ARRL Teachers Institutes Chalk Up Another Successful Summer


Thanks to the ARRL’s 2014 Teachers Institutes on Wireless Technology, nearly 3 dozen teachers will be heading back to school this fall better equipped to incorporate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) principles into their curricula. A dozen educators also returned home with an Amateur Radio license or a license upgrade.


As part of its outreach to schools, the ARRL Education & Technology Program (ETP) sponsored two introductory Teachers Institute (TI) sessions and one advanced class during June and July. “Introduction to Wireless Technology” (TI-1) sessions took place in late June at Dayton, Ohio — hosted by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association — and at ARRL Headquarters in Newington, Connecticut. The advanced “Remote Sensing and Data Gathering” (TI-2) course was held at ARRL Headquarters in July. The 4-day, expenses-paid professional development seminars offer teachers from the elementary to the university level tools and strategies to introduce basic electronics, radio science, space technology, and satellite communication, as well as weather science, an introduction to microcontrollers, and basic robotics in their classrooms.

Two dozen teachers from 16 states attended the two introductory courses under the guidance of Instructors Tommy Gober, N5DUX, and Larry Kendall, K6NDL — a new instructor who is a middle school technology teacher in California.

“The curriculum is designed for motivated teachers and other school staffers who want to learn more about wireless technology and bring that knowledge to their students,” ARRL Education Services Manager Debra Johnson, K1DMJ, said. “Many expressed interest in coming back for more training with satellite communications, the MAREA [Mars Lander/Marine Amateur Radio Robotics Exploration Activity] program, and remote sensors and data collection.” MAREA is a hands-on activity designed to engage students in learning programming skills for command and control of land or marine robots via Amateur Radio packet.

During this summer’s advanced (TI-2) session on remote sensing and data gathering, Instructor Mark Spencer, WA8SME, demonstrated how to control the movements of a robot via data packets sent via the International Space Station (ISS) digipeater on 145.825 MHz. The satellite station at W1AW tracked the ISS during a July 10 pass. W1AW received and decoded movement instructions sent by Matt Severin, N8MS, in Eau Claire, Michigan. Those data then were transferred to the robot through a wireless UHF link. Ten teachers from nine states took part in the advanced course. All were Amateur Radio licensees and ARRL members. The introductory wireless technology course is a prerequisite.

New this year at the TI-2 course was a marine research buoy. The buoy is outfitted with sensors to measure surrounding air and water temperature and pressure, and it includes a GPS tracking device. A PIC controls data sampling and storage. A Yaesu FT-270 handheld transceiver was used to transmit data via the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS).

“Each teacher received a buoy, assembled it, and learned how the data measurements from the electronic sensors are converted to useable information about the environment, how to program the PIC to sample the data, how to configure APRS and receive the data and upload it into Excel for evaluation and analysis,” Johnson explained. “The buoy is a resource designed for classroom use as well as for easy deployment in local bodies of water. The teachers deployed their buoys in buckets, as they learned how to program and set up their buoy systems.”

Participants were enthusiastic in their anonymous post-session comments. “This seminar was my first experience with remote data and sensing using Amateur Radio,” one advanced course participant said. Another educator called the buoy project “exciting.”

A third participant expressed gratitude and appreciation to the donors, whose generosity funds the ETP and the Teachers Institutes. “The institute will directly benefit my students by building intellectual capital in me,” the TI participant commented. “The return on investment will be realized over the next 10 years of my career as I modify my courses by adding wireless technology activities to my classes. Without all of the travel, hotel, and other support, I would not have been able to attend this workshop. So, thank you to all of the donors connected with this program!”

To date, the ARRL’s Education & Technology Program has provided resources, including radio equipment, to more than 500 teachers and schools. Your contribution to support ARRL’s successful efforts to promote Amateur Radio in schools and to provide professional development for teachers in wireless technology is welcome.