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.