Watch Dylan Mayer unfurl his potent combination of speed and power in play after play for the Menlo School football team, and you can’t help but admire the motor the two-way starter has.
But ask Mayer about his motor, and he’s liable to start talking about circuits and current. No, the Menlo senior isn’t referring to the wiring that makes him a standout athlete who may play baseball and football in college. He’s discussing another one of his passions – building motors.
A gifted student in science and math, Mayer delights in tackling complex engineering projects. As the rare junior to enroll in Menlo’s applied science research class last year, he built a Mendocino motor – a solar-powered levitating motor that spins because its circuits create magnetic fields when in sunlight.
When Menlo students presented their work at the Maker Faire last May alongside top-notch engineers from around the country, Mayer’s motor was a hit.
“His booth was crowded,” said James Dann, who teaches the applied science research class. “There were always people around – from engineers to kids going, ‘How does it spin? How does it work?’”
This fall, Mayer is delving deeper with an independent study. He’s using two of his Mendocino motors to build a solar-powered car the size of a large shoebox.
“I just really like building stuff,” Mayer said. “Once I find one thing I’m interested in … then I find a more complicated way I could build that.”
Dann, who called Mayer “a genius engineer,” said that what sets his pupil apart is his determination to find solutions, even when none seemingly exists after countless efforts.
“He has an amazing perseverance, and that’s what’s going to make him a great engineer,” Dann said. “He never gives up.”
Mike Thibodeaux, a mathematics teacher, said Mayer’s penchant for creative problem-solving also helps the senior excel in AP Calculus BC, Menlo’s top mathematics course.
Yes, it seems that Mayer stands out in just about everything he does – all while being quite humble.
In volunteering for the past two years at , a nonprofit educational organization, Mayer showed uncommon grace in mentoring a diverse group of students, including disabled veterans.
“His humility and humaneness, he’s just remarkable, just remarkable,” related founder and CEO Gary Riekes, who said Mayer was a role model while giving guitar lessons, leading exercise classes and teaching people how to lead tours. “He has an amazing heart.”
And then, of course, there’s Mayer’s athletic prowess.
In football, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior is an imposing presence and a playmaker wherever he lines up. On defense, he started the year at middle linebacker but is now a fleet and hard-hitting strong safety. On offense, he sees time at running back and all four of the Knights’ receiver positions.
Heading into Friday’s regular-season finale against rival Sacred Heart Prep – which 6-3 Menlo needs to win to bolster its Central Coast Section playoff hopes – Mayer has totaled 12 touchdowns, including a 92-yard run and a 69-yard reception.
In baseball, he’s a middle-of-the-order slugger who has already been a part of two Central Coast Section Division III championship squads. After hitting .449 in both his sophomore and junior seasons as an outfielder, Mayer said he might also try to pitch some this year.
As for his collegiate plans, Mayer said he’s eying a West Coast school but that he hasn’t narrowed his choices much. Stanford, Cal, UCLA, Pomona and Claremont McKenna were among nearly a dozen schools he mentioned. “I’m still talking to people, still visiting campuses,” he related.
Mayer said he’s “almost positively” going to play baseball at the next level, and that football may be a possibility if he goes to a Division III school.
In addition to his engineering interests, Mayer said he’s likely to take a close look at business during college. He intends to do an internship at Burr Pilger Mayer, an accounting firm his father, Stephen, founded and chairs.
But for now, Mayer is all too happy to make the most of his high school days.
There’s the solar-powered car and all of its trouble-shooting. There’s trying to extend his prep football career a few more games. And there’s his dance class – wait! Dance?!
Yes, Dylan Mayer even does dancing.
“I’m taking advanced dance, which has actually helped me a lot with my flexibility,” he said with a laugh.
Add it all up, and it’s easy to see why Mark Newton, Menlo’s head football coach and a history teacher, called Mayer “an incredible citizen on campus.”
“It’s really hard to find somebody with that whole package,” added Newton, who earlier termed Mayer “off-the-charts bright.”
“He’s everybody’s All-American. He’s really the real deal.”