The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is again inviting participants to next year’s nanosoccer competition. Designed to showcase micromechanical technologies that might become useful for medical and biological applications, such as microsurgery or fabrication of diagnostic MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS), the contest pits external magnetically powered microbots against each other to test directly which are more skilled for various tasks.
Viewed under a microscope, the microbots are operated by remote control and move in response to changing magnetic fields or electrical signals transmitted across a microchip playing field. The bots are a few tens of micrometers to a few hundred micrometers long, but their masses can be just a few nanograms (billionths of a gram). They are manufactured from materials such as aluminum, nickel, gold, silicon and chromium.
Like the NIST-coordinated "nanosoccer" events at the 2007 and 2009 RoboCup competitions (see www.nist.gov/public_affairs/calmed/nanosoccer.html), the Mobile Microrobotics Challenge will pit tiny robotic contestants against each other in three tests: (1) a two-millimeter dash in which microrobots sprint across a distance equal to the diameter of a pin head; (2) a microassembly task where the competitors must insert pegs into designated holes; and (3) a freestyle competition where each team chooses a task for its robot that emphasizes one or more abilities from among system reliability, level of autonomy, power management and task complexity.
These events are designed to "road test" agility, maneuverability, response to computer control and the ability to move objects—all skills that future industrial microbots will need for tasks such as microsurgery within the human body or the manufacture of tiny components for microscopic electronic devices.
NIST is organizing the 2010 Mobile Microrobotics Challenge with the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society. NIST’s goal in coordinating competitions between the world’s smallest robots is to show the feasibility and accessibility of technologies for fabricating MEMS, which are tiny mechanical devices built onto semiconductor chips. The contests also drive innovation in this new field of robotics by inspiring young scientists and engineers to become involved.
Press release: Is Your Microrobot Up for the (NIST) Challenge?
Link: Mobile Microelectronics Competition…
Flashbacks: Video of a Nanosoccer Nanobot; Public Invited to See Nanosoccer 2008 US RoboCup Open; The Official Website of Nanobot Nanosoccer