Robot designer named best in the business

Mike Franklin (left) picking up his best design engineer award
Mike Franklin (left) picking up his best design engineer award

A robot designer who builds dinosaurs and army kit-testing mannequins has been crowned joint best design engineer in the UK.

Mike Franklin, chief design engineer of Buckingham-based Crawley Creatures, was awarded joint Design Engineer of the Year at the British Engineering Excellence Awards.

His bespoke work has included creating BAFTA award-winning creatures for BBC’s Walking With Dinosaurs and more recently he designed a mannequin known as Porton Man for the Ministry Of Defence.

The life-size mannequin, made from a Formula One-inspired carbon composite, runs, sits and kneels to test suits before soldiers wear them in battle.

Mr Franklin said: “It was partly because of my work with Poton Man but it was unexpected really.

“I knew I had been put forward but you never quite expect to win it – the judges were probably drunk I would have thought.

“Obviously they liked some of the work I have done in promoting engineering to young people and showing them that it’s quite a fun job.”

Mr Franklin holds a Guinness World Record for the fastest walking robot. Eight-legged Scuttle travelled through a 25-metre course in five and a half seconds.

He also built three robots which competed in the second to sixth series of Robot Wars from 1999 until 2002.

His first and most successful robot, 101, which ran on caterpillar tracks and used a 200mph punching spike weapon, reached the last four in Series Three and was only beaten by three-time finalist Hypno-Disc.

Crawley Creatures, based in the Swan Business Centre, was first asked to help the government in 2002 to help test respirators but was approached again to design the bespoke mannequin.

The company, which moved from Aylesbury to Buckingham in 2009, designs original creations for TV and film.

But Porton Man has gone global, with the Australian, Canadian and French governments paying hundreds of thousands of pounds to use the model, which took 18 months to complete.

Peter Greenhalgh (pictured centre), director of technology for ARM, shared the British Engineering Excellence award with Mr Franklin.