Are you a new Ham who has received your first license in the past 3 years? Are you interested in finding out what contesting is all about? Join us at the QTH of AB1OC and AB1QB for the ARRL Rookie Roundup, where we will field a Multi-Op entry using the N1FD callsign. Email Anita at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
Every so often, I drive Fred’s truck into work and people ask me what that big antenna on the back of the truck is for. I explain to them that it is for Ham Radio. But the reply is usually, why ham radio – isn’t that outdated technology? We have cell phones and IM, etc…what do we need Ham Radio for? So I thought I would put down my thoughts as a relatively new Ham about why I enjoy spending so much of my time with Ham Radio.
The number one reason we still need Ham Radio along with all the other technology we now have is for public service. When there is a disaster and cell phones, television, etc are all not working, Ham Radio operators provide the critical communication.
Ham Radio operators help locally to keep hospitals and first responders in contact with each other to help those affected by the disaster.
Hams also use our ability to communicate around the world on HF bands to help family members around the world to get in touch with loved ones affected by a disaster.
Ham Radio operators have been on the scene helping in every disaster from the earthquakes in Nepal to the recent flooding in California.
Technology and the Maker Movement
I only became a Ham 5 years ago but many of my fellow Ham Radio operators got their license when they were in their early teens and used what they learned to launch their careers. Many have had very successful careers in STEM fields, all launched by their interest in Ham Radio at a young age. As technology advances, so does the technology used in our hobby. We even have a nobel laureate, Joe Taylor K1JT who is a ham. Joe has developed weak signal digital communication modes that let us communicate by bouncing signals off the moon!
As technology has advanced, so has the use of it in Ham Radio. Most Ham Radio operators have one or more computers in their shack. Many also have a software designed radio (SDR), where much of the radio functionality is implemented using Software, we use sound cards to run digital modes, which are a lot like texting over the radio, and we use the internet extensively as part of operating. We can also make contacts through satellites orbiting the earth and even the International Space Station.
Most hams love do-it-yourself technical projects, including building a station, home brewing an antenna, building a radio or other station component. In my day job, I am a program manager for software development projects, but its been a while since I have built anything. As a Ham I taught myself how to code in Python and about the Raspberry Pi and I built the DX Alarm Clock.
One of the coolest things about being an amateur radio operator is that you can communicate with other hams all over the world. Ham Radio is an international community where we all have something in common to talk about – our stations and why we enjoy ham radio. The QSL card above is from a memorable QSO with Mal, VK6LC, from Western Australia, who was the last contact that I needed for a Worked All Zones award. I must have talked to him for 1/2 hour about his town in Australia and his pet kangaroos!
I have learned much about geography from being on the air and trying to contact as many countries as I can. There are 339 DX Entities, which are countries or other geographical entities and I have learned where each one is in order to understand where propagation will allow me make a contact. I have learned a great deal about world geography. Through exchanging QSL cards often get to see photos from so many areas of the world.
Achievement – DXing and Contesting
DXing and Contesting provide a sense of achievement and exciting opportunity for competition. Many Hams work toward operating awards. You can get an operating award for contacting all 50 states, contacting 100 or more countries, contacting Islands, cities in Japan, countries in Asia, or anything else you can imagine. Each of these operating awards provides a sense of accomplishment and helps to build skills. Contesting builds skills through competition among Hams to see who can make the most contacts with the most places in 24 or 48 hours. Contesting also improves our operating skills and teaches us to copy callsigns and additional data accurately.
Teaching Licensing Classes – Passing it On
Recently I have joined a team of club members who teach license classes to others who want to get licensed or upgrade their existing Amateur Radio licenses. Teaching provides a way to improve my presentation skills and also helps me to really understand the material that we teach about Amateur Radio. It is always a thrill at the end of the class to see so many people earn their licenses or upgrades.
There are so many interesting aspects of Ham Radio which is what makes is such a great hobby. Getting your license can open up a world of possibilities. Upgrading to a new license class provides more opportunities to communicate over longer distances. Our club provides many resources to help you get your first license, upgrade to a new license class, and learn about the many aspects of our hobby.
Our club has accomplished a great deal in the last year. We have grown to over 130 members. We have introduced many new people to Amateur Radio, helped them to earn their Licenses and worked with them to get on the air and develop their knowledge and operating skills. We’ve also worked hard to provide opportunities to enjoy and learn about Amateur Radio for members of our club and for the Amateur Radio community which we are a part of.
Much of the credit for our club’s success this past year belongs to you, our members. We very much appreciate all that you have done to contribute to our success and the fun that we have all had as part of what we have done together. Your enthusiasm and support provides great encouragement and inspiration to the many new members who have joined us as well as to all of us who are part of our club’s Leadership Team.
We, as your club’s Executive Committee, have been working on a set of goals and plans to continue on this path during 2017 – to provide even better opportunities for our members to learn more about and to enjoy Amateur Radio, to continue to encourage people to join the Amateur Radio Service, and to provide opportunities for STEM learning for young people.
Our goals and focus for 2017 centers around continued success in and focus on the following areas to benefit both our members and our community as a whole:
- Education and Licensing through activities like our License Classes, our Tech Night Program, our Kit Building and Home Brewing activities, our CW Training Classes and other training opportunities
- Building our operational skills through on-air activities like Field Day, club participation in Contests and on-air activities such as the SOTA Program and the 13 Colonies Special Event
- Continuing and expanding our focus on STEM learning opportunities for young people through our High-Altitude Balloon Project, outreach activities through groups like MakeIt Labs and other activities focused on introducing young people to STEM learning through Amateur Radio
- Continuing our work to introduce and interest new people in Amateur Radio through our outreach efforts and get them involved in the activities and the work that our club is doing through membership
To do these things and to be successful as a growing club, we are also pursuing status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. This will enable our club to more effectively secure support from other groups to further our work towards these goals.
Each of us has taken ownership for creating a focus on meeting different aspects of our goals for this year. We are planning to share more about our plans for 2017 at our February Club Meeting.
We are asking that each of you, as members, to consider how you can get the most from all of these and the other opportunities that our club provides. We are working hard to try to create something for everyone that can provide enjoyable opportunities to have fun, to contribute, and to expand the value that we all create and derive by being part of the Amateur Radio Service. We are also asking each of you, our members, to consider helping us with these initiatives in 2017.
- Jamey Finchum, KC1ENX – Membership Chairman
- Anita Kemmerer, AB1QB – Activities Chairman
- Brian Smigielski, AB1ZO – Programs Chairman
- Mike Ryan, K1WVO – Interim Secretary
- Wayne Wagner, AG1A – Treasurer
- Greg Fuller, W1TEN – Vice President
- Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC – President
The scores are in! The N1FD team placed #1 in the Area 1 Multi-Op category in the ARRL Rookie Roundup CW! We have won the Area 1 Multi-Op category in all three Rookie Roundup contests this year. The complete results can be found here.