Share some of your background.
Hi, I am Private first class Caleb Balsiger, an Airborne Intelligence analyst for the US Army and also a FIRST alumni and mentor. When I was in high school, I spent 2 years on FRC team 537 Charger robotics from Sussex, Wisconsin. During my time in robotics I worked mainly on the robot side with electrical and was also a safety captain. I remember many of my mentors and peers were confused at times because to me robotics was just a hobby and, I wanted to go into the army to do intelligence work, wear camouflage, and to jump out of planes, not to be an engineer. It turns out though that I was the one who was confused, because FIRST is so much more than just engineering, business and robots and it ended up having a bigger impact on me than just some hobby.
What are some the skills you learned while on your FIRST Robotics Competition team?
There were many life skills and habits that I started building up while in robotics without even realizing it. Problem solving, public speaking, and teamwork skills are just a few of many things robotics helped me get better at and still apply to my life and job today. Whether it's finding solutions to help keep people safe around the world, having to give presentations and briefs to army leadership, or working along with other soldiers to complete tasks, I still use skills that were only made better by FIRST. One thing that stuck with me the most though was the amount of volunteer and outreach work my team did, from blood drives to road cleanup I think almost every week out of build season we were prepping for demos and volunteering somewhere.
How did you move from team member to mentor?
In September 2018 I moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to start at my first unit, the 82nd Airborne Division. One of my goals for my time at my first unit was to find somewhere to volunteer. While brainstorming ideas for ways to volunteer in the local community, I started thinking about all the volunteer opportunity I had in robotics. So I decided I would contact FIRST to see if there were any teams in the area that needed help or mentors. FIRST North Carolina was extremely helpful and responded with the names of three different teams in the area that could use another mentor. So I picked the closest and most junior one, FRC 6729 RobCoBots a third year team with only 3 mentors all who were still new to FIRST. I emailed back and forth with the student team lead Kevin a few times and before I knew it I was attending meetings, getting to know the students, and watching them develop the same skills and learning the same life lessons that FIRST taught me.
What team were you a member of?
I am an FRC 4935 T-Rex alumni.
Where do you currently work?
I am a fourth year apprentice at Siemens Energy. I have represented the Siemens apprenticeship at the White House in a roundtable meeting with President Trump and Chancellor Merkel of Germany, I was awarded a full scholarship to travel to Germany in order to study the language and work for Siemens, and I will complete my education with a degree in Computer Integrated Machining, Business Management, and German completely debt free.
What are some skills you learned from your FIRSTexperience that have made an impact on your current job?
I have had many opportunities in the early stages of my career thanks to FIRSTand T-Rex. The skill set that FIRSTinstilled in me is why I have accomplished what I have thus far in my career. Being on the team gave me the most real-world experience I could get in high school. I was able to operate on different machinery (drill presses, band saws, bridgeports), worked with CAD models, made business calls, brainstormed marketing promotions, and worked first-hand with employees at Bosch Rexroth. I was able to experience what is was like to work within an actual business. That is something I could not get in any other program at school. FIRSToffered me the chance to gain valuable work experience that better prepared me for my future.
How has FIRSTimpacted your life?
I would not be where I am today without FIRSTand T-Rex; it provided me with so many networking opportunities. We worked hand and hand with various companies that were mentors, volunteers, and even sponsors. That is how I was able to get my foot in the door with Siemens. My social and soft skills were cultivated throughout my tenure with T-Rex. We had to come up with a business plan for our robot and present that to our mentors, judges and even to other teams. Having T-Rex and FIRSTin my life impacted me in ways I could never imagine and I cannot express enough gratitude to the mentors that provided us with wisdom and knowledge, my fellow members for bringing out the best in me, and the sponsors who provided us with this unique opportunity.
March Madness for robots is coming up quickly and we are getting ready to launch the FIRST Robotics Competition event season.
Do you like hanging out with really cool high school students?
Do you enjoy networking with inspiring people from all across the state?
Do you like making a positive difference in the lives of young people?
If you answered yes, please join us as a volunteer. Volunteers are still needed at all five events.
We promise to feed you, to clothe you (free t-shirt!). And we guarantee to entertain you!
Details on what positions you can fill can be found here.Event dates and locations are here.
This month we shine the spotlight on FRC 1225, The Gorillas. Based in Hendersonville in Henderson County, this is one of our western teams in the mountains!
Tell us in 2-3 sentences about your team.
FRC 1225, The Gorillas, is the oldest team in Western North Carolina. We have team members from all of the high schools in our county. Our home is the rehabbed basement of the local Boys and Girls Club, which we turned into a full blown robot building workshop after forming a collaborative partnership between The Gorillas, Henderson County Public Schools and The Boys and Girls Club.
What has been a highlight for your team over the years?
One of the biggest highlights was winning the 2015 North Carolina Regional Championship.
Tell us about one struggle your team has overcome and how you did so.
The biggest struggle, other than funding and recruitment, has been transportation. Being a team based in the mountains has meant the travel to competitions is usually a several hour drive toward the Triangle or other areas of North Carolina. The Gorillas overcame this struggle with the purchase of our very own charter bus. Now when we need to travel, we get in the bus and go! No need for us to find a fleet of minivans and truck to pull the equipment trailer. Because of our bus, we have played in FRC competitions outside of in Missouri, Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia in addition to North Carolina!
What words of wisdom would you give to a rookie team?
Befriend a veteran team with lots of supplies and awesomely friendly mentors.
What does FIRSTmean to you and your team?
FIRSTis a conduit for youth (and adults) to explore career paths they may not have otherwise considered. Students get to live the life of an Engineer, Programmer, Business Manager, Tool Designer, Machinist, Program Manager, Marketing/Promotions, Welder, Assembly Tech, Fabricator and many more careers under the guidance of local professionals before committing to years of study in that field. This is the best “test drive” of a career any student could get while in high school. FIRST is also a team building program that brings students from all walks of life together to work toward a common goal and provides endless leadership opportunities for each of them. We believe FIRSTis the conduit to a successful life for our students!