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Ham Radio Clubs Connect Amid Social Distancing

03/20/2020

As college campuses have sent students home to finish their classes online, members of the K7UAZ Amateur Radio Club in Tucson — a student organization at the University of Arizona — have moved their radio club meetings to, well, the radio. K7UAZ Station Manager Curt Laumann, K7ZOO, said that when the university largely shuttered its campus, club president Ken Gourley, KM6BKU, immediately transitioned regular meetings to an on-the-air format using the university repeater. The club already was holding a weekly net on Monday nights, but the added on-air club meetings offer another opportunity to get on the radio.

In recent months, in-person K7UAZ club meetings have hosted presentations on such topics as EME (Earth-moon-Earth) communication and an AMSAT CubeSat simulation. As meetings move on the air, Gourley explained, he will send out a copy of meeting presentation slides so members can follow along. “I will lead the net and start with check-ins,” he said. “We will work our way through the slides, discussing previous events, upcoming activities, the treasurer’s report, projects, etc. I will take new check-ins every 5 – 10 minutes. We will conclude with officer comments and general comments. Hopefully it won’t take more than 30 – 45 minutes.”

ARRL staff member Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, who liaises for the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative (CARI), underscores the importance that all radio clubs encourage on-the-air activity in this challenging time. “While I know many businesses and schools have moved to online meetings and learning, I can think of many advantages for a radio club to move club meetings to on-air,” Inderbitzen said. His list includes:

Holding short meetings on the air will encourage individual club members to practice their personal radio communication capabilities. Station and skills readiness are tenets of the Amateur Radio Service.

Nets generally help new radio amateurs gain practical operating experience. Think of this current challenge as an opportunity to encourage your club’s new hams to get on the air.

As online fatigue and a feeling of isolation will inevitably creep into our “new normal,” being on-air will introduce variety into our communication practices. As many of us are now homebound working or studying, turning on a radio to connect with your ham radio peers will be welcome respite! 

At K7UAZ, experienced club members provide instruction for members to access the K7UAZ ARC repeater from 2 meters and via Echolink. The club also offers members the opportunity to borrow handheld radios or to be patched in via HF or videoconferencing, if they live too far away from the repeater.

ARRL is encouraging university radio clubs to network with other clubs and students via ARRL’s CARI Facebook group. “Keeping our campus radio clubs going will ensure we are, together, advancing the art, science, and enjoyment of amateur radio. It’s our collective mission,” Inderbitzen said. 



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