Youth@HamRadio.Fun: A Success Story
By Sterling Coffey, N0SSC
ARRL Youth Editor
At the Missouri S&T Amateur Radio Club, W0EEE, we’ve blasted into the new school year by recruiting new members and planning projects -- including a cooperative fox hunt with IEEE -- as well as some outdoor public informational and demonstrational activities that will hopefully bring new members to the club.
One of those events, called MinerRAMA, is an outdoor party where just about every student organization looks to recruit freshmen and other interested students to their club. W0EEE got their share 12 signatures, almost all of which were not radio amateurs.
The event brought many new faces to the W0EEE meeting that followed a few days later. Our shack was standing room only as we introduced ourselves to each other by name and our interests to the hobby. The meeting left me ecstatic knowing that we are finally going to be active again. The new members were also excited to get active in Amateur Radio, despite their lack of a license. During the meeting, I told them about the various ways to study and become licensed. The shack had a brand new ARRL Ham Radio License Manual, a gift from the ARRL to W0EEE, and I loaned it out to the first taker. Others were given a study manual that reviewed each question in detail and included simple tricks to passing the test. We also told our new members about the exam sessions that the local club holds every few months. Together, we were hoping that their busy school schedules wouldn’t get in the way of getting their license.
MinerRAMA, the meeting and the test session were all a huge success. Only a few didn’t pass, and these all said they were extremely close -- within two points -- and that they didn’t have as much time as they needed to study. Those who did pass, four in total, tried their luck at the General exam, but none of them passed for their first dry run. It did give them a lot of insight as to how the test will be the next time they take it. One person in particular, Joel Prusi, now KD0POR, managed to miss by only two questions! Joel did, however, had a bit of background in military and aviation communications, being a US Army veteran. But like any new ham, he was without a radio.
Like I’ve said before, there are many ways to acquire your first handheld radio. Most can get away with careful pleading for a birthday gift in the form of a radio. Other ways, such as asking your local club can also be fruitful. W0EEE does have a few handheld radios we can loan out, but they’ve been around longer than most of us, and show it in the five minutes of battery life. Joel had this in mind and gave the Rolla club a try.
The Rolla Regional Amateur Radio Society, or RRARS, has monthly meetings that often feature cool demonstrations and signups for volunteer events. Last week’s meeting featured an FLDigi demonstration by Joe Counsil, K0OG. He demonstrated how the program works to enable your radio to become a digital gateway to the RF world, using only a computer and the proper interface cable. He set up two 2 meter FM radio stations complete with a laptop and a handheld transceiver on opposite sides of the room and was able to talk to either station via PSK31, MFSK16, Morse code, packet, Hellschreiber and DominoEX -- all different modes that allow communication from computer-to-computer via a radio link. It was a very interesting and informative demonstration, even to a ham who is an avid digital operator. The meeting also informed all about upcoming events, such as a Centurion footrace through the Ozark Mountains and the 100 Acre Wood Rally, both of which rely on hams for communication through dense forests, where cell service is miles away.
After the meeting, Joel introduced himself and asked the audience if there was any way he could get a handheld transceiver. Lo and behold, Steve Miller, N6RHQ, offered a older model for him to borrow, congratulating him on passing the test. I was instantly amazed that just asking would actually work!
Upcoming Events at W0EEE
One of those who was interested in W0EEE was Max, the president of the IEEE chapter at Missouri S&T. He brought up the idea of having a campus-wide foxhunt modeled after one started by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, whose club station is W1YK. I embraced the idea, and so a meeting was called to order a few days later. Together, IEEE and W0EEE will be organizing a 30-50 person foxhunt that will take place in November.
Before the hunt begins, there will be several prior events where participants will build their own antennas and receivers for use in the hunt. Currently, there will be a separate transmitter for every receiver, so the campus will be a mess of 2 meter or 70 cm Morse code signals. The transmitter is a simple oscillator circuit housed in a PVC pipe, emitting no more than 10 mW, if that. There is also talk of using old Spam can as the circuit container, making them more obvious to the eye when homing in on the transmitter -- and fun to have around the shack! Having multiple transmitters will make it fun for all, so everyone has a chance to locate a transmitter.
We are also discussing other fox hunt styles, such as a one-transmitter race. The campus will be a challenging venue to the hunt, for there are buildings all around to reflect signals, as well as electrical noise. The whole idea behind the event is to both hone our skills in case the need arises, as well as to educate the public about direction finding, antenna building and receiver building. We hope the event takes shape and goes smoothly, but to do that we may need your help!
If your club has ever put on a foxhunt, or if you have designs of simple transmitters, receivers, antennas and attenuators, or if you want to set up a similar event for your school or club, send me an e-mail! If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to ask, and be sure to follow us on Twitter — @ARRL_Youth.
--Sterling Coffey, N0SSC
Sterling Coffey, N0SSC, is a freshman majoring in electrical engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla. Interested in wireless communications from a young age, he welcomes e-mail from readers