Teacher by day, mentor by night, and a dedicated family-man, Mike Taylor sets an example for students to emulate even after high school. From 2005-2012, Mike was mainly a one-man team. Team 1529 is thrilled to nominate him for the 2014 Woodie Flowers Award.

Taylor, the only PLTW teacher at Southport High, mentions FRC in his classes to recruit students. His lessons connect to FIRST, sparking students interests in STEM. “Taylor makes learning interesting, like when he brought in gears from robotics to teach gear ratios in class,” says team member Cameron. In our lab, students have fun; as Taylor says, “What’s the point if you aren’t laughing  along the way?” He encourages a positive attitude and is a great teacher.

When it comes to design, Taylor boosts participation, nursing a team culture where everyone’s valued. In engineering, there are always foreign concepts. Taylor explains the unknown, simplifies without diluting content, and leads students to the answer. “He inspires us to climb a mountain of progress to better understand STEM, but also get down and teach others what we’ve learned, without being overworked,” says team member Eddie.

As a FIRST participant, Taylor goes beyond the usual FRC coach. He thinks bigger than 1529 and works to give back to the community. Mike is the lead event coordinator of CAGE Match, where this year he recruited 3 Indianapolis food trucks to serve lunch. Last year Taylor began #BotChat, a Twitter chat that links tons of FIRST participants and helped our team find mentors. He also volunteers at Indiana robotics events, encouraging students to participate in FIRST post-high school. Alumni Carlee credits Mike’s mentoring to her success: “I may not have participated in my college FIRST program without Mike’s advice. He keeps me involved in FIRST, gives the advice I need to survive college at Purdue, and lets me help his family by babysitting. I’m so grateful to have a mentor and teacher who stays involved, even after high school.”

Mike is a great role model and shows how to listen. “One time I yelled at Taylor when I was upset, and instead of getting angry, he listened and then calmly voiced his thoughts to help me find a solution. His demeanor helped me handle the situation maturely,” team member Nick says. Taylor always makes sure there is communication between students, “Without communication, it won’t turn out right,” says freshman Emma, reiterating a lesson from Mike. He also values putting family first: Mike changed the team’s schedule to give students more time to balance school, extracurriculars, and family. It’s taught them to work smarter. Family’s important, and students realize that, thanks to Taylor.

Mike creates a casual atmosphere where everyone is encouraged to play their part. That’s what FIRST is about: getting students into STEM while still being fun. Taylor has succeeded as a teacher, a communicator, and FIRST participant, while still being dedicated to his family and impacting the community.