Youth@Ham Radio.Fun: Helping Heal With Ham (Radio)


Hams across the country visit hospitals with radios, seeking to cheer kids up and maybe find a few new hams; however, what hospitals are lacking is the ability to provide the enjoyment of meeting someone new and playing a game that always changes. Ham radio is that game, but the age old problem still persists: How can we, as radio amateurs, deliver it?

Earlier this month, Duane Wyatt, WA0MJD, from Tyler, Minnesota, contacted me. Duane was on a mission to provide that game, but he wanted to take an approach that has never been tried before: Providing hospitals with self-contained ham shacks. He wanted a plug-and-play solution to the ham radio/hospital situation, and he has figured out a way. I'm currently working with Duane on the Kid's Club project, which is just that -- a ham radio club for kids and kids only.

Duane puts it best: "It is a project focused on exposing hospitalized and other chronically ill children and their families to the joys of Amateur Radio." He is working to provide that joy through many means, one of them being Morse code. "Morse code communication is historic and, when mastered, fun," he explained to me. "It takes effort and time to learn, and it is challenging." Duane also said that "some children think that CW is a secret language and the camaraderie of it may divert the sick child's mind from their medical problems for a time."

The goal of this project is to create a ham radio experience that can be enjoyed without a license and provided by hospital staff. The units that would be distributed to the hospitals would include an ICOM IC-R75 receiver, a SWL antenna, a Morse code keyer and various learning aides to enhance the Amateur Radio experience. At the moment, medical personnel at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota are considering accepting one or more Kid's Club Amateur Radio exposure units to start this ball rolling.

2009 Makers Faire, March 29-31

The Foothills Amateur Radio Society (FARS) -- serving residents of Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View, and other nearby communities -- will be putting up a booth and conducting Amateur Radio demonstrations at the San Mateo Maker Faire May 29-31. The Maker Faire is like a hamfest for tinkerers, with various clubs and groups setting up whatever they may have worked on throughout the year and giving demonstrations. The Faire is usually a large event with attendance often soaring about 50,000 with plenty of demonstrations to fill a day -- or three!

FARS is asking for any young hams in the Bay Area who may be available for at least 4 hours on any of the days to come out and show off any projects you've been working on, or just help with the demonstrations that are planned. There will be multiple demonstrations, including APRS, SSTV and ATV -- and of course, a special event station.

The highlight of this event comes on Friday, when several San Francisco schools come to the Faire; organizers are especially asking for anyone with an education background or any younger hams to show up or even try and sked on the air to demonstrate the diversity of ham radio.

If you are interested in helping out, spread the word and represent youth in Amateur Radio at the 2009 Makers Faire. Please contact Michael Pechner, KI6QNZ, via e-mail or check out the FARS Web site.

CQ WPX SSB 2009 a Success!

That's a wrap! The CQ WPX SSB Contest was the last major DX SSB of the 2008-2009 contest season, and what a good contest it was! Now before I go on, let me just warn you that I'm heavily biased; this is my absolute favorite contest of the year. The reason it's called WPX or "Worked All Prefix" is because you get multipliers for working stations with unique prefixes. Since my prefix is KU0 -- not an extremely common prefix -- I have a bit of an edge in this contest.

Now that I have injected that disclaimer, let me just say how awesome it was! Saturday was all right -- I worked about 100 stations mostly just tuning around, and I got to run a pileup every now and then. But when Sunday rolled around, the fun really hit the roof. Bands were hot all day, from a great opening to Europe about midmorning, to hearing Africa and Asia later on in the evening. I had the pleasure of visiting the station of Lee Bergren, W0AR, for a little contest fun. I was also joined by my uncle Brian Short, KC0BS, and two friends Ryan O'Neil, KD0EWB, and his father Mike O'Neil, KD0BNO.

After a little instructing, we let Ryan (who is 12) loose on 20 meters using KU0K, the call sign of the Alumni of Kansas University Amateur Radio Club. Ryan quickly drew a pileup, and as I helped log, I had the enjoyment of watching the QSO rate rise to 10 an hour, 20, 30, 50, 60 and up! All I can say is that we all had a great time, especially Ryan who ran the pileups with amazing skill. I'm glad to say the bands were alive with plenty of stations, both running and working, and there was much DX to go around. I'm looking forward to the CQ WPX CW Contest in May with hopes of experiencing the same excellent band conditions and high QSO rates!

That's it for April. Thank you for reading and please have another great month of the air!

Duncan MacLachlan, KU0DM

Duncan MacLachlan, KU0DM
ARRL Youth Editor