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Youth on the Air Campers Enjoy Successful ISS Contact, Busy with Other Activities


The first Youth on the Air (YOTA) camp for young radio amateurs in the Americas wraps up on Friday in West Chester, Ohio. Among other activities, the campers have been operating special event station W8Y from both the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting and from the camp hotel.

“Things are going really well,” Camp Director Neil Rapp, WB9VPG, said on Wednesday evening. The earlier launch of a balloon carrying a ham radio payload was successful, he said, and — after pinpointing where the payload landed some 3 hours away — the campers were able to retrieve the package, thanks to some understanding landowners. Rapp said the balloon reached approximately 100,000 feet.

Rapp said that campers have gotten along well from the first day, and problems in general have been few and minor.

Several of the approximately two dozen campers got to ask questions of ISS crew member Akihiko Hoshide, KE5DNI, during a Tuesday Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contact. Responding to a query posed by Graham, KO4FJK, Hoshide said the most interesting things he’s seen from space included flying through an aurora and looking down at “shooting stars” from the ISS. He also said the ISS crew was able to view a partial lunar eclipse from space.

Another camper, Adam, KD9KIS, wanted to know how often the ISS crew members use the onboard ham station.

Hoshide said individual crew members may get on the radio every couple of weeks or so or as the opportunity arises.

“This ARISS contact is intended to inspire these young hams to learn more about communication using amateur satellites and making ARISS radio contacts,” ARISS said this week in announcing the contact date. ARISS team member John Sygo, ZS6JON, in South Africa served as the telebridge relay station for the late morning event, which was streamed live via YouTube.

Rapp said he's hoping this pilot camp venture will provide the information needed to replicate the camp over multiple locations for years to come. “We also hope this brings a more robust community of young hams into amateur radio,” he added.

The long-anticipated summer camp for up to 30 hams aged 15 through 25 was set for last June but had to be rescheduled until this summer because of COVID-19 pandemic concerns. The camp for young hams in the Americas took its cue from the summer Youngsters on the Air camps held for the past few years in various IARU Region 1 countries.

The Region 2 camp is aimed at helping participants to take their ham radio experience to the next level by exposing them to a variety of activities and providing the opportunity to meet other young hams. Activities include kit building, antenna building, transmitter hunting and direction finding, digital modes, and a high-altitude balloon launch. Amateur satellite operation is one of the workshops provided. Others include effective radio communication, local ham radio history, and using amateur radio during emergencies. The YouTube channel features daily highlight videos.

W8Y has been on the air as campers complete projects, between sessions, and during free time, although some late-evening slots have been on the schedule.

The camp’s opening observance on Sunday featured keynote speaker Tim Duffy, K3LR, who told the campers, “Amateur radio is the best hobby in the world!”

Campers also saw a video presentation by International Amateur Radio Union Region 1 Youth Working Group chair Phillip Springer, DK6SP.

ARRL and The Yasme Foundation donated project kits for the campers. XTronics provided temperature-controlled soldering stations. The brochure on the Youth on the Air website includes more details about the camp. — Thanks to ARISS for some information 



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