Clifton Harper, KE5YZB
Middle school kids learn about radio with an open-air, on-the-air net.
The Viking Radio Club, KF5CRF, of Lawton, Oklahoma along with the Radio in the Park net has, in just over 2 years, developed into a regular on-air event. I started KF5CRF for the purpose of exposing middle-school students to real life applications involving math, science and electronics. I decided to use Amateur Radio as a fun way to gain their interest. Developing a workable program involving the school, parents and local hams was hardly an accident as my colleague Paul Goulet, KC5CYY, and I can tell you. It all began as two separate efforts by two individuals who saw a need to bring Amateur Radio and related sciences to the youth of their community.
1 + 1 = 4
I began the Viking Radio Club at Eisenhower Middle School to teach Amateur Radio, but I had limited time with my students. Paul had been endeavoring to reach the youth at a local park called Kids Zone by setting up a station to draw the attention of the children playing nearby. When we met and discovered what the other was doing, the opportunity to work together was irresistible. I needed more time and Paul wanted more participation. Paul and I talked about the possibilities that could be achieved and decided to make it happen.
On one occasion I told Paul, “We are coming.” To which Paul responded, “Great, which Saturday?” Paul had not realized the magnitude of time we would soon be devoting to the kids and Amateur Radio. Paul was shocked to learn it wouldn’t be just an occasional Saturday but every Saturday. With few exceptions the Vikings have been present in the park every Saturday learning about Amateur Radio, developing confidence and becoming comfortable talking on the air.
Growth was a continual process. As students learned of the radio club and what club members were able to do, interest was ignited and more students wanted to join. KF5CRF started with around 20 members and is now about 50 with many more wanting to join. During the first year of the club one sixth grade girl, Itzel, KF5JAZ, received her Technician license and soon after her General and has her eye on an Amateur Extra class license.
The club has received much recognition since its inception and along the way has been commended by an Official Observer for good radio practices. Our sixth Grade General, Itzel, was nominated for Young Ham of the Year in 2010 and received an A-1 operator recommendation as well. Much progress has been made in the club’s first 2 years and many more goals and achievements are on the horizon.
The World in a Classroom
A tremendous opportunity for growth arrived in May of 2011 when, after researching laws and regulations for over a year, I developed a curriculum for a World Communications class and made a proposal to the local Education Improvement Council. The Council realized that this was an opportunity to have a class that presented real life applications of math, science, geography and other parts of the core curriculum. They unanimously approved the proposal and the superintendant brought the class into the local curriculum. Adding this class meant that students interested in Amateur Radio could take a regular elective class and receive school credit plus 5 hours a week of intensive study involving Amateur Radio.
The club still meets weekly for those students who are not able to take the class and Paul meets with the club on Thursdays and stays around for the class’ first hour to work with the students. Ham radio time in class is scheduled to allow for learning Morse code together with FCC regulations and electronics using the ARRL Ham Radio License Manual. Students are encouraged to continue their education at the park on Saturdays where they receive a great deal of on-the-air experience.
Not to be overlooked are the strong bonds and associations with local hams and hams across the county. Two local clubs, the Lawton Fort Sill Amateur Radio Club, W5KS, and the Lawton Independent Repeater Alliance, WX5LAW, support the efforts and goals of the program. Paul learned that the OMIK Amateur Radio Association was working to expand youth involvement in Amateur Radio and he was able to get them to join him for Radio in the Park. They often help the club while it is on the air and many OMIK members regularly talk with Viking Radio Club members. Another group that supports us on the air is the Menominee DAR Radio Club, K8DAR, part of the Boys and Girls Club of Menominee (Wisconsin). They have the same goals as Viking Radio and we often talk, exchange ideas and work together on the air with our students.
Netting Some Experience
These clubs are all established groups but we cannot leave out hams from around the world that have discovered us and support us by checking into the weekly Saturday outreach event at the park. Stations as distant as South Africa have been heard trying to make contact with KF5CRF. Although most contacts are new, there are dedicated handfuls who regularly check into the net and commend and encourage the students to continue on and get their license. Imagine the pleasant surprise and feeling of self worth and accomplishment when a student replies they already have and volunteers their actual call sign.
Our funding comes from outside the school. In most instances schools will not have the funding available. Our equipment is on loan or owned by either Paul or Clifton. We applied for and received a grant from the ARRL Foundation that the club used to purchase a Kenwood TS-590S HF+6 transceiver, a Hustler 5BTV 10-40 meter vertical and the needed cable. Though the cost of books and equipment can be a factor for most programs we do our best to work around it. We feel time is the greatest investment. We believe time invested with our children now will be rewarded exponentially with the success of those whose lives we have touched. The key we have found to make all this happen is to provide an opportunity that will spark young people’s interest. KF5CRF and Radio in the Park are generating just such a spark.
All photos by Clifton Harper, KE5YZB.
Clifton Harper, KE5YZB, an ARRL member, began his ham radio career in February 2009 when he received his Technician license. He quickly obtained his General and then his Amateur Extra class license. In August 2009 he established the Viking Radio Club, KF5CRF, at Eisenhower Middle School in Lawton, Oklahoma, where he teaches Art and World Communications. In addition to his radio and work activities he and wife, Pamely, KF5JXO, are parents to Christopher and Cassidy who are both pursuing their Technician licenses. Clifton can be reached at 1303 SW C Ave, Lawton, OK 73501-4242.