Local students helping in COVID-19 fight

The group’s most recent project goes far beyond the classroom — their knowledge and skills could also help save lives in the real world.

Team 4926—GalacTech of Columbus Robotics has an important task in 2020: to assemble and test ventilators and respirators.

Back in mid-March, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Columbus Regional Health approached Mission Columbus leader Steve Ferdon and asked if they could bring together a group to quickly design and build the medical equipment.

Columbus Robotics president and Team 4926 founder Sam Geckler and his team of high schoolers volunteered to test the ventilator prototypes made by Turner Machine Specialties. Not only did the team run diagnostics on the equipment, it was able to come up with a new design that includes material components that are easy to find instead of expensive commercial parts.

The project, which started eight months ago, is still in the works.

In all, Columbus Robotics plans to assemble about 10 units. Ferdon said that once the ventilators are complete, at least one will go to the hospital’s engineering lab. Additionally, CRH will be able to pick up all of the equipment from the team if they need them in the future. If they aren’t needed, Mission Columbus will make them available to non-government nonprofits.

Should the number of hospitalizations in the county significantly increase, the ventilators made by the robotics team could actually be used by the hospital. The ventilators, which are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, would be used for emergency use only. There is currently a special exemption due to the pandemic that would allow the units to be used.

Local hospitalizations haven’t eclipsed double digits in almost two months, but statewide hospitalizations have significantly increased over the past two weeks.

The cost of one ventilator by the robotics team is under two thousand dollars per unit compared to $15,000 to $30,000 for commercial equipment. Whether the group makes one, 10, or more, it would be a significant help to local health workers should they need assistance.

It’s efforts like those of GalacTech that are making a major impact during the pandemic. The teens are setting an example not only for their peers, but for adults in the community.

The lessons the high schoolers are learning now will benefit the community as those students become our future leaders.

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