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ARRL Teachers Institute Expands to Include Space, Electronics in the Classroom

10/05/2010

This summer, the ARRL offered two advanced ARRL Teachers Institutes on Wireless Technology (TI-2) sessions. One session focused on how to integrate space into the classroom, while the other concentrated on basic and more advanced electronics concepts and ham radio operations. “As we gain experience as to what content is need to help teachers to better integrate basic electronics, the science of radio, microcontrollers and robotics into their curriculum, the TI program continues to be refined and expanded,” said ARRL Education and Technology Program Coordinator Mark Spencer, WA8SME. “The TI-2 program is an offshoot of that effort and provides a ‘graduate level’ opportunity for graduates of the regular Teachers Institute sessions.”

Space in the Classroom

The Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA) sponsored the Space in the Classroom TI-2; this session was also made possible thanks of the generous support of Yaesu and Ham Radio Outlet. The eight TI-2 Space participants received a basic satellite ground station that consisted of a Yaesu FT-817 transceiver and G5500 rotor, an ARROW antenna, rotor controller interface and software, as well as associated cabling. During the TI-2, the teachers learned how how to setup and operate their ground stations and how to locate and access ham radio satellites. They then practiced by making on-the-air contacts through the satellites. Spencer explained that the satellite operations were not restricted to voice QSOs, but also included receiving satellite telemetry transmitted by Morse code and receiving SSTV pictures sent by other amateur satellite enthusiasts during a dedicated AO51 pass. Spencer thanked AMSAT and the satellite community for supporting this popular and motivating experience.

Besides working what he called “a bazillion satellite passes,” Spencer said that there were some standout activities in the session: “The International Space Station (ISS) was up with APRS packet, allowing the teachers to experience, as close as possible, what is involved in making an ISS voice contact under the Amateur Radio on the Space Station (ARISS) program. Additionally, the teachers were in a good position to listen in on a test between the ISS and the White Sands Missile Range (on a non-ham frequency, but at least it was a signal from the ISS). The participants quickly scrambled to upload projected Keplarian data into the tracking software to access one of the first passes of a new satellite -- TISat -- that was launched on the first day of the TI-2 (it’s a nice name choice for this new bird, but we had nothing to do with it). It was a hoot to hear the first signals from this bird -- ‘HI HI HI TISat’ -- sent in Morse code!”

One teacher summed up his experience during the TI-2 this way: “Words can't express the gratitude I have for the opportunity given to me by the ARRL, allowing me to attend the TI-2. I hit the ground running when I got back to Minnesota and met with our science teacher (who also runs the science club at the middle school). We’ll be using the equipment and knowledge that I received not only in his classroom, but in the science club as well. I’m teaching a ‘Kids College’ the first week of August entitled ‘Wireless Technology’ where the information that I learned in the first Teachers Institute will be used, as well as the TI-2 information. I would like to thank the ARRL, DARA and all of the others that made this training possible. I know this will make a difference in many kids’ lives in my community.”

Electronics in the Classroom

The Basic Electronics TI-2 was conducted at ARRL Headquarters. Each of the 12 participants were licensed amateurs and was expected to attempt to upgrade their license privileges as an extracurricular activity. Of the 12, six upgraded to General and one to Amateur Extra (a number of the teachers already held an Amateur Extra class ticket). Additionally, a significant number of the participants obtained their ARRL Volunteer Examiner (VE) credentials through after-hours study.

During the four days of the TI-2, the participants built on the basic electronics knowledge and skills that they had learned during their original TI experience.  Spencer explained that after a quick refresher of previous material, more advanced topics that focused on digital electronics and digital communications techniques took the teachers to a new level of understanding: “Through the use of the OptaScope and prototyping boards, the teachers built circuits that demonstrated various digital electronics concepts, and then watched as the signals produced were displayed on the computer screen, proving that a picture is worth a thousand words. Actual Amateur Radio digital transmission modes rounded out the digital unit by allowing the students to see digital communications in action.”

The teachers summed up their TI-2 Basic Electronics experience this way:

“I learned a lot during TI-1, and even though I made use of the many topics you covered, I felt that I needed more specific knowledge on electronics to teach my wireless technology class. I think TI-2 filled some of that need. I love PSK31, and now I know exactly how it works.”

“The soldering project was great -- even though I did one cold solder. The wireless communication project was also excellent and it’s something that I could easily modify for use in my classroom. Getting deeper into basic electronics allows me to be a better teacher of these topics in high school. I had been able to get through Kirchhoff’s circuitry laws, but now I feel a lot more comfortable teaching more complex circuitry. A major plus was getting to know the rest of the participants, and building a network of like-minded people to work with as questions come up.”

“I am working on my first TI-2 project. I am writing curriculum for a language arts class that utilizes the transmitter/receiver project.”

As a prerequisite to attend the TI-2 program, teachers must be a graduate of the regular TI program and be actively engaged in integrating the content of the TI program into their school curriculum. Seating in the TI-2 classes is limited making it important for those that want to participate in the program to get their applications in early. Keep watching QST and the ARRL Education and Technology Program (ETP) Web page for the latest information on the ARRL Teachers Institute program.

How Can You Help?

 

You can make and impact! The success of the Education & Technology Program is a tribute to the generosity of ARRL donors. Each year, donors contribute more than $200,000 to support the ARRL’s programs described in this story. Gifts of every amount help the ARRL reach thousands of students and teachers across the country with the story of Amateur Radio and related subjects.

Why not join the ranks for ARRL members with your contribution this year?

Because the ARRL’s Education & Technology Program is entirely donor-supported, your contribution of $1000, $250 or $100 will have a direct impact on the next generation of radio amateurs. You can make your contribution by mail to ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington CT, 06111, by phone to the Development Office at 860-594-0397 or via the secure ARRL Web site. Feel free to call the Development Office for more information about other giving options, include installment giving or gifts of securities.



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