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FIRST volunteers: Meet Katlin Walsh

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Katlin Walsh (pictured top right) got her start on a FIRST® Robotics Competition team in Canada. Her experiences there molded her interests for the future and set her on a path to seek out a career where she could use her love of combining technology with design. Her volunteer experience has not only been a valuable addition to her resume, it has also given her interesting and memorable stories to share when networking with employers in her field. She is paying it forward now, mentoring other students and helping FIRST build tomorrow! 

Fun facts about me!

I'm a FIRST alum, mentor, volunteer, and donor and I am from Canada. I'm also the first ever to intern for FIRST Headquarters, where I worked as the Alumni Relations Intern. In the past six years, I have mentored each level of FIRST programs, ran the Canadian FIRST Robotics Competition off-season event, and helped to start my local FIRST collegiate alumni group.

How did you get involved with FIRST?

I got involved with FIRST as a participant on FIRST Robotics Competition Team 1334. My rookie FIRST season was in 2014, where our team won the Regional Chairman's award at the Waterloo Regional Event and attended FIRST Championship in Saint Louis.  

After graduating from high school, I stayed involved with my FIRST team as a media and design mentor. I founded FIRST Robotics Competition Team 1374, as well as FIRST Tech Challenge Team 16428, where I serve as a Lead Mentor. All three FIRST Teams operate out of the same shop, and we have around 150 student participants contributing to various projects each week.

When did you start volunteering?

I first started volunteering as an event volunteer in early 2017 in Canada with set up and tear down of FIRST Robotics Competition events each weekend. As a full-time college student, I was initially worried about balancing school and my love for FIRST. I found that working for a few hours at the beginning and end of an event was a great way to manage my time – and get a killer workout in!

Since completing my bachelor's degree, I now work as a Volunteer Coordinator and Event Manager for both FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition events in Canada. When I'm not participating as an event volunteer, you can usually find me hanging out with one of my FIRST teams or with friends I've made from volunteering with FIRST!

What do you think is the most rewarding part of being a volunteer with FIRST?

The most rewarding part of being involved in FIRST is the amazing relationships that I've built along the way. Every professional opportunity I've pursued within the past few years can be directly traced to an experience I had through FIRST. I’ve been able to collaborate with like-minded STEM professionals at FIRST events and apply concepts that I learned in high school and college.

As a FIRST Alum, I'm proud to be able to put volunteer projects and experiences on my resume. My background as a FIRST volunteer really sets me apart and gives me interesting and memorable stories to share when networking with employers in my field. I especially love being able to talk about how I grew from a student participant on my local FIRST team to becoming a lead mentor of a team and mentoring over 150 students a year.

What advice would you give to a new volunteer?

Don't be afraid to try different roles! There are tons of opportunities to volunteer – mentoring, volunteering at events, hosting or assisting with STEM-focused events in your area, and more. Each person has their own unique strengths and goals. Really take a moment to think about what your goals are – there will always be someone within the network of FIRST that will help you get there!

However, don't be afraid to take time for yourself, too! You don't need to volunteer 24/7 to make a big impact on the FIRST community. Take time to go out and have fun – maybe hang out with some of the awesome friends you made who love FIRST just as much as you!  

What do you like to do outside of volunteering with FIRST?

FIRST helped me to find my love of combining technology with design. Through the use of 3-D CAD and video production while on my team, I was able to get accepted into my dream program in Interaction Design at Sheridan College, with a minor in Creativity & Creative Problem Solving.

I am now pursuing my master's degree in Design, specializing in Digital Futures, at OCAD University, and I am teaching LEGO Art & Robotics part time at a local art school!

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