A local robotics team is off to a bumpy start this season but looking to gain momentum in the coming weeks.
Team 4926 — also known as GalacTech — competed at Penn High School in Mishawaka on March 4 and 5, the team’s first tournament this year. Thirty four teams from Indiana and Michigan participated in the event, according to For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Indiana Robotics.
The local team was 4-8 in qualifications and was chosen by another team to be part of their alliance for the event playoffs, which was held as a double-elimination style tournament. The winning alliance was CyberTooth (Team 3940, Kokomo), Westside Boiler Invasion (Team 461, West Lafayette) and the Tindley Trailblazers (Team 6721, Indianapolis).
“Basically, we went up there with a robot that wasn’t as capable as we would like to have been,” said Columbus Robotics president and Team 4926 founder Sam Geckler.
He said that they spent most of the qualification matches working out bugs and trying to find the right strategy on the field to attract an alliance captain. He added that they “gave it a good effort” during playoffs, and overall, students had a good experience at the event.
GalacTech’s next competition will be at Lafayette Jefferson High School on March 25 and 26.
“I’ve looked at the roster, and there’s a lot of great teams there,” said Geckler. “So we’re going to have to go there with our A game, and we certainly didn’t have it at Mishawaka.”
The team will need “a really great performance” at this event to qualify for state, he said.
According to FIRST Indiana, points earned at these regional tournaments will help teams qualify for the FIRST Indiana State Championship, which is set for April 7 and 8 at Anderson University. The top 32 teams in the state will advance to this competition.
GalacTech was part of the winning alliance at last year’s state championship and competed at the international FIRST Championship in Houston, making it to division playoffs but not the final tournament.
The 2023 game for FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams is called “Charged Up” and is presented by the Gene Haas Foundation. According to a short animated video from FIRST, the game involves moving cubes and cones into areas referred to as “grids” so that teams can score points and “charge up their community.” Teams also score points by moving their robots onto a teeter-totter platform known as the “charge station.” The game is played by two alliances of three teams each.
The challenge was unveiled in January. GalacTech held its annual “Robot Reveal” event on March 7, just a couple days after competing at Mishawaka. Geckler said that it was a good night, with students leading the event, explaining the details of FIRST, and demonstrating their robot’s capabilities.
In discussing the team’s robot, Geckler said it did well in the autonomous mode and balancing challenge. He’s also very proud of the team for coming up with a “very capable” drivetrain.
“It’s truly unique; it was the only one like it at the event,” he said. “And unfortunately, the rest of the robot didn’t live up to that, and so we weren’t able to showcase it as much as we would like. Many mentors came up to me and told me how astonished they were with the drivetrain. It’s called a mechanum drive, and it was super fast and very maneuverable.”
The team is now working on figuring out how to get the rest of the robot to match up with the drivetrain.
Another challenge is that they can only put one mechanism on the robot, and all of the students are eager to come up with a solution. This requires a melding of different perspectives and ideas to come to a consensus.
“It’s the hardest thing they’re going to learn, that nothing gets done without collaboration, and collaboration is hard,” said Geckler.
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