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Girl Scouts and Guides "Thinking Day on the Air" Generates Enthusiasm for Ham Radio


Skip Youngberg, K1NKR; Bill Machia, WM3N, and Dudley Allen, KD0NMD, were among those sponsoring World Association of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides’ “Thinking Day on the Air” (TDOTA) events in February that enjoyed enthusiastic participation. “Thinking Day,” officially February 22, commemorates the birthday of Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout and Guide movements, as well as that of his wife, Olave, who was the first World Chief Guide.

“Talk about excitement, exhilaration, and satisfaction!” said Youngberg, an ARRL Life Member who got involved in TDOTA through his daughter Jill Galus, KB1SWV. She enlisted his club, the Nashoba Valley Amateur Radio Club (NVARC), to conduct an event in New Hampshire 3 years ago. This year, the NVARC set up in Shirley, Massachusetts, and in Raymond, New Hampshire.

TDOTA traces its heritage to Radio Scouter Les Mitchell, G3BHK (SK), who originated Jamboree on The Air (JOTA) in 1957 and initiated TDOTA about 25 years ago, Youngberg said.

On February 18 in Shirley, Youngberg and his NVARC compatriots introduced 41 Scouts and 15 leaders to world time, phonetics, Morse code, and — perhaps most important — getting on the air. The next day, the NVARC crew packed up and did the same for a similar group in Raymond, where 26 Scouts and 10 leaders “honed their communications experience,” Youngberg said.

Youngberg said the Shirley gathering snagged 25 contacts, including eight DX stations. The New Hampshire demonstrations managed 42 contacts, 23 of them “CW DX demonstration” contacts made during the ARRL International DX Contest.

Youngberg credited the Girl Scout organizers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire with “bravely treading into the unknown,” and said they’re already talking about TDOTA 2018.

In Maryland, Bill Machia, WM3N, got to thinking about getting Girl Scouts involved in ham radio. He wondered if the Amateur Radio community was missing out on an opportunity.

“I agreed to give a presentation to the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland on Girl Scout Thinking Day,” Machia told ARRL, who focused on generating excitement and interest in ham radio. “As I researched my presentation, I found ARRL had a patch for Girl Scouts, Radio & Wireless Technology. This meant they could go home with an accomplishment patch.”

Machia said he never expected the level of interest that developed. When the head count reached 75, Scout leaders decided to make that the limit. “We are probably going to need a second presentation,” he said.

Machia reached out to Maryland-DC Section Manager Marty Pittinger, KB3MXM, to help, and when the day came, Machia said he found himself before “the most respectful group of young people I had ever met. They even laughed at my bad jokes.”

“The presentation covered the necessary points needed for their patch,” Machia recounted. He and his team presented some electrical and magnetic theory experiments. A local repeater demonstration followed, and they even set up an HF station with its antenna supported on a pole in the auditorium. “The 3 hours flew by,” he said, adding that he is now trying to recruit mentors from area clubs to expand interest in Amateur Radio.

Boy Scout Troop 231 Assistant Scoutmaster Dudley Allen, KD0NMD, also believes girls need to be given the opportunity to get more involved in ham radio. TDOTA provided one, and members of the Mid-America Council’s Radio Scouting Club (KN0BSA) hosted a TDOTA event for Girl Scouts in Bellevue, Nebraska, on February 18.

“This was the first event of this kind hosted for the Girl Scout troops in the area,” Allen said. “Seven girls took time out of their Girl Scout cookie sales schedule to stop by the ‘shack’ and see what it was all about.” He had help from other Scout leaders.

“Jim Taylor, AJ0R, put girls in contact with Girl Guides in London, England, using EchoLink,” Allen said, and he, Ray McNally, N5SEZ, and Terry Gampper, N0BXQ, helped the young ladies contact Georgia and Texas on HF. Derek Winterstien, W0DBW, got on 2 meters so the girls could chat with some of the locals. Overall, Allen said, it was a lot of fun, and Radio Scouting is growing throughout the midwest.

Youngberg says that few non-hams understand what Amateur Radio has to offer. “Fortunately, Thinking Day on the Air is what you might call a self-defining special event,” he said. “Point the troop to available TDOTA materials, offer support, and engage in a conversation that binds the event to something you and the Girl Scouts can reasonably and successfully accomplish.”