An Independent K-12 school on a beautiful wooded campus, 3 miles from Washington, D.C.

ethan

Extracurriculars: Ninth Grade Class President, Tennis, Violin, and Robotics
Favorite Class: Science
Favorite Thing About Potomac: Athletics because it's at the end of the day and is a time to have fun after a long day of classes.
Memorable Potomac Moment: Getting the rules changed so that Intermediate School students could wear Sperry's.
Aspirations: One aspiration I have is to make varsity tennis as a freshman.

Ethan
9th GRade

This year, I transitioned from Middle School robotics to Upper School robotics. Last year, I got to go to the Robotics World Championship with my 8th grade team, and this year, my team qualified for the U.S. Open, or Nationals. Nationals was held in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and eight Potomac teams qualified and attended.

There were two divisions for the U.S. Open: the Open division and the High School division. My team--along with three other Potomac teams--was in the High School division, which was the much more challenging. While none of us qualified for the finals, the four teams in the Open division were very successful and all received awards.

Overall, the three-and-a-half day trip was very enjoyable--in addition to having the exciting opportunity to compete, the city was interesting and there were bunch of activities at the convention center, such as a bouncy house, ping pong tables, and more. It was great to hang out with friends and celebrate the end the season. Having participated in robotics for many years now and gone to Worlds, I enjoyed Nationals the best. While Worlds brought together competitors from around the globe, I got to compete with a lot of my friends at Nationals.

The robotics program at Potomac is a fun way to learn new things and make friends with people in the Upper School. The program is continuing to grow, and next year there will be over 80 students participating in robotics!


At Potomac, community service and giving back is an important value. Potomac provides many opportunities for students to serve the community. One event Potomac has been running for a long time is something called Sandwich Day, which is held many times throughout the year. All divisions participate, and in the Upper School, advisories make sandwiches with ingredients brought in by students. After all the sandwiches are collected, they are given to Martha's Table, a DC-based organization that supports kids and families.

There are also other opportunities to give back, such as through the community service days that occur once per semester. On these days, classes are cancelled and all of the Upper School advisories split up and go to various locations to serve. This fall, my advisory went to a daycare in Reston and we helped take care of the kids, who ranged in age from newborns to 4 years old. Everyone split up to do different jobs, such as holding and spending time with the newborns, reading to the toddlers, or playing with kids outside on the playground. The experience was really enjoyable but also made me realize how much work it is to take care of children. For the second semester community service day, advisories will go back to the location they went to during first semester, with the hope of maintaining bonds.

Other divisions participate in their own community service work. For example, the Lower School runs a coat drive every year, gathering coats from students to give to people in need. In the Intermediate School, students host many activities with Alternative House, a nonprofit that provides an array of services for children, teens, and young adults in the local community. When I was in the IS, I participated in many of the events that Potomac hosted with Alternative House, and it was fun to interact with the kids and build relationships with them. It was nice to see how happy they were when they played in the gym or on the Turf Field.

Some additional community service opportunities that I have participated in through Potomac include Artfest and YouToo Tennis. Artfest is a big gathering in McLean, and students participating in the robotics program go and perform demonstrations for kids and adults. YouToo Tennis is a program that happens every Sunday during the fall and spring, and Potomac students coach and play tennis with children with autism. These activities are fun to do, and they also allow me to learn more about my community.

This year, I transitioned from the Intermediate School (IS) to the Upper School (US). There are many parts of US life that are different from the IS, like athletics after school, more short blocks, and a bigger campus. One thing that I have noticed already is the increase in class difficulty. All of my classes are more difficult, but the most difficult classes I have are my accelerated classes, bio and geometry. In IS, there would be many lessons given to the class to explain everything thoroughly, but in my accelerated bio and geometry courses, the pace is increased and there are not as many lessons given, especially in math. If you don't get something, I have learned it is important to get help from the teacher right away, because once you fall behind, it takes a lot of work to get back on track.

Another difference in the Upper School is athletics. In IS, athletics were during the school day, so you didn't have to stay after school unless you had a game. In US, athletics occur after school almost every day, depending on what sport or activity you're doing. For the fall season, I played golf, and although we didn't practice much because we don't have a course nearby, the coach expected us to be practicing a lot on our own. The season ended a few weeks ago, and for the winter season I'm signed up for weights and conditioning to help prep me for tennis in the spring season. Athletics takes a lot of time from your day, but you get to experience being on a team with other upperclassmen.

Even though the Upper School is harder than the IS and seems busier, there are many good things about the US. One thing is study hall. Study hall is a great time to study and get work done, especially if your day is busy after school. It is really important to make use of your study hall because if you don't, you'll find yourself stressing and completing work that you could have already done. Another nice thing about the US is the larger space for students. The freshmen all hang out in the Upper Crossroads while the juniors and seniors are in the Lower Crossroads. Each grade has their own space for themselves. Also, there are so many more faculty in the Upper School than the IS which allows you to get to know more teachers. Last but not least, lunch. Lunch is probably my favorite part of the day because that's when you don't have to think about school and can just eat, whether that's the hot lunch served or a bagel. Lunch is not just for eating, though, because you are given a good amount of time. I know I don't take 40 minutes to eat lunch, so I use my extra time to do work or talk with other people. The Upper School has a lot of time built into the school day for students to be able to get all their work done, but students have to make use of that time if they want to be productive.

At Potomac, Intermediate and Upper School students are required to do a sport or an activity during the fall, winter, and spring seasons. To me, sports are when you can let off the stress that has been flooding your mind. Upper Schoolers have sports after school, while Intermediate School students have athletics towards the end of the school day. Sometimes IS students have to stay after school for a game or match, but US students usually have to stay after school until around 5:30 pm every day.

I'm only in 8th grade right now and I don't know what Upper School athletics is like, but I do have experience with Intermediate School athletics. For my 7th grade year, I participated in football in the fall, the musical in the winter, and tennis in the spring. For 8th grade, I did the same things except I did weights in the winter instead of the musical. My favorite seasons are the fall and winter because I really enjoy playing football and tennis. I play a lot of tennis outside of school and our team did really well last year and this year.

The most fun thing about athletics is the amount of competitiveness in all the sports. In the IS, the amount of competitiveness is not nearly as close to the amount in the Upper School. The Upper School has tournaments unlike the Intermediate School. Many students go out to support Potomac in whatever game they are playing in. This spring, the boys varsity tennis team played St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School in the state semifinals. There was a lot of tension because they were both really competitive about winning.

Athletics at Potomac is when you can spend time with your friends and teammates and do something you enjoy. It is also a time where you don't need to think about everything that's going on in school and you can just focus on your sport. You get to not only strengthen the bonds with your friends, but also the bonds with your coaches.

At Potomac, one of the things I enjoy spending my time doing is robotics. Robotics is an after school activity that you sign up for at the beginning of school in the IS. This year, there are 4 teams that are participating: three teams of four students and one team of three. Teams meet every Wednesday after school and prepare for upcoming competitions.

When you hear the word “robotics” you may think it’s just constructing robots, but you do much more than just build robots. You have to create an engineering notebook, a STEM project, and a robot that is capable of completing an objective. For example, the objective this year is for the robot to pick up as many balls as it can and shoot them into the basket in one minute. An engineering notebook is where you log your data, notes, problems, solutions, and goals. A STEM project is where you research a topic that has to do with science, technology, engineering, or math that you choose and present to the judges.

My team qualified for the Vex I.Q. States competition that will take place in February, so we’ve been trying to improve our robot and our STEM project. Vex I.Q. is the junior version of Vex, which is in Upper School. Vex I.Q. uses large pieces of plastic while Vex uses huge pieces of metal to create their robot. My team has built four robots and plan on building another to create different versions that will hopefully be better for the States competition. I started robotics in 6th grade, and comparing this year to the last two years, I think that this year would be our most successful year. Last year was a little chaotic because there were about eight teams in a room meant for five teams, but this year there are only four teams and a lot more workspace.

At robotics competitions, we compete with other people and try to get good scores which add up in the end. So far, every IS team has made it to States and is going to compete and try to get to Worlds. My team is really hoping we can make it to Worlds just to experience what it is like to go against such tough competition. Robotics is not the only after-school activity available to students. At Potomac, there is an after-school program called ETC or extended day. They have a variety of different activities like flag football, running, fencing, programming, and much more.