Hams Mentor Challenger Center Students for Garriott Contact
Dan Meier had no idea as a young ham in the 1960s that he would influence a classroom teacher and middle school students in the 21st century. As a young middle school student himself, he was struck by an incredible fascination with radio. Its ability to allow conversations of complete strangers from around the world fired his imagination. Dan's interest in radio was encouraged by a neighbor and friend of the family, Glenn Kaiser, WA9BFO. With support from Glenn and other hams, personal study and tenacity, Dan developed into an accomplished ham.
All of these childhood experiences eventually led to his career in electronics and a PhD in electrical engineering. Now, as a quiet and reserved adult, Dan gives back to others by sharing his expertise, just as his early mentors did. He encourages others' interest in Amateur Radio and assists in their growth and understanding by exposing them to the equipment and worldwide contacts in his quiet and unassuming way. In this way he gave confidence to me, his good friend. It took several attempts for me to pass my Technician's test, but with constant patience and encouragement, KB9AX helped me achieve my goal.
It wasn't until the fall of 2008 that KB9AX saw his lifelong hobby truly pay off in an enormous way. Dan's influence on me, a middle school teacher, began to spiral into a much larger realm -- in fact it was out of this world! He had the opportunity to influence a group of middle school students from my school district as they prepared to contact the International Space Station (ISS) at the Challenger Learning Center of Indianapolis. He offered guidance to me and explanations for the students. He combined his QSL cards and equipment with his experiences as a ham to bring Amateur Radio to life for them.
Other local hams jumped at the chance to be present and help influence the students as they contacted the space station, too. They were all eager to give their knowledge in the hope of encouraging the students to try ham radio. Michael Rollins, WA9NCF, Harry Wiliford, WB9IIV and Michael Palmer, N9FEB, all gave freely of their time to help the Challenger Learning Center students prepare for the telebridge contact. The students prepared questions to ask astronaut Richard Garriott, W5KWQ, as he traveled at a speed of 17,500 mi/h and an altitude of 250 miles above the Earth.
In a telebridge, students at a school location use a telephone connection to a remote ham station. The actual ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) contact is set up through this remote station. The students talk into a speakerphone at their school but they use Amateur Radio protocols just as if they were guest operators at the ham station.
It was a unique event for all ham operators because this flight occurs almost exactly 25 years after the first ham broadcast from space. Dr Owen Garriott, W5LFL, operated the world's first Amateur Radio station from space when he was aboard a flight in 1983. And now his son, Richard, influenced by his father to be a ham and serve on the International Space Station, was following in his father's footsteps and speaking to Challenger Centers and other schools around the world as an Amateur Radio operator.
You just never know who you will influence through the gift of ham radio. Pass it on.
All photos taken by Gary Pellico, Community Outreach Liaison, Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township, Indianapolis.
Cyndy Moriarty, K9CMM, with the gentle guidance and valuable instruction of her Elmer, Dr Dan Meier, KB9AX, passed her Technician exam in the spring of 2006. She got her first taste of contesting with Dan for the Troy Amateur Radio Association's RTTY Melee and the ARRL RTTY Roundup in 2008. Cyndy is a National Board Certified Teacher and has been an educator for 29 years. She is currently Lead Flight Director at the Challenger Learning Center of Indianapolis working with students in a space simulator that is based on actual NASA missions. Cyndy can be contacted at 5724 Blackstone Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46237-2492.
Cyndy Moriarty, K9CMM