By James Covington, AA0XJ
Venturing Crew 1085
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
We start planning our JOTA during JOTA! Of course we didn't the first year, but we like to start early. We talk about what would be or could be better while we are doing JOTA and we try not to forget what we talked about.
We are now Venturing Crew 1085, a group of young people who focus our activities on communications and amateur radio. We were Explorer Post 1085 Communications/Radio Post until the BSA restructured. We have a club callsign now, KC0CRP, but we have used many calls for our JOTA operations.
We meet with the Amateur Radio Clubs that are going to help with JOTA at their club meetings and we get a very good response from people who would like to see more youth involved in ham radio. We are fortunate to have the Collins ARC and the Cedar Valley ARC both of Cedar Rapids, to lend such a big hand with our group. After the JOTA event we take some time off to let our minds forget what went wrong and embellish what went right.
Starting in February we reserve a site for our event and find out if there are any restrictions to be dealt with like tower laws, insurance issues, noise ordinances, parking, camping, etc.
The first year we used a state park and had to:
A) get insurance to cover any damage we might do to the park
B) get permits for towers
C) deal with uninformed park rangers
D) pay for electric hook ups, etc. etc.
We have settled on our Boy Scout Camp for the past 4 years because it is :
A) a great place
B) not busy in October
C) lots of room
D) no hassles with ordinances, etc. etc.
We really like our Scout Camp!
February is also the time to start making contacts with the individual people that will help out so that they don't inadvertently schedule a vacation or other project for JOTA time. Start thinking about what new activities you think the young people would like to see and do
By April you should have started a list of who is going to be doing what. The amateurs that volunteer to help need to know just what is expected of them. If they volunteer to help with fox hunts be sure they know what the terrain is like, if they are going to set up a field day type operation be sure they have a site where the scouts will be sure to check it out.
Make sure there is a place for Merit badge work and kit building. These places need to have tables, good lighting, power for soldering, and they need to be semi isolated from other activities that could distract or interrupt them.
By June there should be maps made up showing the activities and where they will be located. Get confirmation from the volunteers that they are making progress on their areas. If they need help be sure to find some for them. Make sure they know that you appreciate their efforts and that it will be fun!
We solicited for door prizes from area merchants like Radio Shack, Amateur magazines, CQ, 73, Amateur Radio Trader, & QST, oddball prizes from specialty advertising companies (cups, key chains, notepads, etc.), and snack prizes from local manufacturers General Mills and Quaker Oats. Thank any donors in advance and again after the event possibly with pictures showing people getting their goods.
July and August have typically been spent trying to make sure the kit projects work and are easily reproducible. We have had to change what we were going to build as late as September before. Projects have included radio direction finders, code practice oscillators, microwatt CW transmitters, even a consignment package of kits. Be sure to have plenty of stuff on hand (even if it isn't the same as your main project) as sometimes the leaders and parents get wrapped up into the building of something that really works too.
In September you should be making sure that any hams who wish to stay out with the scouts and help operate all night and both days have a place to sleep and are furnished with all meals. Getting a count for buying food, is at best, just a guess. Buy food that both adults and kids like.
Fresh produce is appreciated by all and the moms will really come away with a positive attitude about letting their kids go to JOTA. Winners here have been chili for supper, cobblers for desserts, pancakes and sausages for breakfast, and cold meat sandwiches for lunch (easy clean-up during tear-down activities). Tailor your menu to your operations but remember KISS (keep it simple super-planner)! Quick to make and eat meals makes for more time on the radios and at the activities.
October... JUST HAVE FUN. DON'T TRY TO TEACH TOO MUCH. WATCH YOUR AUDIENCE AND KEEP THEM OCCUPIED.
If this sounds too easy, well just try it. It really works great. Have a meeting with your volunteers after the event and TAKE NOTES about what was good and not so good for planning next years JOTA.
Good luck and we hope to BCNU at JOTA every year! 73 de KC0CRP
Didely dah di dah.