Vacuum Micromouse


Micromouse competitions have been running in Japan since 1980. In all that time, the ruleset has remained essentially unchanged. The autonomous robot mouse navigates a 16×16 maze creating a map. It then determines the optimal solution for future runs. Current records are in the six to seven second range. Teams have had to find new ways to generate traction for better times. Momoco08 uses a fan to hold the mouse to the track surface. Embedded below you’ll find a video of it solving the maze plus a photo of the vacuum skirt.



[photo: Robot Watch]

17 thoughts on “Vacuum Micromouse

  1. Fans like that to create downforce were outlawed in most forms of automotive racing due to the grip it provided. Something about being able to take hairpin turns at triple digit speeds. Smart plan to use it on something like this though.

  2. Suction devices were outlawed in racing because, if for whatever reason (bump, piece of tire on the road etc.) the distance between the car and the road increases temporarily, the additional grip will be lost. Since the whole point of the additional grip is to corner faster than what would normally be possible, this would result in a very big crash and possibly the death of the driver, spectators etc.

    As far as I know, they are street legal. Although I am not aware of any car which uses a separate fan to achieve additional downforce, there are a number of sports cars that have fan blade shaped wheels to suck air from underneath the car.

    Also common in road cars are ground-effect bodies (for example, the Ferrari Enzo). These are also no longer allowed in racing and have a similar effect to an active fan. Compare photos of a Ferrari Enzo and a Maserati MC12 to see the difference between a car designed to take advantage of the ground effect and and a car designed to maximise traditional downforce. Both are based on the same chassis and engine.

  3. The TV show Crash Lab built one on a trailer for a logging truck to see if it can corner faster with out tipping over. Those are top heavy with all the weight of the logs. It did work but was funny to watch because of the cloud of dust that was blowing up. It was like a giant vacuum cleaner.

  4. To clarify the banning of fans used in F1; IIRC it was Brabham who introduced the `fan car’ (BT45B). They didn’t outlaw fans as such, there was already a categorical ban on movable aerodynamic devices (there still is in F1 — which is flaunted with the use of deformable surfaces to produce less drag at higher speeds, but more downforce at lower speeds). The fan came under a movable aerodynamic device of course — Brabham claimed it was for engine cooling (lol! The thing was massive). I think they only ran it for a few races before they kicked it out. Won a single GP I think.

    The ban on ground effects came a little later.

  5. Wasn’t the ban on ground effect based f1 cars introduced after Ayrton Senna crashed exactly because of what @marijn described: a rupture that lead him straight into a wall? I still remember as if it was yesterday the time while I was listening to that GP on radio and they announced he crashed, I couldn’t believe my ears…

  6. The Hall Chaparral 2J, introduced in 1970, was the first racer to use suction fans, and was banned from Can-Am racing after protests from other racing teams, particularly McClaren, who then used it themselves for the F1.

    Mechanically, these are very problematic as they suck in dirt, rocks, tire chunks, and any other track debris, which tends to wreck the fans.

  7. This is a job for James Dyson. Those cyclonic things don’t have silly filters and don’t lose suction and all the gravel and tire bits collected while driving could be ejected at stoplights or when people tailgate you.

  8. Just use a Tesla turbine with a wide gap (and kevlar/carbon fiber composite disks on a titanium shaft, if you have racing team money) and it’ll suck rocks through and keep running.

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