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Spotlight on Young Hams


*Email: w2vu@cq-amateur-radio.com

This is a big month for young hams … on the air, on stage, and in the pages of this issue. (Yes, we’re talking about the young hams who supposedly don’t exist, and who supposedly haven’t existed for at least the past 40 years.)

On the Air

From the 8th to the 15th of this month, some 80 hams under age 25 from 30 countries will spend a week together in the Gauteng region of South Africa at the eighth annual Youngsters On The Air (YOTA) camp. Normally, it’s a summer camp, but since it’s in the southern hemisphere this time, it’s a winter camp! Sponsored by Region 1 of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) — which covers Europe, the Middle East and Africa — this year’s camp is being hosted by the South African Radio League (SARL).

According to YOTA coordinator Lisa Leenders, PA2LS, the camp program this year will focus for the first time on a “train the trainer” concept. Writing on the YOTA website , Leenders says participants “will get tips and tricks to start (their) own youth activities or youth programs” in their home countries. “With this,” she says, “we will reach a bigger audience on a national and local level,” which will encourage more young people to become involved in amateur radio. Listen for (and call!) special YOTA station ZS9YOTA during the camp week.

There will be one U.S. ham at the camp representing IARU Region 2 (North and South America), Faith Hannah Lea, AE4FH, a 13-year-old from Florida. One of the first American hams to take part in the YOTA camp, in 2016, was Sam Rose, KC2LRC, of Syracuse, New York. Sam — who helped launch the Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative — is currently trying to build support for a YOTA camp program on this side of the Atlantic. We enthusiastically support this effort and encourage any individual, club, or other group that shares this interest to email Sam at . As of now, the only similar program here in the Americas is the Dave Kalter Youth DX Adventure, which sponsors three young hams on a DXpedition to a location in Central America or the Caribbean (this year’s adventure, last month, was at PJ2T in Curacao, which was featured in our May issue).

By the way, Sam also has a great photo album on Flickr of the many young hams he met up with at the 2018 Dayton Hamvention®. You can view it at https://tinyurl.com/yck2gnzo.

On Stage and at the Podium

Later this month at the Huntsville Hamfest in Alabama, CQ will once again take part in presenting the annual Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF, Memorial Newsline Young Ham of the Year award. The award honors young people doing extraordinary things with and for ham radio, and while there is only one winner each year, all of the candidates are active and involved in ham radio in their communities, and many are doing amazing things. CQ has been a corporate co-sponsor of the YHOTY program nearly since its inception in 1986.

Some of the projects and activities currently involving young hams are highlighted in this issue in Carole Perry, WB2MGP’s, report on her 31st annual youth forum at the 2018 Dayton Hamvention. Her article begins on page 24. Among Carole’s regular participants are members of the 721st Mechanized Contest Battalion, a New Jersey high school-based ham group organized by teacher (and ARRL Northern NJ Section Manager) Rob Roschewsk, KA2PBT. These enthusiastic young hams have designed and built such things as a balloon-based repeater for emergency deployment and an Emergency Antenna Platform System that can climb a light pole on its own (see for more details). The Boulder Amateur Radio Club in Colorado also has a long-standing youth program that has encouraged dozens of young people to become active hams.

Also at Dayton this year, there was a young-ham focal point just around the corner from the CQ booth, featuring HamSci, led by a team of young hams; a Youth Tech learn-to-solder area, a FIRST robotics exhibit, and the YOTA 2018 booth (see our Dayton photo essay beginning on page 28).

Your Turn

All of these programs, from the long-established Young Ham of the Year awards and WB2MGP’s Dayton Youth forums to the newer YOTA camps and Dave Kalter DX Adventure, were started by people who decided to take proactive steps to recruit and encourage more young people to get their licenses and become active hams. And let’s not limit our definition of “young people” to teenagers. What we’re seeing in many of these programs is that millennials — hams in their 20s and 30s, who are still young, but no longer kids — are becoming the driving forces behind new recruitment efforts and already represent our hobby’s next generation of leaders.

You can help support the efforts described above or help start a youth-focused program in your own community. Do it with your club or on your own. Seek out STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) programs in your local schools, local makers’ groups, etc. See how ham radio can fit in with their existing projects and programs, or how you can help introduce a new activity involving amateur radio.

Also, make sure your own ham activities embrace the kinds of 21st century technology that will attract young people’s interest. Take a look at some of the projects described in Carole’s article, and see how your activities match up with the types described.

Bottom line: Get involved. Do something interesting. Let others know and see what you’re doing. Invite others to join you. As we said in this column in June: Activity breeds activity. – 73, Rich, W2VU

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