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This teacher's pets are hi-tech fighting robots

By GRAHAM TUTTHILL

IF YOU want to know your Mortis from your Napalm, a Dover schoolteacher and robot creator is the man you want to track down.

Millions of television viewers have been watching David Crosby's inventions take on challengers from the UK and abroad in the popular Robot Wars television programme.

Mr Crosby, head of technology and assistant head of middle school at Dover Boys' Grammar, was one of the founding participants in the show.

Working with the producer, he helped launch the programme, designed to be a cross between the Great Egg Race and Gladiators.

"About 30 of us were sent away to come up with ideas for the robots and when we met again some of them were complete, and some were still in pieces," he said.

Then teaching at Dartford Girls' Grammar School, Mr Crosby formed a team with some of the year eight and nine pupils, building their own robot.

"The night before the show, we were testing it in the playground when it went out of control, ran over a fence and blew up," said Mr Crosby. "The show's producers told us to bring it anyway and we managed to put it back together in time for the filming in London Docklands.

"We were literally putting the finishing touches to it as we went into the arena and we won through the first round.

"When we saw the house robots, we decided to model our next robot for the second series on them and that's when we came up with Napalm.

"We managed to build it on time and within the weight limit, and it worked.

"We got through to the semi-final, where we were beaten by Mortis."

Mr Crosby and his team stayed with the same robot for series three and got through to the second round final.

"For series four we built a whole new robot, which was conceptually good, but the construction was more difficult than I thought it would be," said Mr Crosby.

"We used materials which were difficult to handle, and the end product was difficult to drive.

"We won through the first round, but in the second round we drove into a pit and got stuck."

Then came Robot Wars Extreme, being screened on BBC2 on Friday evenings.

Last week viewers saw Mr Crosby with Dartford girls Michelle Davey, 19, and Vikki Allgood, 17, do well.

They appear again in the programme due to be screened tomorrow (Friday).

In between times, they have been to Holland to take part in the launch of a Robot Wars programme there, as well as one for Italy, and they have done battle against robots from America.

Series five, filmed at Elstree, is due to be screened in March, and series six is to be filmed in the summer and televised in the autumn.

For that series, Mr Crosby and the girls are working on a new robot, Skull and Crossguns, based on pop star Adam Ant's hit single Stand And Deliver, and they are even making highwayman-style costumes for themselves, too.

Born in Edinburgh, Mr Crosby worked in industry and gained diplomas in electrical and mechanical engineering, before going to university where he graduated with a Bachelor of Education honours degree in teaching. He was then appointed at Dartford.

He came to Dover Grammar School in April last year and is planning to launch a Robot Wars club at the school, where he would like to get the boys involved in building a second robot for the programme.

Using titanium for the shell and then adapting motors, chainsaws and any other items he can lay his hands on for the rest, Mr Crosby said the robots can cost anything up to 5,000 to build and he is always on the lookout for sponsorship.

"Robot Wars is all about problem-solving," he said.

"It's a challenge, and that's what I like about it"

BATTLE READY: Teacher David Crosby and pupils Greg Mien, 15,

and Paul Tingey 14, with their Robot Wars entry, Napalm

Ref, 22815

Click for link to Robotwars