Robotics teacher helping students discover passions

Autumn Owens aowens@empiretribune.com Twitter @aowensETnews
Allen Mays teaches health science, robotics and is involved in HOSA at Stephenville High School. His mission is to teach his students to think for themselves and to help them find their calling.

Allen Mays is one busy guy at Stephenville High School, teaching health science, robotics and heading the HOSA organization accomplishing his mission of teaching kids to think for themselves and helping them discover their passions.

Mays originally went to school for athletic training, earning a masters degree at Texas Tech University before starting as an athletic trainer at Friendship ISD just outside of Lubbock.

"I was the head athletic trainer there for four years and then I came to Tarleton to be the head athletic trainer for the football team,” he said. “I did that for about three years and then resigned from that job and became a teacher here about eight years ago; started teaching science.”

Math and science have always come easy to Mays, but as far as teaching goes, he felt there wasn’t much he could do with mathematics.

“Math comes very easy to me, so for kids who struggle with math I don’t really know what to tell them,” he said. “But with science there are so many different ways to come at it and explain different concepts. So I enjoyed it and it was something that I could really help the kids with.”

Mays said his mission as a teacher is for his students to leave being able to think for themselves.

“Ultimately it’s not about them being good high school students, it’s about them being better people and achieving their dreams and passions,” he said. “You don’t do that through standardized testing and you don’t do that sitting in a classroom listening to me, you do that through thinking critically - learning how to learn - and pursuing it on your own.”

Mays also teaches robotics and oversees the robotics UIL program through FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology).

“When spring hits it’s very time consuming, but it’s a lot of fun. One of the slogans they push is that it’s the hardest fun you’ll ever have and it’s true,” he said with a laugh. “We have six weeks to build a robot and that’s not a lot of time. It’s fast and furious in that time, but it’s a lot of fun and the kids really enjoy it.”

Two years ago the Robotics Team advanced to the quarterfinals in a regional tournament and this past year qualified for the first time ever to the UIL state championship tournament.

“It was a little rough in the beginning but we managed to advance to the state semi-finals,” he said. “So we were the state semi-finalists. It was pretty exciting.”

Mays said the great thing about the robotics program is that it mirrors the industry and students are able to pursue a range of interests.

“There are so many different things from fabrication and manufacturing, programming, we do 3D printing and even on the business side kids can put together a business plan for our team,” he said. “We have somebody who’s in charge of safety, we have inventory managers and an inventory process and the kids develop that process, so they’re in it from the ground floor up. So whatever their interest is, they can pursue it.”

Mays is also involved in the HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America), a national organization, and in Texas is the second largest student organization right behind FFA.

“It’s for students who are interested in going into any kind of healthcare field. It’s kind of like FFA for healthcare professions,” he said. “There are a variety of competitions they can be involved in. Some of them are knowledge-based about a particular field, some of them involve hands-on where they have to demonstrate skills, some of them are leadership-based and there’s even emergency type scenarios where they have to go in as a team and display EMT skills. So there’s a lot of things they can compete in.”