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California University Sees Record Number of Freshmen Take Tech Exam

11/09/2011

When 114 freshmen electrical engineering students at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, gathered on Friday, November 4 to take their Technician exam, they made history. Not only was the session one of the largest exam sessions ever, it was the largest exam session sponsored by a college Amateur Radio club and the largest exam session ever held in San Luis Obispo County. After all the exams were graded, 96 of the 114 students were brand new licensed amateurs, joining the next generation of radio amateurs in the US.

Hosted by the Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club (CPARC), this exam session broke its previous record of 62 new licensees, set earlier this year in October. CPARC members made special testing arrangements with the ARRL to accommodate this large group. These 96 new Amateur Radio operators will join more than 700,000 other hams in the US in providing volunteer and emergency communications support for everything from local bike rides and parades to global disaster relief.

Cal Poly Electrical Engineering Department Chair Dr Dennis Derickson, AC0P, conceived the Freshman Licensing Initiative, giving the 189 students in his Introduction to Electrical Engineering Course a chance to get their radio license. Eleven ARRL Volunteer Examiners administered the test session during the 50-minute class period; the Tech exam counted as one of the midterm exams for the class. The new licensees already had their call signs posted to the FCC website on Monday, November 7, thanks to the tremendous efforts from the ARRL VEC office.

CPARC members hosted review sessions to help the students prepare to pass their exam and to get introductory knowledge on a wide variety of electrical engineering topics. Getting an Amateur Radio license is the first step toward many career opportunities in the communications industry, from engineering unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), integrating Wi-Fi technology for many wireless devices, creating 4G cell phone networks and designing communication subsystems on satellites. CPARC members are regularly learning about radios through retuning filters on radios and building directional antennas for transmitter hunts, as well as putting together an emergency vehicle tracking network for the Wildflower Triathlon, using two dozen radios and GPS units, digital repeaters and Internet gateways.

Founded in 1947, the Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club has a long tradition of communications service on campus and in the San Luis Obispo community. The club maintains Emergency Communications Station No. 16 on the Cal Poly Campus for the San Luis Obispo Emergency Communications Council (SLOECC), which is equipped with emergency power and radio equipment to support various public safety agencies in the event of a disaster.



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