Youth@HamRadio.Fun: The Status of Youth in Amateur Radio
By Sterling Coffey, N0SCC
ARRL Youth Editor
I would like to thank all the readers for the fantastic comments and e-mails that you have sent in reply to the first few articles I have written. I would particularly like to thank the younger folks who have given me the topics of this article, and the very kind individuals that saw the article and donated equipment to the Missouri S&T Amateur Radio Club. Thanks to you all, the club is back in action -- just not for now, since it is the summer, of course -- and everybody has gone to home for the break, or in my case, home to take more classes and work.
Many changes have been happening since I have become the youth editor. For the first time in my life, I will be going to Dayton. The ARRL really helped me out last minute by helping me get a room and a ride. I will be learning about how to work the youth lounge and also could provide some future input in Contest University, a pre-Dayton consortium that offers an opportunity to gain knowledge about topics surrounding contesting, including propagation, antenna design and operating techniques. I will definitely be helping with the new Youth Contest University, which makes its debut on the day before the Hamvention opens, between 7 AM and 5 PM at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Downtown Dayton.
Enough about me. Thanks to the great influx of e-mails, I would like to share some of the stories that I have came across. There are many great things going on in Amateur Radio now. To me, it feels like there is some kind of activity in the community, or I am just discovering what has already been.
The Dayton Hamvention® is certainly around the corner. Not having been to one, I am uncertain as to what to expect, but as far as I can tell, scores of new equipment, manufacturers and guest speakers are set to showcase at Dayton, a term that has turned what was the name of a city into the informal title of the largest Amateur Radio convention in the United States.
I participated in the St Louis and Suburban Radio Club’s (SLSRC) special event station W0E, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the earthquakes that struck southeastern Missouri between 1811 and 1812. They were felt the strongest at its epicenter along the New Madrid fault line, and due to the composition of the Midwestern soil, the quakes rung church bells in Maine and cracked sidewalks in Washington, DC. The special event went on for a week, with club members used the Special Event call sign W0E to make more than 1000 contacts.
On Saturday, May 14, the club came together and worked a portable setup at Boys Hope Girls Hope in Bridgeton, Missouri, right outside of St Louis. Voice, CW and digital stations were running all at once, as others socialized and ate pizza, and I met once again the folks who graded my Amateur Extra test, and who run much of the Amateur Radio activity in the St Louis area. I helped make a few voice contacts and logged for Viktor, KC0BYE, who operated the CW station. It was a lot of fun, and I hope to see them once again at the Dayton party they are hosting preceding the Hamvention.
The Status of the Youth in Amateur Radio
The Rochester Institute of Technology has been making news -- literal news – having been featured on a local news affiliate as well as on the ARRL website. The members of the RIT Amateur Radio Club, K2GXT, spent hundreds of hours balancing class work and working on their project, a payload designed to be carried by a helium balloon to the reaches of the atmosphere; however, it was not just any GPS-carrying weather balloon. The objective was to design and construct a well-engineered “product” that would be modular and greatly reliable -- and it was. It made a successful trip to space, over 17 miles above Earth, even taking a trip through the updrafts of a thundercloud. It arrived in a tree 25 miles away intact and still functional despite heavy condensation on their electronics. Bryce Salmi, KB1LQC, Vice President of K2GXT says they’re already looking ahead to RITCHIE-2 and plan on building a more stable club to bring about longevity for new members.
The W0EEE club at Missouri S&T has a lot to look forward to in the coming years, and will be using the ideas of K2GXT and others to get back into action like once before. The kind donations provided to us by Tony Estep, KT0NY, and Harold Atwell, W0PTE have truly turned the W0EEE hamshack into one to behold. Over the summer, the club plans to work on the “other” most important part of a radio system -- the antenna -- by assembling, testing and installing a beam loaned to us by the SLSRC, as well as formulating ideas for a possible satellite array and other HF wire antennas. In addition, we will be operating with the Rolla Regional Amateur Radio Club for ARRL Field Day. There we will indulge and engulf our newcomers in the true calling of Amateur Radio. Our futures parallel with K2GXT’s -- to promote the club in the college environment in an effort to gain membership and recognition by other student organizations.
Things Go Up
Further in the realm of youth, it has been my pleasure to meet two young hams who have the true face of the hobby. Both are surprisingly brilliant youths that take their studies much further than they were designed to go to acquire their Amateur Radio licenses, and more.
Brenden Geary, KJ6HVP, of Upland, California, was 13 years old when he saw MIT launch a weather balloon to near-space. All things that go up suddenly captivated his mind, and that was only a year ago. Soon after several experiments and projects, he realized he would like to track his projects as they flew through the sky, be they multi-stage rockets or high altitude helium balloons. He then discovered the automatic packet reporting system (APRS), which led him and his father Tim, KJ6HSX, to get their licenses. Soon after that, he realized that not only balloons and rockets go up, but radio waves as well, and began to incorporate various aspects of ham radio into his projects including cross-band repeaters.
Once simple, backyard experiments turned into fully-fledged projects that won him state fairs and even landed him on TV, with NBC news affiliate KNBC in Los Angeles doing an in-home interview with Geary. His fun is not going to be stopping soon, and he would like all to know of his next launch occurring on May 29, one year after his first high altitude balloon launch. This time, his payload will be carrying a cross-band repeater as well as a live video downlink viewable on his website. Brenden dreams that his hobby will take him to MIT, Caltech, Harvey Mudd or Columbia University to pursue a degree in computer science, electrical engineering or computer engineering.
A Helping Hand
Mikaila Williams, KK4BFK, has also been making news on the other side of the country in Deltona, Florida. She is typical eight year old girl who adores her hamsters, loves her family and is always helpful. Yet just last month, on April 22, she acquired her General class Amateur Radio license. This astonishing feat came only a month after getting her Technician class license, only beginning to learn of the hobby from her parents only a few months before. But trying to beat her dad, Ron Fetters, AJ4YK, at getting a higher score on the Extra exam is not her only motive to gain excellence in the hobby.
On April 23, the day after her upgrade, she operated as a radio communicator in the March of Dimes March for Babies. With the help of her father, she passed traffic at one of the 14 rest stops for the seven mile course.
Her accomplishment has also gained media attention, with articles about her in the Orlando Sentinel, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, the Deltona Times and now here. She definitely plans to beat her dad’s score by her 9th birthday, which is coming in June. Regardless if she makes it or not, she will always be willing to give a helping hand.
The future of Amateur Radio is now. This may sound corny, but it is ever so true. The struggles with radio spectrum as well as the advancements of the Internet and cellular devices have taken both a toll on Amateur Radio as well as improved it tenfold. The future will require us to adapt, like K2GXT, where the club focuses less on operating, and more on applying the technology Amateur Radio gives us to solve problems, which in their case materialized in the form of an engineering problem. It’s up to us to keep the hobby alive.
Although the future of Amateur Radio is in the hands of today’s youth, make it a challenge to promote and facilitate youth involvement in various radio activities in your club or station and hopefully, you’ll plant the seeds to new growth in our fascinating hobby.
Thanks for reading, and see you at Dayton!
--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.