Every year, graduating seniors on The Octagon write a final piece to say goodbye to Country Day. This is one of nine pieces by the class of ’22.
I thought about writing this formal goodbye on a lot of different things.
I could have spoken about how much I’ve enjoyed my Country Day experience because I really and truly and absolutely have.
I could have also talked about where I’ve seen Country Day’s flaws because I think it has been fading a little: in academic rigor, in high-achievement culture, in student body quality.
To talk about the first one would have been nice, to talk about the second would have been a little depressing, but I think I’m going to talk about a third option that hits a little on both: the famous/infamous Solar Regatta.
The campus has really been abuzz with talk of The Boat recently, so I would be surprised if there are many people still unaware of the competition.
For those who don’t know, the SMUD Solar Regatta is a competition where we raced a solar-powered boat that we retrofitted ourselves with solar panels, motors, props and lots of duct-taped wiring.
In the end, I had to talk about this competition because of the fact that it literally took over my life for the last two weeks, and it has been one of the biggest experiences of this year. It has been a perfect mirror of the best parts of my time at Country Day.
From the beginning, none of us knew what we were doing with the boat. Nor were we really relying on anyone’s expertise.
This was very much a problem. You can’t plan for what you don’t understand at all, and you can’t lead a team of 30 to do tasks if you can’t make a plan.
This led, regrettably, to a lot of members doing nothing while a couple of us tried to get our stuff together. Bad leadership on my and the seniors’ parts, really.
And this level of progress held constant along with our second-semester senioritis until around two or three weeks before the competition, when we finally realized that we did actually need to be putting things on the boat.
In a manner I never would have expected, everyone got involved. The amount of crazy, unique memories I’ve had over the past weeks is insane. I remember smashing Arijit’s finger with our first motor test in the senior quad, putting together electronics on a trash can and on the floor in Ms. J’s room, testing the boat both at my and Arijit’s pool, the list goes on.
If I looked around at any point in our long, frantic worknights, I saw everyone around me laser-focused and accomplishing amazing things. Dylan, with zero prior engineering experience, worked on that steering system up to the competition until it finally worked. Arijit learned to perform literal microsurgery on motors with a soldering iron. The art team painted the boat beautifully within two days.
It was inspiring to see us learning and doing actual engineering, especially since we were each feeling that same awe in our ability.
As most Country Day graduates mention, the strength of our experience at this school is due to our community. I am so grateful to have been alongside the awesome members of my class.
I’ve learned a lot from them, I hope they’ve learned some from me, and we’ve learned so much together. Solar Regatta was a concentrated reminder of that most-powerful side of our school: us.
— By Nihal Gulati
Originally published in the May 24 issue of The Octagon.