Youth@HamRadio.Fun: A Scouting Marathon
I'm semi-sorry to say that school is back in session. Gone are the days of sleeping in and staying up late with friends. Gone are the lazy days of summer, but that is why I'm only semi-sorry. The summer doldrums are coming to an end, as we enter the most exciting time of the year for radio and Scouting.
Contest season is upon us, and Scout troops are reconvening to kick off the year with Jamboree on the Air (JOTA); however for each game, there is a pre-game -- and one weekend in September, Bill Henderson, K0VBU, and I spent our Saturday kicking off a new Scouting year. But we did it our own way, we did it the "ham" way.
Troop 91 out of Prairie Village holds an event during the month of September called "Cub'n at Klassen." Klassen is property that belongs to the church that sponsors the troop, and it is their "home turf." The idea is to allow Cub Scouts who are close to becoming Boy Scouts to spend a weekend with the troop and find out what it is all about. They also get to enjoy different activities such as archery, water rockets and Amateur Radio.
I'm currently a Scout with Troop 98 (also out of Prairie Village), but being close friends with Bill, I was asked if I'd be interested in setting up a station and getting a few Scouts on the air. I was a little surprised they even had to ask! Considering that weekend was Texas QSO Party and the Scandinavian Activity Contest, getting the kids to make contacts would be like shooting fish in a barrel.
Bill and I met the Friday before to go and check out the trees (to find a place to string a dipole) and laid claim to a building that the troop uses to hold training and meetings. After a little house cleaning, we hung our banner outside, announcing that we were prepared for whatever the next day should bring. Once I returned home, a quick check of the weather revealed it would be sunny and in the mid 60s; it would be a great day to play radio.
We decided to leave around 8 AM (Central) so we could get set-up. Saturday morning came pretty early. Luckily, the drive out was 30 minutes -- plenty of time to wake up and get ready to launch the antenna. After another 30 minutes of prepping and another 30 working on the antenna, we were in business! I said a little prayer as I turned on the radio, and to our luck, everything checked out okay, including the conditions on 40 meters.
As soon as I made a quick contact with a station in Dallas, the first group showed up, leaving me with very little time to figure out what our game plan would be. We went the sure-fire route: Briefly explain ham radio briefly then get them on the air. It was a winner! As soon as we asked for volunteers I had two kids on the bench next to me and a line behind. Trusty old 40 provided us with an abundance of Texans, and we were able to get everyone in a group of 23 to make a contact. As they were leaving, another group was on the way in, so we had no time for a band change. We really had to squeeze everything we could out of 40 meters, but only succeeded in getting 17 of their 21 to make contacts.
They decided to take it easy on us, and as soon as they left, it was suddenly lunch time and we had two hours of downtime. The first order of business was to retune and get setup for 20 meters; a quick tune around the band revealed there wasn't much Texas, but a ton of Scandinavians. After hearing a strong Swedish station calling CQ, I gave a quick call and was able to work him the first try. Now for me, working Europe with one call isn't much of an achievement, but it was enough to make me smile, since all we were running was a G5RV at 40 feet.
We were able to coast through our last two groups, getting everyone on the air. We really had our "A Game" going during the afternoon, because every Cub Scout worked a DX station. We even succeeded in getting a group of first graders -- Tiger Cubs -- on the air, which took a little more work. At first, I had to whisper our phonetics in their ear as they were calling, but after the first two kids went, they had the idea and were able to make the contact and provide the exchange with little help from me.
Overall, we had a blast! All the kids were very excited, and it just goes to that the magic of Amateur Radio is still there. Even some of the parents wanted to make a contact, and they were just as captivated hearing those foreign voices.
Congratulations to the Low brothers: Patrick, K3PAL (age 15), Kody, K3ODY (age 13) and Aidan, KB3SPI (age 10)! The three brothers recently earned their Amateur Radio license, and Patrick and Kody later upgraded to General at the Friedrichshafen Hamfest. The Low family currently lives in Geneva, Switzerland, but with the assistance of Mitch Wolfson, DJ0QN, the boys were able to get their ham license at the DARC in Munich. Their father, Ken Low, KE3X, tells me that the day they got their licenses, they set-up a tent in their backyard to operate Field Day. Ken said, "Although propagation was unfavorable to the US that weekend (no sunspots!), we did work many European stations in the Marconi Memorial and King of Spain Contests." Since becoming licensed, Kody has shown an interest in CW and even joined the team that represented the United States at the 2009 World HST Championships in Bulgaria. You can read about this in the November issue of QST.
I'd like to thank Ken Low, KE3X, for sharing this awesome story with me. If you have young family or friends who have earned their license or done something noteworthy please share it with us! Send me an e-mail with a write-up and some pictures, and we'll feature it. Help us give young hams the recognition they deserve.
The 52nd Jamboree on the Air: On October 17 and 18, join hams around the world and expose a new generation to Amateur Radio. While Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) is geared toward the Scouting audience, don't hesitate to get any youngster on the air. JOTA takes place from 0000 local (Saturday) to 2359 local (Sunday). It is recommended to call "CQ Jamboree" and answer any stations you hear doing so. The recommended exchange is name, state, and age/rank. You can find for information on the JOTA page on the ARRL's Web site
CQ World Wide SSB Contest: From 0000 UTC October 24 to 2359 UTC October 25. CQWW SSB is a very fun, very fast paced DX contest. The exchange is very simple: Signal report and CQ Zone. I highly recommend this contest for recruiting purposes, as nothing is more fun than busting a pile-up and working some DX. The competitiveness of this contest will get any kids blood pumping.
That's all for this month. Thanks again for reading this column and have a great month!
Duncan MacLachlan KU0DM
Duncan P MacLachlan, KU0DM
ARRL Youth Editor