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A Ham Radio Voyage and Dayton 2009 Pre-game

05/05/2009

HMS Beagle Sets Sail with Ham Radio

Although Amateur Radio operators have missed the boat for Darwin's HMS Beagle's voyage, we did however catch up with the HMS Beagle Science Store in sleepy Parkville, Missouri. Calling itself "The Ultimate Science Store," HMS Beagle is an amazing store to explore. Immediately when you walk in, you are captivated by telescopes, glass instruments and light refracting off geodes; however, the one thing that this store is missing is ham radio!

The owner of the store contacted me and Brian Short, KC0BS, and asked if we could introduce Amateur Radio to a group of young scientists. The HMS Beagle has a science club for kindergarten-4th graders as well as older grades that meets every now and then around 9 on Saturday mornings. I was able to attend and help Brian with a presentation to the K-4 group, made up mostly of 1st and 2nd graders.

I woke up around 6:30 AM on Saturday April 11 for the 45 minute drive to Parkville Missouri, a sleepy river town. We were on site around 8 AM to begin set-up. The Western Missouri/Kansas division of SATERN (Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network) was kind enough to loan us their trailer to take with us for eye candy, as well as operating. After spending 10 minutes looking for an electrical outlet and stringing out the extension cord (we didn't think running a generator in close proximity to 6 and 7 year olds was a great idea) and 20 minutes getting weights and rope into trees for the wire antenna, we were on the air.

As Brian went inside to do some set-up, I checked out 40 meters and made sure everything was working. I cranked out a few CQs and almost immediately got a reply from an extremely strong W0 station. At first excited that 40 was doing well, my heart sunk, learning he was also in Parkville. I was hoping for something a little further out, but hey, it's better than static crashes. We did, however, have the enjoyment of watching several high altitude balloons on APRS, and listened to the repeater one of them -- the kids thought this was pretty spiffy: "Mommy, we heard a balloon!"

As 9:00 rolled around, we pulled everyone away from the awe of 40 meters and weather balloons and took them into the store to explain what it was all about. Brian did an excellent presentation on Amateur Radio. He did several demonstrations of communication and how we have an upper hand in emergencies and few weaknesses. One demonstration included the old cup-and-string telephone -- beware of 8 year olds with scissors!

All in all, I'd call it a successful presentation. Fighting for the attention spans of 1st and 2nd graders was tough, but we caught the interest of a few older members and some parents. We're hoping that we can go back when the cycle kicks back up (knock on wood) and give them a real demonstration of what we mean when we say "worldwide communications."

2009 ARRL National Convention and the Dayton Hamvention

I'm glad to announce that the 2009 ARRL National Convention, hosted by the Dayton Hamvention, is just around the corner! Despite the economy, the ham community is getting excited and prepared to journey to Ohio to take part in forums, presentations and the biggest hamfest in America. But once there, what can you do with other young hams?

There will be several youth events, including the anticipated ARRL Youth Lounge! Whether you're 10 or 20, no license or an Amateur Extra, please drop by the ARRL Youth Lounge and participate in a wide range of activities. You might be able to take home the prize for QSL card designing, or find the "fox" in a fox hunt. Regardless of what you're looking for, make sure to swing by and give a shout out to your fellow youngsters.

Another incentive to come by the lounge is the find out the location of the youth dinner! It will be on Saturday at 5:30 PM, so come by the youth lounge and get the location. Once it's over, you should still have time to try your hand at some Morse code at the Kansas City DX Club CW Pile-Up competition, or just kick back and relax for the last day of the Hamvention.

I will be blogging throughout the event, as well as posting updates on Twitter; you can find the blog on the ARRL's Web site as Dayton approaches. I plan on attending the DX and Contest Dinners, as well as visiting various suites and forums. If you see me walking around, or at the ARRL booth, please stop by and say hello! I'd love to hear from some readers and maybe get suggestions or future ideas for articles.

Upcoming Events

CQ WPX CW Contest, May 30-31, 2009. The sequel to CQ WPX SSB, this is a great contest to get on the air and practice some CW, especially if you have a unique prefix! The contest runs from 0000 UTC Saturday to 2359 UTC Sunday, plenty of time to make a few contacts.

ARRL June VHF QSO Party, June 13-14. Get on the air and work some E-skip! This contest runs from 1800 UTC Saturday to 0300 UTC Monday; there should be enough time for an opening on 6 meters. Technicians, this is your chance to work some of the lower 48 on VHF!

That's it for now -- I hope to see you at Dayton!

73--
--Duncan MacLachlan, KU0DM

Duncan MacLachlan, KU0DM
ARRL Youth Editor



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