight Flash", a mechanical non- intelligent mouse employing a wall- hugging strategy, romping home in a time of 30.04seconds. That a "dumb" mouse could outwit its electronically more sophisticated and supposedly more intelligent opponents then led to the rules being amended for subsequent contests. Instead of being along the perimeter, the goal was placed at the centre of the maze.

       In 1980, the European version of the contest was launched at Euromicro '80 in London. Among the spectators were five delegates from the Japan New Science Foundation who took the rules back to Tokyo and subsequently organised the first All- Japan Micromouse Contest in November that same year. At the first All-Japan Micromouse Contest, none of the 18 mice entered managed to solve the maze but five years later...

      August 1985, Tsukuba, Japan, the site of the First World Micromouse Contest. Mice came from all over Europe and the US, of all shapes and sizes.  All the top prizes were clinched by Japanese.

       At the 1987 Micromouse Championships, hosted by IEE at Savoy Place UK, 13 micromouse were set for a showdown. David Otten, from MIT captured both the first and second prize with his two entries.  A new but slightly complicated system of scoring, was also adopted. If the mouse could run from start to finish completer unaided, without having to rescued or re-started, a bonus of 10 seconds was deducted from the run time. Once the mouse had been touched, no bonus would be given. On top of this score was added 2 seconds each minute elapsed since the mouse too its turn.

       The next major competition was held in Singapore in July 1991.  The World Championships were held that year in Hong Kong. It was the largest international gathering of mice since Tsukuba in 1985 - 21 contestants with 30 mice came from 13 countries. The rules were changed at this contest to the ones which are in general use today. The change was made to encourage reliability over speed. The bonus of 10 seconds for not being touched was replaced by a penalty.

     Since 1991 the number of contests worlwide has increased dramatically. From 5 or 6 a year there are now over 100. Speeds have also increased, to such an extent that maze designers now reward "intelligence" over raw power.