A group of teenagers learn about DX by being DX.
The Youth DX Adventure was a dream born at the end of the 2009 CQWW SSB contest. Don, N6JRL; Dave, KB8OCP; Todd, KD4YHY; Jim, AB8YK, and Keko, TI5KD, had operated the contest at Guacima de Alajuela (TI5N), a DX vacation villa that Keko operates in Costa Rica. The purpose of the adventure would be to introduce youth operators to the world of DXing at a young age and early moment in their ham radio careers.
The overarching idea was to bring youth operators from all over the country on a noncontest weekend to Costa Rica allowing them the opportunity to create the pileups. This would give the youths a chance to see what it feels like to be “on the other end.”
Returning from the CQWW Contest, Don and Dave began their planning and recruiting of young operators from the Ohio and Kansas City areas. For 10 months they sent e-mails, created a website and contacted many clubs, organizations and individuals for equipment and financial assistance. All of the youth members worked hard to raise funds for the adventure by holding a yard sale, giving presentations to many clubs for sponsorship and other activities. Eventually plans were set and July 15-19, 2010 were the dates for this adventure at TI5N.
Fly Away to San Jose
Arriving in San Jose, the team assembled, located our hosts, Keko, TI5KD, and Sophia, TI2IY, and were on our way to TI5N for our long-awaited adventure. Upon our arrival we found that a wonderful traditional Costa Rican meal had been prepared by Sophia and all the team members were amazed at their first encounter with the local cuisine. After a great midday meal, unpacking and setting up radio equipment became the order of the day. We set up radios, computers and digital interfaces, connected antennas and started to call CQ. The pileups came quickly and each youth operator along with their custodial parent began logging on their own flash drive provided by Jim, AB8YK.
In the evening, a local Marimba band, set up and began to play. As the team members were able, they came outside to listen to the local music as they enjoyed a BBQ meal. The band had originally planned to play for 2 hours, but must have enjoyed our company too as they stayed for 4 1/2 hours and had dinner with us. We never knew the real name of the band, but we gave them some hats and called them “The DX Band.”
The computer screens were full of logs and spots on the DX clusters were plentiful. Well into the night, the new DXers racked up the contacts. This was not a contest weekend and, after a very long day, the bands quieted down about midnight local time and the team retired for the night for some well needed rest.
The next morning (Friday, July 16), it was up early and by now most of the youth operators were well into procedures and pileup etiquette and even logging their own contacts just like a seasoned contester. They set their own operating schedules and the only time the adult operators could get on a radio was when the youth operators went to eat or take a break. The contacts were climbing and the youth operators decided to have a friendly competition of who could get the most contacts in a shift or for the entire adventure. Operating on the second day lasted most of the night with some of the young operators trying the local Costa Rican coffee to stay awake.
Cuisine and Culture
On Saturday morning, July 17, the entire team took a 30 minute drive to the capital city, San Jose. There, the team did some shopping and sightseeing, tried some of the local cuisine and interacted with the locals, taking in some culture.
Back to the station in the afternoon, the young operators attacked the airwaves once again. With the contact count climbing, we were hoping to reach 2000. As the youth operators continued to gain in confidence and their ability to handle the call signs and pileups, their enthusiasm was growing rapidly.
On Sunday morning after another wonderful breakfast, Keko gathered input from our team members and answer any questions. Soon it was back to the awaiting masses of stations wanting to contact the youth group. Operating continued through the afternoon and evening, and the team amazed the leaders by surpassing 3300 contacts in the log including 88 countries and all of the 50 states. Late Sunday night the equipment was turned off and packed for the return trip.
The Adventurers’ Views
The young (and young-at-heart) adventurers who participated in the DX Adventure were all very enthusiastic about their experience. Here they all sum up their “adventures:”
To start, the people down there are extremely nice. You could tell just by the way they drive. The roads are very narrow but the drivers would yield to the others without complaint. At the market, the people would greet you with a friendly smile and would translate prices into American dollars without you even asking. People just seem to be a lot happier in Costa Rica and they don’t worry so much about stress and money and work like we do in America. They also are a lot more conservative in Costa Rica by having some canned food and bottled drinks in bags instead. They also keep items like couches and refrigerators longer than Americans to help conserve.
The climate was amazing and the scenery was beautiful. The temperature was always in the low 70s and it was rainy every day; not the type of rain that bothers you though, more like the rain you think is comfortable and just want to stand in. The mountains in the background were breathtaking and seeing the volcano from the plane was an experience in itself.
The food was delicious, yet so different from what we eat here in America. The fruit and vegetable selection was so much broader than what we have in America. They also make lunch a bigger meal than dinner down there so meal time was a definite culture shock for us all.
Getting to work the radio as much as I did was really fun and an opportunity to better my operating skills. I had never made as many contacts in my entire operating life as I did in those four days. And having the adults there to teach us was extremely helpful. I can’t believe how much better I became as an operator and how much more interested I became in amateur radio.
Overall, the experience as a whole was amazing and I am so humble for the fact that I was able to be involved in something at such a young age that many amateurs dream about doing their whole lives. And I thank everyone that made this trip possible. I will never forget it for the rest of my life.
I knew taking my first trip out of the US at age 41 would be exciting. Even more so because of the amazing Costa Rica destination. I looked forward with great anticipation to being on the other end of DX pileups, for whatever time I could squeeze in between the youth operators. I excitedly considered how to instill my love of DX into a new generation of hams, and what techniques I could best help them with.
And once again, this ham radio experience was a total surprise. I worked the DX, I mentored the youth (although they were quite sharp, and really held their own), I took in the amazing sights and sounds of the Costa Rican city. (Its amazing how some things are so familiar, with USA products having prominent locations in the local supermarket, and somethings so different, like amazingly narrow roads with dump trucks, tour buses, cars, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians all traveling both directions on a 12 ft wide piece of bumpy asphalt!) But the most rewarding part of the journey was getting to know the individuals that made up our group. Fascinating people with lifetimes of stories, of which I got to hear only the very best and most entertaining. Kind hearted leaders of the hobby, whose interests were an even broader spectrum than my own. But also finding our similar interests, and experiences.
Getting to meet Keko, a legendary DXer was a real treat. During the “DX School” sessions, he shared some great techniques with old and young alike; his love for the hobby shining through in every moment. Its a love shared with his wife Sophia and daughter Fabiana as well. Fabiana was on the air and working more than 120 stations on her first attempt! The apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.
The most unexpected pleasure I had was troubleshooting and little bits of installing. I expected that when we arrived, everything would be in place and we would just sit down and operate. You can’t imagine how happy I was, when I found out we needed to setup radios, tweak antennas, and make the adjustments necessary for our particular operation. It was a lot like field day — and I really love the setup part of field day. I was also thrilled when Keko mentioned his interest in APRS and quickly installed UI-View on his home computer. When I learned he had a weather station, Duncan, KUØDM, and I volunteered to install the instruments. Keko is as much of a kid at heart as I am, and he excitedly worked with us to get the weather station in place.
Now I want to share all the fun and excitement I had with another round of youth and look forward to being able to help another group experience the joy of operating TI5!
A DXpedition was something I desperately wanted to do before I turned 18. I knew not many kids my age had the opportunity to travel abroad, let alone travel abroad for the sole purpose of doing something you love. When Don DuBon, N6JRL, first contacted me informing me that there was a possibility I would accompany a group of young operators to Costa Rica I was dumb struck. Having never left the country, the idea of going to Costa Rica was by itself exhilarating, then Don dropped the bomb: We’d be operating from the TI5N super station and I’d get to take a chaperone with me. Naturally I chose my Uncle, mentor and friend Brian Short, KCØBS.
I was dreading the wait from when Don first contacted me in February to the actual trip date in July; I knew the time would just crawl by. Fortunately between school and preparing for the trip, before I knew it we was checking in at Kansas City International airport for a flight to meet the team in Atlanta. Brian and I arrived in Atlanta right as our flight to San Jose was boarding, and when we reached the terminal we only had a few moments to exchange greetings with our fellow team members before boarding for San Jose. The flights themselves are blurs, as I spent most of them fast asleep.
What stands out the most in my mind, was landing in San Jose and having it hit me that we really were in a different country and the trip being a reality. Our hosts Keko and Sophia Diez had arranged transportation from the airport to the station and before I knew it the towers and antennas of Keko’s station were in sight. The first afternoon there was spent settling in, looking around, a smattering of Qs and a marimba band to open what would be a phenomenal few days.
Friday started off with some lessons in DXing by Keko. Having many years of experience, he had many good suggestions and operating tips to share before cutting us loose. The first day was another flurry of activity, setting up the equipment and getting everything running smoothly. There were a few moments that almost felt like Field Day, but as the sun began to set everything had started coming together nicely. I had been on 17m earlier in the day doing some CW and had fun working a handful of European stations mixed in with North Americans. Once the sun set, I decided to try my hand at 40 and was greeted with a wall of Eastern Europe on CW, which didn’t let up the entire time I was operating.
On Saturday, we ventured into San Jose for a trip to the market and some site seeing. I didn’t know what to expect, being in the capital of a foreign country, however found it to be similar to many of the big cities in America. Besides being a little more pedestrian friendly, there were few differences. The time spent in San Jose was mostly walking around the giant city, which was an awesome experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to explore a foreign city, and hope that in the future I can return with a better grasp of Spanish and be able to spend more time in San Jose.
We returned around 2 PM, and it was back to the grind stone! The team decided that we should construct a better operating schedule than what we had been doing (a very loose rotation) and we spent most of the afternoon and dinner figuring times out. Once we had that little bit of business out of the way, it was off to the races. Since we only had 24 hours of operating left, the radios were kept busy almost the entire time.
Overall, it was an incredible experience. For my first trip abroad, Costa Rica could not have been a better destination. I fell in love with the people and lifestyle, and most of all the weather (when Brian and I left Kansas City it was 90 at only 5 AM). It was also a very educational trip. Operating from a different location gave me a deeper understanding of propagation and Keko had some awesome pointers that I had never considered. I hope to return to Costa Rica in the future, even if not to operate radio.
When we landed in Costa Rica, I was sitting on the edge of my seat. Excitement had been building for months and now we were finally there. From the airplane we could see the gorgeous mountains and the villages below; already an appreciation for Costa Rica was growing. We met Keko and Sophía outside the airport. Shortly after our rides had been organized and our luggage was taken care of, we arrived at Keko and Sophía’s wonderful home. We were given the tour and settled in, preparing for the weekend ahead.
Almost immediately we started working on the radios. We kids were very excited to start making contacts. By that evening our logs were already starting to fill up. We took turns working the radios, taking breaks to listen to the Marimba band. The band was very good; it was really great to hear some music from the Costa Rican culture.
After breakfast on Friday morning, Keko taught a great class on the procedures of the radio and how to handle a pile-up. Sunday morning Keko taught another class, this time on operating the radio. Both classes were very informative and useful. They helped me very much when I was operating and without them I would have struggled. We spent the entire day Friday and Sunday, and part of Saturday working on the radios making many contacts with people all over the world. In the end we had over three thousand contacts and were very proud of ourselves.
On Saturday we went into town. We were able to shop in the markets and pick up a few things. It was a really neat experience to see the downtown area. The numerous amounts of people and the large buildings were almost overwhelming. We had the chance to see the National Theater; it was a beautiful building due to its great design and architecture. San José is a great city, but it has its downside. There was a large amount of poverty and when I saw the way some people lived, it really opened my eyes.
While we were there, we had the opportunity to experience some great food. Sophía is an amazing and talented cook. She did an outstanding job, especially since she cooked for seventeen people. It was awesome to be able to try some typical Costa Rican food.
Going to Costa Rica was an opportunity that I was very fortunate to be able to experience. I learned so much from Keko and the other group leaders. I hope that future youth will enjoy Costa Rica as much as I did. Costa Rica will always be a place to remember and I hope that I will get the chance to return someday.
First I would like to thank all of the individuals and clubs that supported us on this trip. It never would have been possible without the generosity of others.
This trip was very exciting for me for multiple reasons…I got to fly for the first time, go outside the US and work a pile up from Keko’s (TI5KD) wonderful DX station.
When we arrived at the villa in Costa Rica, Keko, Sophia (TI2IY) and Fabiana (KJ4QDD) made us feel right at home. We were given a tour of the compound, took our group pictures and then went straight to the radios. I spent most of my time working 20 meters. I worked some really cool places, like, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Japan, Alaska, Czech Republic, Latvia just to name a few and of course a lot of US stations.
One day during our stay we went on a bus to the downtown market area. We were able to see how the people of Costa Rica make a living, what their houses look like and see how grateful they were to have American’s visiting.
This was an unforgettable, once in a lifetime experience that I will always remember. I saw people, places and things that I have never seen before and made great friendships with the other youth operators that also got the opportunity to participate in the first Youth DX Adventure!
Having been chosen, and participating in the Youth DX Adventure project has been one of the most exciting and rewarding things I have ever done.
Mentoring young hams (including my own son) in the skills of HF operating and DX’ing from a DX location was a wonderful experience. Our entire trip from beginning to end was a complete success. The thrill of seeing new hams sitting down and responding to worldwide pileups is hard to describe.
All of the young team members quickly learned techniques and consumed themselves with QSO rates, entity locations and operating schedule times.
They came alive, contacting stations all over the globe. Most every operator of stations contacted gave positive, encouraging comments to these kids.
The class/lecture sessions on antennas, propagation, split operating, listening skills, correct mic adjustment procedures, logging, pile up etiquette, band selection, etc. gave these new hams real live skills which were used: right then, right there, on the spot.
Having a local “host” ham family and fine accommodations provided by them gave us all a genuine experience of the culture and typical lifestyle’s in Costa Rica.
Eating authentic foods, learning about native birds, plants, and climate gave us insight and knowledge the typical tourist would miss.
The antenna farm was a site to see as well. Many “quad” antennas are available to use. Operations were certainly made easier with tall towers and high gain antennas (including a 40 meter quad!)
I’m very proud of the 5 young amateur operators that were part of this trip. Andrea, Christie, Duncan, Mitchell and Rachel were very attentive, willing and able to learn and get right into the art of DX’ing. They were always ready to take control of each operating position as it became available, not willing to waste any operating time or chance to work another DX station.
I’m very grateful to all the clubs, organizations and individuals who made this trip and program a reality. I thank Don Dubon, N6JRL; Dave Kalter, KB8OCP, and Keko Diez, TI5KD, for making such a wonderful opportunity available to hams with ham sons or daughters. Having been chosen, and participating in the Youth DX Adventure project has been one of the most exciting and rewarding things I have ever done.
I hope this program is in place and available for years and years to come. I learned that the Amateur Radio seed is alive and well in our youth of today. The Youth DX Adventure was the water which caused it to sprout, come to the surface and grow by leaps and bounds.
Day 1. Going in to Costa Rica, I didn’t really know what to expect. Once there going through the winding road, rural city and perfect weather, I knew this would be an amazing trip. At the compound I got settled and headed straight to the radios. I wanted to get a feel of what the rest of weekend was going to be like. In the beginning, I helped log and eventually got talking myself. I got my first pileup and realized how many different countries would want to contact me.
Day 2. The next day started off with a lecture about DXing. I have DXed once or twice before but nothing serious. So this did help me a little on how to make the whole concept easier. Learning about when the best time is to get on with a gray line. After that I got to tryout what I had learned. I was slow at first because I had to log and do everything myself. I got faster and hooked to the radio. It was bad that some of the adults were going to unplug the radio. In the down time between shifts, I would sleep or go out to the BBQ pit to listen or chat.
Day 3. Today was shopping day. Getting to San Jose was a pain. We had to take an alternate way. The cars were so close and we had less than 1 inch of clearance between cars. Once there we went to the market. There were so many stores to look at. One street was closed off for all the people to shop. Eating in the city was almost as good as the food on the compound. But soon it was time to go back on the radios. Us kids set up shifts so we could use the radios all night long. When I got to my shift at 2 in the morning nothing was going on. So I ended up going back to sleep and get a bulk of stuff done the next day.
Day 4. Today was the day for the bulk of the contacts and getting ready to go home. Once on the radio the band was booming. I was getting 100 contacts a hour. It was amazing. That night before the radios were put away. I was the last kid still up. Dave, one of the leaders, told that I was staying in front of the radio until I get 610 contacts. Sitting there for over 2 hours was taking a toll on me. I was tired and started messing up what I should have been saying. But eventually getting through all the problems, I got there. Then it was time to head back home.
You can read more about the Youth DX Adventure #1 in the May, 2011 QST, pp 68-69.
Photos courtesy of Don DuBon, N6JRL, and Dave Kalter, KB8OCP.
Don DuBon, N6JRL, an ARRL member, became licensed in 1963 and now lives in the Dayton, Ohio area. Don is the current president of the Southwest Ohio DX Association and is involved in Forums with Hamvention. Don retired from the US Marine Corps after 23 years where he worked in the communications electronics field. Just returning from PJ7E Don likes DXing and contesting. He has also operated from 3YØX, TI5N, VP2EM, J68DD, FS and YI. Don is now working in the aviation mechanical inspection field. He can be reached at 441 Lewiston Rd, Kettering, OH 45429-2617.
Dave Kalter, KB8OCP, an ARRL member, has been a ham since 1990. Dave enjoys RTTY DXing and contesting and has been to TI5N for the CQWW and the YDXA group. Dave is the vice president of the Southwest Ohio DX Association and Chairman of the Forums committee for the Dayton Hamvention. Dave can be reached at 3821 Eileen Rd, Dayton, OH 45429-4107.