My project aims to create a robot that is capable of mapping out an unknown maze and then navigating the shortest possible path through the maze in the least amount of time. The idea for this project is based off of the Micromouse competition, and the robot and maze will follow the majority of the Micromouse regulations so that the robot could theoretically compete. Outside of the Micromouse competition, it seems that many robotics hobbyists as well as university research teams are looking at different methods and algorithms for maze mapping and solving. There is even a push to introduce amateurs and beginners to the fundamentals of robotics through Micromouse-esque competitions. This type of project combines many skills such as CAD, electronics work, construction, and programming, all while keeping the designer engaged with the desire to perform well in competition as an incentive. For that reason, research has been done to create a cheaper Micromouse teaching kit geared towards economically disadvantaged students and areas.
The concept of having a robot map a foreign environment can be applied to numerous real world functions. For example, self driving cars need to have the ability to detect shifts in a constantly changing environment and adjust accordingly. Similarly, mapping technology could also be applied to robots that map caves, explore new areas, or perform search and rescue operations. The idea of finding the shortest possible path is also very important in a variety of fields. The algorithm I plan to use, Flood Fill algorithm, is not just limited to the function of finding the shortest path. In computer science, optimization of a program is a key component just as traversing the shortest possible distance in a maze is. A faster program means less processing power and less time needed to execute. In real life, optimization of anything equates to a more efficient use of time and resources.
There are multiple objectives that I have set for my project. As I already stated, the overall goal of the project is to create a robot that can map all mazes and solve them by traversing the shortest path from beginning to end. In terms of cost, I would like to keep the 3pi and additional parts around at most $150. This would be easily doable if I substituted some of the parts for cheaper items (ex. cardboard wheels), but for the sake of function, I am opting to use better parts. With regard to maze completion time, I am still not entirely sure what I should set the goal for, since I am designing my own maze and there is no precedent run time to compare to. So I will just set an arbitrary goal run time at 15 seconds. For the maze, I would like to make it at least 56”x44”, which is a 2x2 grid of standard poster board sheets. I would also like to make these sheets interchangeable so that I could create more than one maze.
The maze should be fairly easy to build. I will use poster board and black electrical tape so the materials costs are minimized. I have found a tutorial for building your own line mazes on the Pololu website. To create the robot, I am taking the existing 3pi and switching out the motors to make them compatible with encoders, which allow me to measure distance traveled. For the programming, I will look at various pseudo codes and write most if not all of my program from scratch. I plan to use Arduino in order to accomplish this, since I am already familiar with the program and according to the internet is actually a suitable platform for such projects.
- 3pi robot
- Encoder/motor/wheel set
- Poster board and tape
I would like to complete all construction of the maze and robot by 1/8/18. The working maze solving code should be completed by 3/5/18, which would give me approximately another month to iron out the details and test my robot.