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Zero Bias – A CQ Editorial

Taking it to the Kids (Or Not...)


*e-mail: w2vu@cq-amateur-radio.com

One of my greatest pleasures in this job is the occasional opportunity to talk ham radio with young people. Most recently, I was invited by my friend Bob Hopkins, WB2UDC, to join him in talking about ham radio at Cooper Union (where he's a professor) to a group of future engineers. Several of them are already hams and if our talk helps to generate more interest among the others, it will be that group of ham students who help usher in their peers to amateur radio.

I'm also working a little bit (and hope to do more) with the radio club at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where another friend — Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, whom I've known since he was newly licensed at age 15 — is a post-doctoral researcher and huge promoter of ham radio in "citizen science."

Recruiting young people into ham radio and encouraging young amateurs has been a personal passion of mine since I was a young ham, and CQ has an even longer record in this regard. In fact, I first met CQ Publisher Dick Ross, K2MGA, while working together on the "Archie" ham radio comic book back in the 1980s. CQ has been a proud co-sponsor of Newsline's Young Ham of the Year program for as long as I can remember.

In addition, we regularly focus in these pages on activities involving young people, whether it's WB2MGP's outreach through the Radio Club of America or her long-running Hamvention® Youth Forums, cover photos or reports through our features and columns. For example, this month, "Learning Curve" editor KOØZ introduces us to a very impressive young amateur he met in Illinois (p. 72) and "CQ World Wide" editor AA6TS reports on a British ham club's involvement with the Girl Scouts/Guides' "Thinking Day On the Air" program (p. 78).

But…WA3UVV presents a different perspective in his "Off the Air" column this month (p. 81), and it's one worth considering. Using a recent experience with public TV programming in Pittsburgh as an example, Cory wonders if perhaps we are focusing so much on youth recruiting that we are not doing as much as we should be to recruit and welcome more adults to ham radio. After all, it's the adults more than the kids who have the disposable income needed to set up a fullscale ham station (one that won't fit on your belt), and the time to get involved in various activities, as well as accumulated knowledge and experience in other fields to start contributing to the hobby right away. Yes, young people are our future, but a 30-year-old joining our ranks will typically be part of our community for a good 45-50 years. That ain't too shabby. Even a 60-year-old new ham may be able to be active for 20+ years, depending on his/her health.

I can also tell you from my own experience in demonstrating ham radio to kids that my greatest success in terms of licensing has been igniting the interest of parents, teachers, and youth group leaders. So, while our focus has been on kids, what really seems to work best is to get the grownups who work with them interested enough to get licensed and hope some of the kids will follow along.

So, as Cory says, let's keep promoting ham radio to young people, but let's not forget the grown-ups, from college age on up. Presentations to community groups and even senior citizen groups can generate new hams who won't be competing with school, dating, and other distractions that may keep teenagers from getting and staying on the air.

Hobby Sharing

Another way of recruiting more people to ham radio is by combining interests with other hobby activities. For example, as highlighted in this month's "Take it to the Field Special," hiking and camping. Combining ham radio with wilderness hiking adds benefits to both pursuits — the hiker has a means of communicating with the outside world while "off the grid" and the state of ham technology is improved by developing trail-friendly antennas and tiny transceivers that can go in a backpack without adding significant weight to the hiker's load. Folks who enjoy camping not only get the benefit of hamming from their campsite but also being able to promote the hobby among like-minded people. Campers tend to be quite social and visit each other at campgrounds. Getting on the air from your campsite can introduce your fellow campers to the hobby while keeping you in touch with folks back home or seeing what DX you can work in a low-noise environment.

We can also learn from activities that are popular in other hobbies. For example, my wife and I both enjoy birding (I'm still trying to find a direct ham radio tie-in). It's a good excuse to get outdoors and go tramping in the woods in all sorts of weather, and helps build appreciation for your local flora and fauna. The American Birding Association sponsors an annual activity called "The Big Year," in which participants compete to see who can spot and record the greatest number of wild bird species in the course of a calendar year (see <https://listing.aba.org/big-yearrules/>). It's somewhat like the CQ DX Marathon and the CQ World Wide DX Contest combined.

As in ham radio contesting, there are a very few elite birders in the top ranks of The Big Year for whom the competition is real and intense, and who spare no expense to travel to remote locations for the possibility of spotting a bird that other competitors will not see. Also like ham radio contesting, the vast majority of participants take part for the fun of it, in this case, getting outside, learning to identify different bird species and perhaps competing on a smaller scale. In this regard, the association encourages group participation.

In our case, we're part of a geographically widespread group consisting of various nieces and nephews, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, my daughter and my mother. We're spread out across Virginia, Florida, New Jersey, and New Mexico. We keep track of our sightings in a shared online document, and at the end of the year, the niece and nephew who got us involved will make one submission on behalf of the entire group. Meanwhile, we have a mini-competition going among ourselves to see which family units see the most different species Is there something we hams can learn here? Should we do more to promote the club participation aspects of the CQ DX Marathon (2016 results in this issue - p. 26) and our various contests? Should we consider expanding the scope of our club categories to include hams in geographically diverse areas? What else can we learn from other hobbies/activities that we can adapt to help keep amateur radio healthy and growing (and fun)? We'd like to hear your ideas.

Taking it to the Field…

One of the ways in which we at CQ are already promoting diversity in your ham radio activities is through our annual "Take it to the Field Special," which you're reading right now. Most of us can benefit by expanding the scope of our hamming beyond the comfy chair in the ham shack (helps keep other parts of us from expanding as well!). To encourage this, each year we highlight a variety of different "out-of-hamshack experiences" to share what other people are doing and perhaps get you thinking about outdoor ham activities that you might enjoy. This year, as always, we offer a wide variety of activities and projects to help get you off your you-know-what and "get your ham on" in a new environment.

We start off with "man's best friend," as AC7ZL shows us in "K9 QRP: Fun with Ruff Radio," not only how he combines ham radio fun with taking his dog, Rudy, hiking with him, but how he has outfitted Rudy with an animal-safe backpack to help transport his ham gear (p. 10).

Many people enjoy celebrating a big anniversary with a trip "to the islands," and Georgia's North Fulton Amateur Radio League is no exception. This year marks the club's 40th anniversary and its goal is to celebrate by activating 40 different islands in the U.S. Island Awards program (p. 18).

Sticking with the island theme, K5KG tells us about his recent adventures on St. Croix, guest-operating during a contest and even rescuing a couple of stuck iguanas (p. 47)! And K7ZB recalls his experience a few years back trying to make contact with a ham friend operating portable in Nepal while he was camping out in Arizona's Tonto National Forest (p. 52).

On the technical side of going portable, WØRW explains how he turned a scrap military surplus radio into "Field- Friendly QRP Gold" (p. 34), and N1CWR offers plans (p. 38) for building RF filters to reduce or eliminate cross-station interference on multi-transmitter operations such as ARRL Field Day (which just happens to be this month).

The Lowdown on the New Low Bands

Finally, we've got details this month of the FCC's Report and Order establishing new amateur allocations at 630 and 2200 meters (472-479 kHz and 135.7-137.8 kHz, respectively). These new bands are significant because they represent not only the first new U.S. amateur allocations in nearly 15 years, but are our first-ever bands above 200 meters, a "line in the sand" drawn by Congress to separate amateur and commercial radio operators more than a century ago. Their long wavelengths and narrow bandwidths will make operating on these bands a challenge, but experimenters around the globe are already working to meet those challenges in developing electrically short antennas and working DX using both CW and digital modes. For more, see page 20 in this issue as well as KB5NJD's quarterly "MF/LF Operating" column in upcoming issues (next one is next month).

73 and get outside with your ham gear!

–Rich, W2VU

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