Youth@HamRadio.Fun: A Small Island, a Young Ham and a Whole Lot of Spirit!
Alex, a 5th grader, was licensed in October 2008 at the age of 10 and is already involved in recruiting youth and emergency communications. Alex said he got interested in the Amateur Radio because of his father John, AG7N. Alex said he remembers "sitting on my Dad's lap while he was talking to a friend who lived in Wichita," and since a very young age, always wanted to get his license and become a ham. Alex said one of the many appeals of Amateur Radio is ragchewing and meeting new people.
Being able to meet new people was a motivating factor for Alex, especially since his mother is from Germany: "I want to be able to speak to hams and learn about their countries using ham radio." Since Alex occasionally goes to Germany to visit family, traveling and seeing new things has always interested him. Alex said he plans to pursue that interest with the help of ham radio.
Another big part of Alex's career in ham radio is emergency communications. Alex says he's relatively new to emergency communications, but looks forward to working with MIRO more and more. I asked Alex how he thinks ARESÂ® groups can be more welcoming to youth. He thinks that the groups should "actively pursue younger members' thoughts on projects and get them to participate in any drills. Really encourage young hams to help them with any of their projects." Alex's recommendation to young members is this: "Get into it, meet the people and learn about what they're doing. Get to know them before you do anything else."
I was also able to talk to Alex about his experience with recruiting; and he is a natural! Alex has told several friends about Amateur Radio, and now two close friends are interested in getting their license. Alex thinks that when promoting Amateur Radio to youth that we should "emphasize on worldwide communications" as one of our capabilities. He also recommends "active presentations -- get the students involved" and that we "focus on just letting people know what ham radio is, what the basics are."
Alex's key strategy was getting his teacher interested: "It helped that my 5th grade teacher is really into teaching science and math." Another key group that Alex recommends talking to is parents. He said that a lot of his friends' parents don't even know what ham radio is, "so the parents have to be shown what it is too." Alex said he'd like to see radio clubs becoming more involved with the recruiting, and offering classes "so interested kids have a way to get a license."
Alex has already done much good for the Service, even at such a young age. My generation truly will be the future of Amateur Radio. As computers and the Internet continue to crowd out other hobbies, it will be up to us to keep Amateur Radio a healthy and appealing hobby to all ages and backgrounds.
New Year's Resolution
As is custom all across the world with the coming of the New Year, I've made my New Year's resolution! Ever since I've been licensed, I have been extremely active on SSB and the digital modes, and have spent countless hours doing ARES and public service events. I have, however, neglected my CW operating! I learned the 5 WPM code in early 2006 to get on HF, and have dabbled with code off and on. I worked up to 10 WPM and just sat there for a while, and focused on DXing.
Now most would wonder how could I have possibly overlooked CW and been a DXer? Well, for a while I had the attitude of "I don't use it enough for it to be worth it" and "If I hear DX, I'll just look it up on the cluster." I later learned through experience that my reasoning was flawed. First off, CW has much more use than just DXing! I'm also an avid contester, and many of the DX contests are CW. I also have been bitten by the QRP bug, and CW is much more effective for low power. The other problem was once you get past 100 DX entities, you'll find it gets increasingly challenging to find a new one. At that point, most new entities will be relatively rare, and it's crucial to get to them before the cluster doe -- especially if you have a small station like I do. It's better to be able to hear them first and work them, instead of waiting for a spot on the cluster and trying to work the station as hundreds of others call.
For that reason, I have begun work on my CW once again. It truly is like riding a bicycle -- you never forget how! I've quickly increased from my 15 WPM speed; 27 WPM is the fasted I've copied. I've found that RufzXP is an excellent program to increase speed and become more comfortable copying calls. RufzXP is a training program created by Mathias Kolpe, DL4MM, and Alessandro Vitiello, IV3XYM. You can download the program, or see some screen shots on their Web site.
I encourage all of you to make a New Year's resolution to try something new in ham radio! Please email me your resolution, I'd love to read them and will even include a few of them in an upcoming article. E-mail your submissions to me; include your call sign in the subject line.
I want to wish all the readers a happy, safe, and prosperous New Year! Here's to more sunspots, better band conditions and another great year of Amateur Radio!
Duncan MacLachlan, KU0DM
Duncan MacLachlan, KU0DM
ARRL Youth Editor