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For the robot with the same name that failed to qualify for Series 4, see Griffon (Series 4).
"I can't tell you much about it, because it's classified; although I'll show you the weapon..."
— Oliver Steeples introduces and demonstrates Griffon's lifter in Series 2

Griffon was a robot from the University of Reading team which competed in Series 2-3 of Robot Wars.

The heavyweight successor to Series 1 Grand Finalist Cunning Plan, it did not enjoy as much success in the main UK Series as its predecessor, being eliminated in the Gauntlet stage in Series 2 and in the second round of Series 3 - the latter after being pitted by Cerberus ten seconds into the battle. However, Griffon won the Series 2 Internet Insurrection Grudge Match on a judges' decision, overturning House Robot Sergeant Bash in the process.

Design[]

"Griffon looks like a moving video cassette recorder, but look for the fast-forward button; at 19mph, no-one can match that thrust! Its lifting arm is powered by linear actuators: to you and me – and you, Craig – that means 'electronic pistons!'"
Jonathan Pearce introduces Griffon in Series 2

Griffon in Series 2

Griffon was a low, box-shaped robot armoured in 5mm polycarbonate and with a chassis made from 1-inch steel angle iron. Its weapon was a three-bar lifting arm powered by linear actuators, with two narrow forks at the front end and a upward reach of 600mm. Oliver Steeples openly took inspiration for the robot's shape, weapon and compact dimensions from 1996 and 1997 US Robot Wars heavyweight champion BioHazard, which also employed a similarly-actuated lifting arm. Through a four-wheel drive system incorporating two 750W Bosch motors, Griffon was able to reach a top speed of 18mph according to Steeples' website, although this was officially quoted at 19mph during its televised introduction.[1]

"Griffon is a heavyweight robot based upon Biohazard, which is basically a lifting arm. The lifting arm was powered by 2*4.5KN MSC actuators which did a very good job of lifting other robots. A problem was that Griffon was far too fast and would ideally be half as fast. The turning circle was also a bit suspect as due to the wheel layout, loads of friction was present during turning, this will be corrected next year by using 6 wheel drive with the front wheel raised halving the wheelbase."
— Oliver Steeples on the flaws of Griffon in Series 2 which were remedied for Series 3[2]

During Series 2, Griffon suffered from multiple issues including radio interference and an excessive amount of friction placed on the wheels during turning, which impaired drivability along the wooden arena floor panels. Additionally, Oliver Steeples considered the robot as originally set up too fast to be competitive in an arena environment. However, he would resolve the radio problems by replacing Griffon's electronic speed controllers with mechanical ones, and adding screws to its wheels to improve traction and steering. The original Series 2 incarnation, retrospectively dubbed an 'advanced prototype' by Steeples,[3] cost around £1,187 to build, the most expensive components being the MSC actuators for its lifter at £510 each.[2]

For Series 3, Steeples revised Griffon's design to address the aforementioned issues and improve competitiveness. Among the changes made were the addition of two extra centrally-mounted wheels for improved manoeuvrability (with the front two also being raised to form a shorter wheelbase), a 5:1 gear ratio resulting in a halved top speed of 9mph, and an improved speed controller interface with new servos, gears and rotary potentiometer. The chassis and lifting arm were also upgraded to reduce weight, improve rigidity and increase weapon power for a lifting capacity of 300kg.[3] According to Jonathan Pearce, the updated Griffon was also said to have demolished a garden wall in testing, which was substantiated by Steeples during an interview on the Tectonic Robot Wars website.[4]

"Demolished a garden wall in testing. Solid weight at 78.7kg, but the polycarbonate shell could be vulnerable. The weapon's a lifting arm. Improved since the last series."
— Jonathan Pearce summing up Griffon in Series 3

Etymology[]

The name Griffon refers to a mythological creature with the body of a lion and head and wings of an eagle.

Prior to choosing the final name, Oliver Steeples had intended to call the robot Aggressor, but later changed it to avoid confusion with the American lightweight competitor which fought at the 1997 US Robot Wars event.[5][6]

Qualification[]

Despite being a successor to Cunning Plan, one of the Series 1 Grand Finalists, an unfinished[7] Griffon was not originally chosen to compete in Series 2, and was made a reserve robot after performing poorly in the auditions. However, it was eventually selected to compete after Reckless Endangerment pulled out of the main competition.

"Originally I was a reserve due to the fact that my robot wasn't very good at the preview due to the fact that I had my degree final exams just previously and didn't get a lot of info about what was happening. However on Saturday 15th I got a call saying to be ready for Monday 17th at 11am for the start of filming (reckless endangerment [sic] had failed to get itself working)."
— Oliver Steeples, explaining how Griffon was selected as a Series 2 reserve.[8]

Preparations for televised combat did not go smoothly, with Oliver Steeples being forced to swap his original PIC controllers with servo/variable resistor-based equivalents to try and mitigate the interference issues. As a further complication, Griffon was left without a failsafe device following this change, which caused the robot to lose control on multiple occasions while trying to perform its arena introduction in front of camera crews.

"The previews were done but due to interference I had to remove my PIC controllers (BETA test boards provided by Dan Danknick) for the 4QD interfaces and replace them with a very jittery servo/variable resistor combination and no failsafe. This lead to hassles in the preview when I was told to go to a control box and drive the robot to a point and then turn and drive off. Easy enough right, no. As soon as I got more than 10ft away it went mental so I had to do my preview sitting behind the screen (bottom left if you can see me on TV). The robot started moving and it veered to the right so I tried to compensate but it shot forward crashing into scenery and sending the camera man away in the opposite direction quite fast."
— Oliver Steeples, outlining the problems Griffon encountered with servo/variable resistor controllers[8]

Later on, the revised Griffon successfully entered Series 3 through attending the auditions. Oliver Steeples himself also mentioned in his Tectonic Robot Wars interview further lifter upgrades for a proposed Series 4 incarnation, enabling a higher reach and faster action.[4] However, he would not attempt to apply for any future series of Robot Wars beyond Series 3, citing the increasing costs and time spent preparing heavyweight robots as the reason behind his retirement.[9]

Robot History[]

Series 2[]

Oliver Steeples: "One of the House Robots is going over. I've got the lifting arm, so we might as well use it."
Philippa Forrester: "Well, Ben, I'm hoping you're the sensible brother here – is that what you're hoping for as well?"
Ben Steeples: "Yeah, I've been screaming at him to go down the other way, but he wouldn't listen, and now he wants to take a House Robot – and he'll end up in the pit like Mortis."
— The Steeples brothers discuss Gauntlet tactics with Philippa Forrester

Griffon is assailed by the House Robots in The Gauntlet

Griffon made its first Robot Wars appearance in Heat C of the Second Wars. It was the sixth and last robot in that Heat to attempt The Gauntlet, and began its run by driving straight towards the wall of breezeblocks on the centre route, stopping short of the arena spikes. However, it became evident that Griffon was encountering steering issues – slowly, it reversed and attempted a run through the left-hand route, but veered right and bumped into the railings as it tried to turn in.

"Well, [Ben] says he enjoyed watching Oliver making an idiot of himself in the First Wars, but what can Oliver do now?"
— Jonathan Pearce responds to the Steeples' interview as Griffon is attacked by Shunt

Griffon reversed, raising its lifting arm as Shunt became stuck on its rear panel, before shuffling itself free and stopping short of an approaching Matilda. Matilda rammed, lifted and dragged Griffon back as Shunt bumped into it, before the two House Robots pinned Griffon in place as it was left at a 90-degree angle.

"...but Oliver, who loves 3D cartoons, this is a little bit 'Mickey Mouse', and you could be on the way... to 'Pluto!'"
— Jonathan Pearce as time runs out for Griffon

Matilda reversed into and attempted to damage Griffon's lifter with her chainsaw before 'Cease' was called, with Griffon covering a distance of only 3.4m by the end of its run. This resulted in being eliminated from the Second Wars; Jonathan Pearce later considered the University of Reading team's run 'unlucky'.

Philippa Forrester: "So the war goes on, and you don't regret to [spending] any – the whole of your summer building a robot?"
Oliver Steeples: "No. Thanks to everyone who helped me in the workshop, 'n bits and pieces – they know who they are!"
— Oliver Steeples maintains grace over Griffon's elimination

Griffon turns Sergeant Bash over

Griffon also made an additional appearance in the end-of-series special, The Grudge Matches, where it fought in the Internet Insurrection. There, it competed alongside Killerhurtz, fellow Series 1 Grand Finalist Bodyhammer and Adam Clark's Corporal Punishment, in a battle ostensibly held to determine which competitor had the best website at the time. Griffon started the battle tentatively, getting lifted by the arena spikes as Corporal Punishment violently rammed it off them. It then drove straight into the PPZ, turned round, and got its lifter underneath Sergeant Bash, lifting the House Robot onto his side seconds later.

"...and look at this! Bash is going and going... and all the teams love that! Griffon it was, who turned the Sergeant over!"
— Jonathan Pearce as Griffon turns Sergeant Bash onto his side

Shunt and Corporal Punishment momentarily boxed Griffon in seconds later, but Griffon reversed out of the PPZ as Bodyhammer attacked Shunt. It was then pushed sideways after re-entering the PPZ, and was eventually cornered against the railings by Dead Metal. Once Dead Metal drove away, Griffon rammed Shunt as he attacked Corporal Punishment, lifting him as it sat over the Flame Pit. However, it was unable to turn Shunt over, and drove close to the pit as it and Bodyhammer continued attacking the remaining House Robots. Griffon eventually attempted to lift Dead Metal, but was pinned under his pincers as it was being jostled by an arena spike. It escaped, but was lifted by Matilda, who pushed it towards Bodyhammer and Dead Metal with Shunt's assistance just before time ran out. The battle went to a Judges' decision, which ruled in favour of Griffon, to the jubilation of the Steeples brothers.

Craig Charles: "You've won the website Grudge Match, how do you feel?"
Oliver Steeples: "All I wanted to do this time was to take over a House Robot. Sorry blokes, maybe better time next year!"
— An elated Oliver Steeples as Griffon is declared the winner of the Internet Insurrection

When discussing the Internet Insurrection with Tectonic Robot Wars, Steeples revealed further House Robot attacks performed by Griffon which were not shown on television. At one point, both Matilda and Sir Killalot attempted to pin his machine down, only for it to sever the hydraulic lines powering Sir Killalot's weaponry at some point. Griffon also lifted Shunt and Dead Metal a second time - coming close to flipping each of them according to Steeples - as well as using its lifter to counter Sir Killalot's arms.[4]

Series 3[]

"We entered last year, didn't do too well at all..."
— Oliver Steeples reflects on Griffon's past performances as he introduces its Series 3 iteration

Griffon lifts Daisy Chopper

An improved Griffon returned for the Third Wars, competing in Heat N. In the first round, it faced Daisy Chopper, a pioneering vertical spinner from the team who entered the previous series with Caliban. In the opening seconds, Griffon crept slowly forward from its starting position, before ramming underneath the approaching Daisy Chopper and stopping its spinning weapon. It turned and stopped short of Daisy Chopper as it made a second charge; seconds later, a collision between Griffon's lifter and Daisy Chopper's spinner flipped the latter over. Griffon raised its lifter before pursuing Daisy Chopper, bumping it from the side and lifting its body over by the frame. However, Griffon struggled to push Daisy Chopper from the rear, and waited until the latter made another charge before lifting it onto one wheel and completely over.

After this attack, Griffon sat motionless in the centre of the arena, raising its lifting arm once again as Daisy Chopper struggled for traction with a damaged tyre. Shunt left his CPZ to nudge Griffon forward, with Griffon suddenly darting and weaving around the arena before again stopping close to the Floor Flipper. It then reversed into Sgt. Bash, who bumped it as it stopped moving, before driving off to meet Daisy Chopper once more. The two competitors struggled to position each other for an attack before Daisy Chopper bumped into Griffon’s side, and Griffon stopped moving again as soon as it drove alongside the Floor Flipper a second time.

"No splash of colour on Griffon... and no great movement there, either. What's happened here?"
— Jonathan Pearce notices Griffon's radio issues

Griffon starts to lift Sgt Bash up

Griffon twitched as Daisy Chopper gingerly pushed it forwards, before shooting forwards, turning and charging into Sgt. Bash's CPZ. It backed away from Sgt. Bash as the latter pushed it away from the wall, before lifting the House Robot against the wall with its arm. A nudge from Dead Metal broke both robots free, with Griffon backing away, turning and attacking Dead Metal in retaliation. However, one of Dead Metal's pincers stopped Griffon's lifter from fully retracting, enabling him to slice through part of the lifter numerous times with his saw until 'Cease' was called. Like Steeples' previous combat appearance, the battle went to a Judges' decision, which immediately ruled Griffon as the winner.

"At the end, I think [Daisy Chopper] had more aggression, they had slightly better control, but we thought 'Oh, we've flipped them once.' and thought if we do it again, it's going to go over and over. So I thought, 'It's all House Robots - one of us - fair odds'. So they thought we'd go for one of them, and at least we'll get it up in the air..."
— Oliver Steeples shares his views on Griffon's first-round battle

However, Team TFOSICA appealed against the decision, as they believed that Griffon had been immobilised for a substantial portion of the battle, and that Daisy Chopper had inflicted more meaningful attacks. Although Oliver Steeples conceded that Daisy Chopper had been more aggressive and controlled throughout, the Judges recounted their scores, and made a 2-to-1 split decision, again in favour of Griffon.

Philippa Forrester: "Griffon team, that's a very beautiful robot that you're up against - in fact, I think it's probably THE most beautiful we have. Are you gonna scar it, horribly?"
Oliver Steeples: "Erm, I think we've got enough scars to know our robots go around, so we're okay."
— Philippa Forrester inquires the Steeples brothers about Cerberus

Griffon lies defeated after Cerberus' record-breaking pitting

In the second round, Griffon faced series newcomer Cerberus. It began the battle by turning right in an attempt to line up an attack on Cerberus, but stopped moving altogether within a matter of seconds. Despite lifting its arm, Griffon was pushed sideways towards and into the pit by Cerberus, after only ten seconds had elapsed. As a result, it was eliminated from the Third Wars, in what became the shortest battle in UK Robot Wars until the Seventh Wars. With Oliver Steeples' subsequent retirement from heavyweight robot combat events, this battle marked Griffon's final appearance on the show.

"London against Berkshire. Cerberus, the London team, glossy and shiny. Don't forget, it has that steel-head RAM to push Griffon into the pit straight away!"
— Jonathan Pearce's entire commentary for Griffon vs Cerberus

Results[]

GRIFFON - RESULTS
Series 2
The Second Wars - UK Championship
Heat, Gauntlet
Heat C, Gauntlet 3.4m (6th) Eliminated
The Grudge Matches
Internet Insurrection
Internet Insurrection vs. Bodyhammer, Killerhurtz, Corporal Punishment Won
Series 3
The Third Wars - UK Championship
Heat, Round 2
Heat N, Round 1 vs. Daisy Chopper Won
Heat N, Round 2 vs. Cerberus Lost

Wins/Losses[]

  • Wins: 2
  • Losses: 1

NOTE: Griffon's loss in the Gauntlet is not included

Series Record[]

Series Griffon Series Record
The First Wars Entered with Cunning Plan
The Second Wars Heat, Gauntlet
The Third Wars Heat, Round 2
The Fourth Wars Did not enter
The Fifth Wars Did not enter
The Sixth Wars Did not enter
The Seventh Wars Did not enter
Series 8 Did not enter
Series 9 Did not enter
Series 10 Did not enter

Outside Robot Wars[]

After Series 3, Steeples retired from Robot Wars as his heavyweight robots took "too much time and money" to maintain.[10] However, he competed for several years after in the antweight category; among his antweight robots was Mini G, which took design cues from Griffon including a similar lifting arm weapon. Steeples still owns the internals of Griffon, as well as its lifting arm, although the robot itself has now been disassembled.

Trivia[]

  • According to an agenda distributed to The Steering Committee, Griffon was going to be offered a discretionary seeding in Series 4. However, it and Oliver Steeples would not enter Series 4, alongside Facet. Dreadnaut and Weld-Dor were added as the 28th-30th seeds in their places (alongside a possible swap between Sting and Stinger).
  • Griffon is the only robot not to have been seeded after reaching the Grand Final in the previous series (excluding those where seeding was not implemented).
  • Griffon was the first robot to successfully flip Sergeant Bash over, and the first to flip another House Robot over other than Matilda.
  • Along with TR2 and Team Outlaw's successor to Ironside3, Griffon is one of three Grand Finalists from a previous series which were not initially selected for the main competition of the following series. However, it was the only one of the three which was eventually chosen to compete in the main competition of Series 2, through its role as a reserve.
  • For some time, Griffon's Series 3 battle against Cerberus held the record for the shortest battle in the UK Robot Wars, at only ten seconds. This record was not broken until Series 7, but still stands as the quickest battle not to involve a robot being flipped out of the arena.
  • All of Griffon's battles featured a robot which had or would appear in another series.
  • Griffon's loss in Series 2 marked the first occasion of a Grand Finalist from the previous series being eliminated in the first round of a UK Championship.
  • Griffon was the first robot whose victory was formally appealed by another competitor.
  • A robot named Griffon attempted to enter Series 4, and defeated A-Kill in a qualifier, but had no relation to Oliver Steeples' machine.

References[]

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