Get your micro-bots ready to rumble!

November 11, 2009 – Feats of dexterity, strength, and speed — on a microscale with robots. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is opening invitations for participants in the 2010 Mobile Microrobotics Challenge. The event will be part of the IEEE’s International Conference on Robotics and Automation in May 2010 in Anchorage, AK.

Like NIST’s "nanosoccer" events held during past RoboCup competitions, these new microbot games offer several tests of teams’ engineering prowess: a 2mm dash, a microassembly task, and a "freestyle" participant-chosen task emphasizing reliability, autonomy, power management, and task complexity. The goal is to emphasize agility, maneuverability, response to computer control, and ability to move objects — abilities expected to be crucial for future industrial microbots in fields such as microsurgery or electronic device component manufacturing. At the same time, the games also will provide a showcase for what can be achieved in fabricating microelectromechanical system (MEMS) devices.

Proposed microbot participants will be operated by remote control and move in response to changing magnetic fields or electrical signals transmitted across a microchip "playing field." Sizes can range from tens to a few hundred micrometers, but mass is strictly limited to "a few nanograms." Manufacturing materials include, but are not limited to, aluminum, nickel, gold, silicon, and chromium.

Proposals are due to NIST by Dec. 31, 2009, either by e-mail ([email protected]) or snail-mail (NIST Microrobotics Challenge 2010, c/o Craig McGray, NIST, 100 Bureau Dr., MS 8120, Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8120), and must include the following: a roster of team contributors, contact information, facilities available for fabrication, operation, and characterization of microrobots, and overviews of the microrobot design, intended capabilities, and fabrication process(es) used.

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A microrobot (300μm) used at the RoboCup 2009 nanosoccer competition from Switzerland’s ETH Zurich, compared in size to the head of a fruit fly. (Credit: ETH Zurich, NIST)


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