Sophomores in Potomac’s Science and Engineering Research Center (SERC) program recently enjoyed an informative visit to MIT. They learned how research is conducted in a college setting and gained insight into various areas of research, including brain imaging, battery construction, carbon capture, and ion propulsion systems for cube satellites. The goal of the trip was to allow SERC students to experience a vast range of scientific research topics at a top higher ed institution as they begin to decide on their individual areas of interest. The students were accompanied by SERC teachers Laura Petro and Bill Peery.
Robotics and STEM
The path towards a passion for STEM starts early at Potomac. Curious minds are sparked through fun and intentional tinkering and engineering.
Students have many opportunities to engage in science, technology, engineering, and math activities both in the classroom and in co-curricular activities. By building a student's tool box and STEM skill set, students will competently and confidently achieve technology standards and skills in exciting ways.
POTOMAC ROBOTICS PROGRAM PROMOTES STEM
Almost 100 students in grades 5-12 compete in Potomac’s robotics program. Younger students participate in the FIRST Lego League. In grades 8-12, students participate in the VEX Robotics Competition, a worldwide program of over 4,500 teams. Collectively, Potomac teams have experienced phenomenal success over the past few years.
Through teamwork, play, and problem solving, robots help students develop key thinking skills in the exciting field of coding and robotics. In K-5 technology classes, all students engage with VEX robotics through building and coding challenges. Students in grades 6-12 have the opportunity to join a competitive robotics team, offering a motivating environment to learn and push STEM skills to new levels.
What the vex?
By its nature, the study of robotics inherently incorporates all four pillars of STEM. VEX IQ is a snap-together robotics system designed to provide an opportunity for future engineers of all skill levels. Through incorporating advanced concepts into an accessible package, the system also naturally encourages teamwork, problem solving, and leadership.
Working with the VEX IQ platform gives the students a foundation in engineering design and programming at the Middle School age that will continue in the Intermediate School and directly translate to VEX Robotics in the Upper School. The VEX IQ platform introduces students to VEXCODE programming, which uses a standard coding system that can expand into Python.
Co-oper-tition and generosity of spirit
There is a tern in robotics: co- oper- tition. It is preparing, training and doing your very best in a contest while also showing deep kindness and respect, to your opponent, especially when it matters.
Our robotics program sent two teams to compete in the national finals of the U.S. Open Robotics championship. Both teams were well-prepared, skilled and highly competitive eager, to win the championship. In that final match, one team- perhaps the stronger team, had a malfunction- their robot needed to be repaired and could not continue without a timeout. The team used a 30 second timeout, but unfortunately, they did not have enough time to make all the necessary repairs.
Seven Potomac Upper School robotics students recently traveled to Council Bluffs, IA, to compete in the U.S. Open Championship. Our last appearance at this event was in 2019, when we took home the championship. This year, Potomac students encountered new rules and a new competition format, but that didn’t deter them from competing to the best of their abilities. At the end of the event, our two teams were placed on the first and fourth seeded finals alliances, with team A (Devon Cleaver ’23, Lauren Foster ’23, Grace Lee ’23, Natalia Vilela ’24) finishing in fifth place. After a thrilling conclusion with a finals score of 270, our team 12B (Ritvik Bandi ’25, Caleb Bartlett ’22, Yumn Teshome ’22) walked away as the U.S. Open Champions. Congratulations to all!
Through our program, we strive to encourage our students to take interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related topics, in an exciting, yet challenging atmosphere.
What is the program's mission?
Our mission is to inspire students to become scientific leaders by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills. The Potomac School's Robotics program inspires innovation and fosters qualities such as self-confidence, responsibility, communication, and leadership. All members are encouraged to participate in all aspects of preparing a robot for competition, as robotics is a multidisciplinary field.
At Potomac, our mentors encourage professionalism, striving toward high-quality work and dedication and emphasizing the importance of respect for others. While `our teams compete against each other during tournaments, they must also be able to cooperate and work together. Teammates push, cheer, and encourage each other to achieve and exceed expectations. Students are able to learn and teach each other, allowing the teams to reach an even higher level of understanding.
Who can participate in Robotics?
Potomac students in grades 6 through 12 are invited to participate in the program.
What is Lego League?
Lego League is the robotics program for students in sixth grade; they may apply to participate at the beginning of the school year. Students are taught to model professionalism while acquiring the general skills needed to master robotics basics. This year, three teams of students were formed and will be competing at the regional level with the potential to go onto States.