Youth@HamRadio.Fun: The Young Amateurs Contest Ham Team
By Sterling Coffey, N0SSC
ARRL Youth Editor
Everyone has heard the phrase “If you build it, they will come,” and when it comes to ham radio, they will.
For quite some time, I have been receiving e-mail from the Young Amateurs Contest Ham Team (YACHT), but rarely do I read them, as most of the e-mails end up at the bottom of my inbox. But a few weeks ago I saw a particularly interesting e-mail entitled “Lasting Moments of First Excitement.” I read the email to find a website that took me to a page full of pictures that incite specific emotions and recall various life-changing memories, and ends in how young hams also experience lasting memories from their first exciting QSO.
Almost every ham remembers the moment they made their first QSO. Exciting and overwhelming emotions cause the voice to quiver and the hands to shake -- especially disrupting for a new ham’s first CW contact! As I wrote back in April, “mic fright” is a common emotion that makes the first QSO so exciting! I spent several weeks getting over the simple fear of pushing the push-to-talk button to answer somebody’s CQ. I finally overcame that silly anxiety, but in doing so, burned the image of my first QSO into memory. I always remember what it was like every time I get behind the microphone.
Ham Radio at the Science Center
Kids love hands-on science. I was a kid once, and a trip to the St Louis Science Center was more than enough to get me excited. Science centers like the South Florida Science Museum see thousands of intrigued and curious kids every year, and the experiences they have in such places can have be life changing. Doctors remember seeing human-body exhibits, paleontologists remember life-size dinosaur skeletons and today’s optical engineers remember a foggy room full of mirrors and lasers bouncing in every direction. Something is missing from today’s science museums -- radio, and Tom Loughney, AJ4XM, hopes to change that.
Loughney wishes to bring “Lasting Moments of First Excitement” to more young people by getting them interested in a technology that can seem outdated today, but was unheard of only 100 years ago. The same technology inspired people like Nobel laureate Joe Taylor, K1JT, to create new, fascinating digital communication modes, Steve Wozniak to co-found the Apple Computer company and Dr Michael Brown, W3DCL, to obtain the Nobel Prize in Medicine.
Amateur Radio exhibits should be a staple in every science center across the nation, since the technology that Amateur Radio operators have created is now a staple in our daily lives. I believe this is a great way to expose a large number of kids to the science of radio, and I hope that such exhibits will inspire kids to become the engineers of tomorrow. I wrote previously about how hams are natural tinkerers, learners and ultimately curious about the world around them, and youth who visit science centers are much of the same.
YACHT and the DAR Radio Club
Each week, I receive e-mail from the YACHT crew, but I tend to pass the messages to my archive. Lately, however, I have taken a renewed interest in reading the e-mails and finally decided to write about the youth contesting crew, since I feel they deserve some recognition.
Jim Pearson, KS8O, and Ed Engleman, KG8CX, wanted to bring the enjoyment of Amateur Radio to a younger generation, so they founded the Young Amateur Contest Ham Team, or YACHT. YACHT currently consists of 78 members, ranging in ages of 9-20, from all parts of the globe. The club has 23 adult “Elmers” to support the young hams with their activities. Any young ham or Elmer can be a part of YACHT. Just go to their website to find out more.
YACHT also has a weekly youth net Saturdays at 7 PM (CST) on the Michigan EchoLink Conference (Node #96170) and IRLP node #9617, as well as the 147.000 W8PIF repeater in Menominee, Michigan.
YACHT headquarters are located in Menominee, Michigan, and is supported by the Menominee & Marinette Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Radio Club, a very active radio club with the call sign of K8DAR. The Menominee DAR Radio club is unique, as they provide a special opportunity to members of their local Boys and Girls Club. A large room of their local Boys and Girls club contains a fully operational Amateur Radio station that the students and members can use. Kids in the club can learn everything from Morse code to geography to electronics, while having fun communicating to other hams. They are the only Boys and Girls Club in the nation with such a station, and their many awards serve as a showcase to the successful nature of their “Excelling in Ham Radio” program. The club will be celebrating their 100th year in 2015. The kids love it, too!
Ideas like YACHT, a Boys and Girls Club ham radio station and ham radio features in science centers are unique and effective ways of exposing ham radio to young people. They accomplish what those who are active in increasing youth involvement think is difficult -- bringing ham radio to where the kids are.
The same idea can be used to introduce ham radio to college-aged youths. Bring it to them -- starting a radio club at a college, especially engineering colleges, are fantastic ways to accrue interest. This can also give students valuable experience as they learn about the practical uses of radio. Everyone has heard the phrase “If you build it, they will come,” and when it comes to ham radio, they will. Maybe not in great numbers, but many clubs at Missouri S&T run with only five members or less, but we still remain a viable part of the campus community. W0EEE is the same, having only a handful of ‘active’ members, but we still pull ties all over the place, and continue to grow.
If you want to start a radio club, let me know! I am happy to help guide you in your endeavors!
Thanks for reading and 73--
Sterling Coffey, N0SSC
Sterling Coffey, N0SSC, is a junior 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.