Youth@HamRadio.Fun: Scouts and Amateur Radio Is a Game of "Follow the Leader"
If you have friends, neighbors, family or know anyone involved in Scouts, you should ask them about Amateur Radio and see what they know. Offer to set up a station at a meeting or camp out, or maybe teach the Radio Merit Badge at a merit badge forum! Almost any Boy or Girl Scout Troop or Cub Scout Pack you go to will be genuinely interested in Amateur Radio; however, there are a few tricks to milking that interest that start with your presentation. Here are some tips:
When you are giving a presentation, remember that you aren't talking to adults; you're talking to kids around your age and younger. As I'm sure you know from previous experience -- or if you have younger siblings -- depending on age, attracting and keeping their attention might be a tough endeavor! Keep your spiel short and sweet -- you intend to teach them a bit about Amateur Radio, not preach the Technician class license manual!
Focus on getting them involved in the presentation. As a Boy Scout, one of my favorite presentations was when we had a sales representative from Garmin come and teach us a little bit about GPS technology. To do that, he took us outside and had us run around with a handheld GPS unit to learn how it works. I'd say that it was the most enjoyable and educational meeting program I've ever been to, simply because we were up and moving about, not just sitting there and nodding.
My last bit of advice concerning the topic of the presentation is a "gimme": Get them on the air! Take your mobile set-up and get them on the local repeater or set up an HF station. It's very enjoyable to watch their faces light up when the station at the other end acknowledges them "Okay (name). Glad to meet you!"
A Summer Excursion
This past summer, I was asked to set-up a radio station at a Cub Scout day camp, I couldn't say "yes" fast enough. Getting to play radio all day long, while sitting under a tree with a light breeze and the sound of swaying grass sounded like -- and was -- paradise. But it wasn't all fun and games, or at least not for me! Keeping in mind what I said earlier, Cub Scouts tend to have a short attention span and will find interest in almost anything else around them if you don't play your cards right.
At first, I had this little speech I was planning to give about radio; however, as the first group of hyperactive 2nd and 3rd graders started toward me, I began to rethink my game plan. What I ended up doing was simply telling them a bit about Amateur Radio -- what we can do and how to get involved. After that, I immediately put them on the air, and to my surprise, I was able to burn the 45 minutes I had with them just by doing that! Luckily, the bands were pretty active and I was able to get every group on the air. Anyone on HF would understand my anxiety as I waited for the bands to crash during every contact, but luckily 20 meters was pretty reliable, a real workhorse!
The other key item I had with me were fliers to a ham class taught by Brian Short, KC0BS, and Matt May, KC4WCG. These two have perfected the art of a quick but detailed Technician license class that has brought more than 250 people into the hobby in the last 2 years, with more than 20 of them under 18. Several Cubs walked away with a flier and my phone number so they could call me at all hours, like I used to do with my Elmer. I continued doing that for two weeks (covering two camp sessions), and ended up running out of fliers.
We had several of the Cubs sign up for the ham class and get their license. All of them are now patrolling the bands and making efforts to get their friends into Amateur Radio. Mission accomplished!
If you are interested in doing what I just described -- setting up a station and teaching the next generation about Amateur Radio -- I suggest you get in touch with a local Cub Scout Pack or Boy Scout Troop. Go to the Boy Scouts of America's Web site and click on "Local Councils"; you should be able to get information on Boy Scout Troops in your area. If you are one of our many YL readers and want to reach out to the Girl Scouts and teach radio, go to the Girl Scouts of the USA's Web site and click on "Find a Council" to get started!
A Ham Factory
I want to take a moment to say congratulations to Brian Short, KC0BS, and Matt May, KC4WCG, who have brought more than 250 people into the hobby, and 20+ youngsters into the ham community, all under 21, a mix of boys and girls. Their class focuses on teaching what future hams need to know to get their license, with fun memorization tricks and effective practice. It has definitely been a hit in the Scouting community! I would be willing to say that more than half of everyone under 21 who has taken their class got involved through Scouting; in the most recent class, they had a total of six scouts, with one non-scout.
Upcoming Youth Events
The ARRL School Club Round-up is a great event to get your friends, family and/or neighbors on the air from school or from home in case you missed JOTA last weekend. It begins Monday, October 20 and runs the whole week until Friday, October 24 at 2400 UTC.
With all the activity in the month of October, it is easy to see that Scouts and Amateur Radio is truly a game of follow the leader. 73 and Best DX!
Duncan MacLachlan, KU0DM, of Prairie Village, Kansas, is the ARRL Youth Editor. An 8th grader at Indian Hills Middle School, calls himself a "huge DXer" and has earned DXCC. He also enjoys weak-signal/sound card modes on HF and spends a lot of my time on PSK31 or RTTY. His favorite band is 15 meters. When not on the air, Duncan enjoys football, basketball, climbing, swimming, listening to music and just spending time with friends and family. He is a Life Scout with Boy Scout Troop 91 and is working toward Eagle Scout. He is also a Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow: "I'm always looking ahead to see what's next in life and Amateur Radio!"
Duncan MacLachlan, KU0DM
ARRL Youth Editor