Columbus to host robotics competition

GalacTech Team 4926 is shown with the robot the team designed and built for the 2018 competition season. Submitted photo

IndianaFIRST has selected Columbus as one of five tournament host sites for the statewide robotics competition.

High school robotics teams from across the state will compete against each other at Columbus North High School on March 19-21 for a chance to represent Indiana in national and international competitions. Bloomington, Mishawaka, Indianapolis and Lafayette were also chosen as host cities.

Sam Geckler, founder of Columbus GalacTech Team 4926, said hosting a tournament was something the team had considered, but doing so requires wide support outside of the team.

Geckler leads a team of 30 students from Columbus high schools on a year-long journey that involves training, community outreach, building a robot and competing against robotics teams from across the nation.

After Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. Superintendent Jim Roberts watched GalacTech Team 4926 compete in Plainfield in 2018, Geckler said Roberts asked what it would take to bring a competition to Columbus.

“That was the turning point in our thinking,” Geckler said. “We really needed to have a venue and the support of the school corporation.”

GalacTech submitted its bid in June with support from the school corporation, designating Columbus North High School as its proposed venue. An on-site evaluation of Columbus North was completed to identify all the features necessary to host a competition, including sufficient capacity for spectators, adequate loading zones, ample space for teams, judges, media, volunteers and VIP guests to gather, and electrical and IT infrastructure requirements.

Geckler said he was notified in mid-August that Columbus had been selected as a host site.

“For us, it’s an opportunity to get our name out there,” he said. “Although we have a lot of support from key people in the city, often times I meet folks who have never heard of us. We’re the best kept secret in Columbus and that’s a terrible thing.”

By hosting a competition in Columbus, Geckler said the visibility that such an event can provide is an important factor.

“That enables us to do the important work that the team was structured to do and that is to inspire young people,” he said.

Helen Rumsey, GalacTech’s programming and electrical leader, said she’s excited for the team to show off its skills to the community they live in.

Because IndianaFIRST is a statewide program, GalacTech often travels some distance for its competitions. Having a competition in Columbus makes members of GalacTech hopeful that community members will care to see what’s happening in their own backyard.

“FIRST is a great program for getting students hands-on experience with aspects of engineering like programming, building and design,” Rumsey said. “I’ve learned so much through robotics and I’m thrilled that our team is hosting a competition.”

This year’s team of about 30 students includes an experienced group of seniors who have designed and built several robots since joining GalacTech. Geckler said the team is confident they’ll compete well this year.

GalacTech is ranked No. 9 of 32 Indiana teams after its performance at two district competitions and the IndianaFIRST District Robotics Championship in April. The team ended its 2019 season two spots shy of a trip to the FIRST World Championship.

Geckler said GalacTech is always looking for new students and mentors to join its team. Currently, about 30 students participate in GalacTech and 30 compete on two Columbus middle school teams. All three teams are operated under the umbrella organization, Columbus Robotics.

The team is also looking for volunteers to assist in planning the March competition at Columbus North High School. Those interested in joining Team GalacTech 1926 or volunteering should email [email protected].

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To join GalacTech Team 4926, email [email protected] or fill out the Google form at

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To learn how you can support GalacTech Team 4926, either financially or as a volunteer, email Amy Liimatta at [email protected].

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Who: GalacTech Team 4926

What: IndyRAGE (Raising Awareness for Girls in Engineering)

About: IndyRAGE is a unique event that ties FIRST competition together with an event focused on girls. Female motivational speakers and an open discussion led by women in STEM fields will give girls the opportunity to ask questions and get motivated about engineering and other STEM fields. Girls are also encouraged to try new roles at this event. Pit crews are encouraged to be all-female, but not required.

Where: Perry Meridian High School, 401 W. Meridian School Road

When: Friday and Saturday