Tag Archives: Hamvention

Boxboro Youth Outreach Summary

I had the pleasure this past Saturday to attend the Boxboro Hamfest with many members of Nashua ARC. Amidst all the talks, activities, vendor booths, and flea markets, one component I was interested in was attending the Youth Forum. As some of you know, Jamey (KC1ENX) and myself (AB1ZO), are spearheading Nashua ARC’s involvement with recruiting and extending our membership to include young people; specifically targeting young folks 18 and under. We already have one such star in the club, Jamey’s daughter Abby (KC1FFX), who serves as Youth Advocate on the board. This forum was important for Jamey and I to attend in order to extract lessons learned from other clubs who have successfully built an infrastructure based around attracting and retaining young people. Also in attendance (from what I could see) was Skip (K1NKR) whom many of you know has been active with the Girl Scouts and Thinking Day on the Air. The remainder of this article, therefore, will be to summarize lessons I learned and hopefully engender a discussion among interested parties of what we can do in the coming months. As a relevant aside, I truly believe this all can only work, if we have large buy-in from you as the members, so your input is certainly requested and valued. Lastly, get a good cup of hot-joe, your in for a long read…at least I’m honest 🙂

When the Forum began, the audience was faced with a large panel of kids all under 18. Easily 10-12 kids, with a majority of them possessing their General license. Many (if not all) were active members of the Clay Center Amateur Radio Club (and even held positions in the club) which has a whopping 260 members. They boast interesting facts:

  • 12 former astronauts have visited the club
  • The meeting area for the club also has an astro observatory so kids can star-gaze as well
  • Roughly 93 out of 260 members are under 18. (One interesting side note is that if a young person was under 16, then their parents also joined as well due to club guidelines.)
  • Many of these kids are also students at a local high school in Brookline, MA: namely Dexter Southfield High School.

One of the club’s mentors is Bob (K5TEC), who has been involved with amateur radio and working with kids for over 20 years; his day job (when he is not a weekend warrior on the radio) is a teacher at the aforementioned high school.

Essentially,  after a brief introduction by the students regarding their age, license level, and background, the Q&A ensued. The audience began zinging questions to the youth panel and I’ll share some of the results.

Skip (K1NKR) had begun by asking, since many of you are bright, young students, why did you choose to do amateur radio versus, really, anything else? Here were their answers:

  • My mom/dad was interested and excited about it, so I became excited too. Additionally, my friends were doing it, and so I wanted to check it out.
  • Since my school offered this as a program, I wanted to check it out due to its proximity and my interest in science
  • I wanted to meet new people (both other kids in the club and on the air) and learn about astronomy, radios, and cultures other people in the world have
  • I have a tech interest and like building computers and working with Linux
  • I like playing sports — Fox hunting is fun because I can run around with my friends doing something techy and sporty
  • I really enjoy “engineering stations” — having a big project and being “in the thick of it” was fun for me
  • I enjoy science (electronics, robotics, rocketry, physics, astronomy, computing) so this seemed natural to get into.
  • I liked the idea of contacting folks all over the world and was interested in contesting when I learned about it

So looking over this list, I can see a few trends here:

  • A young person became interested because someone else they look up to or respect was already involved in the hobby and remained exceedingly positive and excited about it
  • Amateur radio had a natural overlap with many other scientific and engineering disciplines. One facet which I didn’t consider was that for the sportier types — they seemed to gravitate towards the fox hunting
  • Giving a kid a “station building science project” that’s all their own to work on, gave them autonomy. For those kids involved in the DIY electronics maker movement, this became another natural extension.
  • And probably the most important reason, a bunch of other kids were doing it! — critical mass was achieved — and they did activities together!

After speaking with Bob (K5TEC) he mentioned that most kids went to the club meetings every month — but the club meeting structure would sometimes deviate from having a speaker each week. (Didn’t get an answer about how yet, but getting a reply is in the works) There did exist a core group of kids (4 or more) which kept the ball moving for the rest and were responsible for more of the organization of events etc. In fact, the club also had a weekly youth network run totally by kids. Bob stressed that repeaters are essential to keep kids talking to each other. Bob additionally stressed that is we would need to make sure the club is very social — something to be cognizant of as we move forward.

One question I was particularly interested in, given the hectic schedules of high school students, is when they studied for their exams. The answers were:

  • Flashcards / HAM test apps on phone
  • At a summer camp sponsored by the club
  • Studied after school but primarily most studied during the summer

I think the trend is evident. As a club, we will need to concentrate heavily on licensing kids during the summer time. Moreover, putting into place a summer camp of sorts which focuses not just on the test questions but experimentation etc. will be crucial.

Bob (K5TEC) followed-up with a few more comments.

  • He found it VERY important to get kids on the air immediately after they pass their exam. As a result, he would buy a few HT’s, pre-program them, and then sell them to the kids (their parents) at cost, right after the exam.
  • He found it took around 9 hours (at a bare minimum) to train the students during the summer
  • Summertime is the optimal time to be engaging in licensing kids
  • Have an environment where the VE sessions occur that does not scare the kids off and they feel comfortable. (This did not occur to me)
  • Numbers and involvement are absolutely essential

So, that about sums up my findings from the forum. I could go on and on, but your coffee is getting cold if you haven’t drank it all yet, and I need to get back to work. I think one thing is pretty clear, however, and that is to get and retain more young people, we are going to see our club dynamically shift in really exciting and fun ways in the near future. I don’t know about you, but I’m really looking forward to the day (and I hope it’s in the very near future) when I can hear a bunch of young voices in our meeting place giving presentations, talking about their contacts, and maybe even asking old man Smigielski for some help with their radio.

Best and 73,

Brian (AB1ZO)

Dayton Hamvention 2016

Fred, AB1OC and I just returned from the 2016 Hamvention in Dayton, OH.

Our first day in Dayton was spent at Contest University – this was our 5th year in attendance but each year we learn more from the contesting experts. This year, we attended two presentations from Frank Donovan, W3LPL on operating techniques for the declining solar cycle and on 80m and 160m antennas.   We also heard a talk from Val NV9L from Ham Nation on Log Analysis tools and another session on SO2R (Single Operator 2 Radio) Operating.

Slide from W3LPL Contest University Presentation
Slide from W3LPL Contest University Presentation

Friday was the first day of the Hamvention and we spent most of the day visiting all the vendor exhibits.   We visited the Icom booth, where we looked at the new Icom 7851. It has an incredible display as well as one of the best receivers on the market.

Icom 7851 Display on Large Screen TV
Icom 7851 Display on Large Screen TV

We also saw the new KX2 Transceiver at the Elecraft booth. It is even smaller than the KX3 and is perfect for SOTA and other portable operations. I would expect to hear some NPOTA activations using this radio.

Elecraft KX2 on right, next to a KX3
Elecraft KX2 on right, next to a KX3

Friday evening was the Top Band dinner where we learned all about “Top Band Disease” from Larry “Tree” Tyree N6TR.   Hams with this disease are nocturnal, love the bottom of the sunspot cycle. They are constantly improving their 160m antennas – when you upgrade your receive antenna, then there are people who can’t hear you, so then you need to improve your transmit antenna – and the cycle continues…  The DX Alarm Clock is perfect for those with Top Band Disease!

Top Band Dinner Presentation
Top Band Dinner Presentation

After the dinner, we were treated to a concert from the Spurious Emissions Band (N0AX, KX9X, K4RO, W4PA), with hits like “On The Cover of the NCJ” and “Sittin on the Edge of the Band”. They were so funny! You can watch their performances on YouTube http://bit.ly/DaytonSpurs2016.

The Spurious Emissions Band
The Spurious Emissions Band Performs at Dayton

On Saturday, Fred, AB1OC and I presented our Station Building talk to around 250 people as part of the Dayton Contest Forum. It was a great honor to be selected to speak there by Doug Grant K1DG, who has organized the Contest Forum for many years.

Fred, AB1OC, Speaks at the Dayton Contest Forum
Fred, AB1OC, Speaks at the Dayton Contest Forum

We also continued to tour the vendor booths, visiting Club Member Bill Barber, NE1B, at the DMR-MARC booth.

Bill Barber, NE1B at the DMR-MARC Booth
Bill Barber, NE1B at the DMR-MARC Booth

After that, we stopped by Gordon West’s Ham Instructor booth where we spoke to him about the success of the Club’s License classes.  Here is a picture of Gordon, WB6NOA and Fred sharing the secrets of how the Hilbert Transform and the Flux Capacitor make Single Sideband and Time Travel Possible.

Fred, AB1OC with Gordon West, WB6NOA
Fred, AB1OC with Gordon West, WB6NOA

We also visited the AMSAT booth, where we met Burns Fisher,  W2BFJ,  who now lives in Brookline, NH and is moving to Hollis.    They had a cube sat on display – you can see how small it is below.  It’s amazing that AMSAT builds and arranges to launch them into orbit so that we can make QSOs through them!

Anita, AB1QB with a Cube Sat
Anita, AB1QB with a Cube Sat

Fred could not resist a visit to Begali Keys where we purchased a neat travel key. It should be great for operating mobile and for Field Day.

Begali Travel Key
Begali Travel Key

On Sunday, we headed back to New Hampshire, sad that the weekend had come to an end but full of great memories from the trip.