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Robotics Takes Students on Amazing Trip

It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you run the maze

“Micro Mouse” competition takes UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering team all the way to Taiwan

(November 16, 2007)

Students Giovanni Denina, Alex Eisner, Henry Chen (holding the robot), Elmar Palma, Anh Vu, and team advisor Dan Giles of the Bourns College of Engineering traveled to the Micro Mouse competition in Taiwan.Enlarge

Students Giovanni Denina, Alex Eisner, Henry Chen (holding the robot), Elmar Palma, Anh Vu, and team advisor Dan Giles of the Bourns College of Engineering traveled to the Micro Mouse competition in Taiwan.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — It’s a story of mice and men as a team of UC Riverside electrical engineering students traveled to Taiwan to participate in the annual Micro Mouse Robotics competition on Oct. 28 at the University of South Taiwan. The UCR team was among 162 entrants competing.

“We have always completed the maze in 20 seconds and have won our last three competitions,” said Dan Giles, the team’s advisor and development engineer at the Bourns College of Engineering. “We are the defending champions in Southern California and were one of two American institutions invited to participate in Taiwan.”

Although they were given short notice, team members Henry Chen, Giovanni Denina, Ahn Vu, Elmar Palma and Alex Eisner worked diligently preparing their robot for the event, sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The Micro Mouse was in several different pieces when the invitation arrived and the little robot had to be rebuilt in less than three weeks.

A Micro Mouse is a miniature electro-mechanical robot that operates autonomously without a remote control. During competition, the Micro Mouse moves through a maze much like its furry counterpart to find the center. It must find its way to the center and then back to the beginning through memory. The standard size for a maze is 15 x 15 feet with 3-inch-tall walls and corridors that are 4 inches wide. The little robots are given three runs and must complete the maze within 10 minutes.

UCR has been participating in Micro Mouse competitions since the Bourns College of Engineering was established in 1988. Nationwide, the contests have been traced back to the 1970s. The competitions were originally started to get engineering students involved in a controlled environment and to establish camaraderie.

The international competition includes universities and private companies. The international record for completing the maze had been 7 seconds but that record was broken at the event with a 4-second run. It was won by a University of Singapore graduate who has his own business.

A malfunction in a sensor prevented the UCR mouse from maneuvering the maze within the allowed time.

Giles said the team was still glad to go. “It was a great honor for us to be included,” he said. “The big advantage for us was to interact with students from Taiwan. Our students came back all fired up and are working on a new design developed from what we learned overseas that includes a circuit board used as a chassis.”

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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