Youth@HamRadio.Fun: Another Field Day in the Books
Once you get past the heat and stress that goes into planning and setting up a Field Day operation, it appears to be just another contest; however Field Day is more than a contest -- it's a drill. The purpose of Field Day being to practice setting up an Amateur Radio station capable of making contacts with amateurs across the country so in an emergency we can be prepared to set up quick and efficient communications in adverse conditions. But again, it goes even further than a contest and a drill -- Field Day is great public relations!
What better way to stir up interest in Amateur Radio then to make it visible? Setting up in public places and making it easy for the public to try ham radio is crucial. I view Field Day as the answer to the age old problem of making ham radio a more mainstream hobby. Presentations are fine, news coverage is great, but nothing beats showing off Amateur Radio at its best in a location where the general public doesn't have to travel out of the way or reserve a specific time.
This year I operated with the University of Kansas Amateur Radio Club, K0KU. We had a few members of the club there, and a few Alumni members dropped by to make for some interesting stories from the historic radio room. When Field Day started on Saturday, we were off and running with a station on 20 meters SSB and a CW on 15 meters; we also had a PSK31 station trying to make contacts on 20 meters. We had a bit of a slow start and experienced quite a bit of interference, but switching some antennas and coordinating our operating helped quite a bit.
About 6 hours into the contest, we had some visitors drop by. A relief CW operator took the helm and got a good run on 20 meters going, as SSB switched to 40. Six meters was quiet. At 10 hours, CW had slowed on 20 meters, so it was back to 40 to make a few more in quick bursts. On SSB, we found 10 meters trying to open, so we parked the rig and made a few contacts before heading back to 20 for a few more. We made a contact with Arizona on 6, which would be our only contact further than 50 miles out.
I'd say it's that point where I lost track of the time and began just trying to pull stations out of the noise, cranking out some pretty long CQs to keep K0KU on the air. But by Sunday morning -- with a little sleep and a lot of caffeine -- 20 meters opened early and we had a good run rate on CW going. The arrival of a fresh operator helped us get some stations in the log on 40 meters SSB.
By the time Field Day was over, most of the operators who had stayed all night were just getting a second wind for take down (including myself!) -- what took us 4 hours on the roof of the University to install, we got down in a cool 90 minutes. Our youth turn-out was pretty fair, we had about 3 operators under 21 present for the entire event, and 3 or 4 dropped by throughout the day to see what the big deal was.
Field Day is one of my favorite events: the operating, the people and the purpose. This year was no exception, we all had a blast, and from all the stations on the air, it seems that we're well prepared to provide quality communications in time of emergency. But most of all, we all can have a little fun while doing it.
From Our Canadian Counterparts
Let's go up north for a second and visit our Canadian friends. Matthew Gillie, VO1GXG, operated Field Day with the Society of Newfoundland Radio Amateurs (SONRA). Matthew, who is 18, told me that "We operated as 3A, set up in the same spot -- Signal Hill -- where in 1901, Marconi received his transatlantic message in 1901." He said that they also used local fire and emergency services command trailers.
Matthew also told me that he operated the late shift, and 15 and 20 meters "were working wonders using a tri-band beam." He also reported that they had more than Canadians operating Field Day: They were visited by operators from Germany and the United States who helped operate and "eliminate the food that was available to all. All in all Field Day 2009 was a great success and with all hope Field Day 2010 will be much better."
July 11-12 -- IARU HF World Championships: The IARU contest is one of my favorites due to the easy exchange, the activity on the higher frequencies and the ability of it to be a pretty friendly contest -- but still be a big deal. The contest runs from 1200 UTC Saturday until 1200 UTC Sunday, a very quick 24 hours with plenty of time for you to enjoy your favorite band. You can use CW or SSB. The exchange is RS(T) and ITU Zone.
July 18-19 -- North American QSO Party RTTY: Runs from July 18 at 1800 UTC to July 19 at 0600 UTC. If you're experimenting with RTTY or a seasoned operator, this is a good contest to work on that WAS! It's not unheard of to work RTTY WAS in one weekend. The exchange is name and location (state or province).
Thanks for reading, 73 -- enjoy another month on the air!
Duncan MacLachlan, KU0DM
Duncan P MacLachlan, KU0DM
ARRL Youth Editor