Programs Helping Hams and Young People to Develop Skills and Get on The Air

FeaturedDX Experience on the HF Bands

I have had the pleasure to work and collaborate with my club and others to create programs to get new people and young people started in Amateur Radio. I’ve been sharing information about these programs with clubs across New England and around the US to provide ideas and inspiration for Amateur Radio clubs to add similar mentoring and Ham Development programs to their activities.

Teaching Amateur Radio License Classes
Teaching Amateur Radio License Classes

Teaching License Classes is a passion of mine. Along with the Nashua Area Radio Society, we’ve provided 7-8 License Training Classes to help folks earn Technician, General, and Extra class licenses each year. Our classes include 1 or 2 classes each year devoted solely to school students who want to earn their Technician License. We do this so that we can teach the Technician Class material in a format suitable for middle school and high school students.

Ham Bootcamp - Getting New Hams On The Air
Ham Bootcamp – Getting New Hams On The Air

I have led the creation of programs such as Ham Bootcamp and Tech Night to provide training and skills development to enable Hams to get on the air and develop new skills.

Students Launch a High-Altitude Balloon carrying Amateur Radio
Students Launch a High-Altitude Balloon Carrying Amateur Radio

I believe that work to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning in schools through Amateur is an important way to help the next generation of young people to join the Amateur Radio Service and enhance their lives. Kits Builds, High-Altitude Balloons, and other Amateur Radio activities can provide practical applications and support for STEM learning programs that many schools are working to deliver.

Fred, AB1OC Helping a School Make Contact with an Astronaut on the ISS via Amateur Radio
Fred, AB1OC Helping a School Make Contact with an Astronaut on the ISS via Amateur Radio

Through my work as a mentor and ground station in the ARISS program, I’ve been able to help schools and other youth groups around the world to experience and learn about Amateur Radio and use it to communicate with astronauts on the International Space Station.

ARRL Rookie Roundup – Introducing contesting to young people and new Hams

I believe that it’s also very important to introduce new hams and young hams to the Amateur Radio activities that many of us enjoy. We routinely make our station here available to new Hams and young people so they can participate in on-air activities. A favorite activity is the ARRL Rookie Roundup – a contest experience that the ARRL sponsors for new Hams to try out and learn about Radiosport.

I’ve been sharing a presentation with clubs and other groups about these and other programs to encourage folks to provide mentoring and new Ham development opportunities.

I recently met with the K1USN Radio Club in Braintree, MA to share this information. The folks there recorded my presentation and have permitted me to share it here so that others might benefit from the information that it contains. The K1USN Radio Club is a great example of a group of Hams that are working to provide mentoring and new Ham development programs. Here’s where you can find more about them:

Also, you can download a copy of the presentation in PDF form here.

I hope that our readers will consider creating programs to help bring new people into the Amateur Radio Service and mentor all Hams to help them to develop new skills and enjoy Amateur Radio.

Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC

Importance of Amateur Radio in Schools

Satellite Contact at School

It is vitally important that we make efforts to bring Amateur Radio to young people in schools and other venues. When we spend time bringing Amateur Radio to young people, we accomplish two important things. First, we have the potential to change a young person’s life for the better by involving them in Amateur Radio, a hobby and a service that inspires a lifetime of STEM learning and often leads to lifelong careers in Science or Engineering.

Secondly, our work in schools is one of the very best ways that we can make the general public aware of the positive benefits that Amateur Radio provides to their kids and to the general public.

Supporting STEM Learning At Sussex County Charter School for Technology

In my role as an ARISS Program Mentor, I recently had the pleasure of spending a week with Sussex County Charter School for Technology (a charter school in NJ) students and teachers to help teachers there to deliver their summer Radio Camp.

The summer Radio Camp was a STEM education program that the school developed in support of their upcoming contact with an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS). Members of the local Sussex County Amateur Radio Club teamed with the teachers at the school to deliver a 5-day program grounded in STEM learning through Amateur Radio.

DX Experience on the HF Bands
Hosting DX Contact Experience on the HF

Radio camp activities included many hands-on Amateur Radio activities such as making DX contacts on the HF radio bands, building electrical circuits, practicing morse code, a Fox hunt, building and operating a portable HF station, flying a radio-controlled drone, and more.

Satellite Contact at School
Satellite Contact at Sussex County Charter School for Technology

The students and their teachers also learned about how they can make contacts with other Amateur Radio operators through satellites in space.

The student’s parents joined them on the last day of Radio Camp to learn about Amateur Radio and the activities that their kids had done with the school during the week.

Building Public Awareness and Support for Amateur Radio

Helping Hudson Memorial School students to talk to an astronaut on the ISS
Helping Hudson Memorial School students to talk to an astronaut on the ISS

The photo above was taken during an event that I had the great pleasure to help a local school with a little while back. As President of the Nashua Area Radio Society, I led efforts to help Hudson Memorial School, a public middle school here in New Hampshire, to prepare for and make contact with an astronaut on the International Space Station using Amateur Radio. The photo was taken just before the school’s contact began. The school’s principal is explaining Amateur Radio and the positive impact that it has had in his school to hundreds of parents, teachers, school board members, and public visitors. Imagine the impact on public support that we had as part of this project.

These are the sorts of activities that I want to work on and encourage with Clubs and Hams here in New England as director. I also believe that the ARRL can do much more to promote and encourage projects like this to create public awareness and support for Amateur Radio.

Hams, Clubs, and the ARRL have a much greater potential to generate positive public support for Amateur Radio including for legislation to protect our rights and our spectrum through work with young people in schools than we have by lobbying alone.

Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC


YOTA 2021 ISS Contact

I had the pleasure of serving as the ARISS contact moderator for the Youth On The Air (YOTA) 2021 Camp’s contact with the International Space Station (ISS) using Amateur Radio today. Young Hams spent the week at the Voice of America Bethany Relay Station in West Chester, OH engaging in a variety of Amateur Radio Activities. Ruth Willet, KM4LAO was the host for YOTA 2021 and provided an excellent pre-contact program. The West Chester Amateur Radio Association partnered with YOTA 2021 Camp group to help them with YOTA 2021 activities and their ISS contact. You can view a video of the YOTA 2021 Camp’s contact with astronaut Aki Hoshide, KE5DNI on the International Space Station (ISS) by clicking on the video above.

Working with a school or group to help young people make contact with an astronaut on the ISS using Amateur Radio is a great way to build a lasting relationship around Amateur Radio with young people and their teachers and mentors. In my role as an ARISS Mentor and Ground Station, I have had the pleasure to help with nine of these contacts around the world over the last several years. In every case, local Ham Radio clubs partnered with the school or group to provide STEM learning experiences based on Amateur Radio. Helping a school or group make contact with the astronaut on the ISS provides a memorable experience for everyone involved.

You can learn more about the ARISS contact program here or contact me at [email protected].

Fred, AB1OC

Growing Amateur Radio through Mentoring

Radio Clubs as Mentors - GOTAs at Schools

Amateur Radio clubs and individual hams have always played an important role as Mentors for new and less experienced hams. There is probably no better time in our history to redouble our efforts in this area than now. I wanted to share a few thoughts and successful programs that I’ve been involved in to bring new people into Amateur Radio through mentoring.

Programs in Schools

Getting students on the air at Hudson Memorial School
Getting students on the air at Hudson Memorial School

Middle and High School faculty members are looking for practical STEM learning opportunities for their students. Amateur Radio can be the basis for many learning programs of this type. Wireless communications, satellites, electronics, computers, and many other STEM topics can be taught in a way that is grounded in Amateur Radio.

A great way to begin is to support career days or STEM learning events at local schools. Providing a hands-on opportunity at a school STEM club or Electronics club can also be a good way to develop a relationship with a local school.

Karen, KC1KBW - Facalty Member and STEM Education Leader at Bishop-Guertin H.S.
Karen, KC1KBW – Faculty Member and STEM Education Leader at Bishop-Guertin H.S.

It’s important to find a faculty member to work with to develop these programs. An interested teacher is an essential partner in developing and delivering quality educational experiences through Amateur Radio.

Teachers serve as important role models for their students. It’s a good idea to provide opportunities through classes and mentoring to teachers who are interested in earning their Amateur Radio licenses.

Students Launch a High-Altitude Balloon carrying Amateur Radio
Students Launch a High-Altitude Balloon carrying Amateur Radio

You might consider developing a STEM learning program around a hands-on Amateur Radio related activity. As an example, we’ve created a program around High-Altitude Balloons that carry Amateur Radio telemetry transmitters. We’ve worked with local teachers to develop 12 hours of classroom material covering the physics, weather science, wireless communications, and flight prediction modeling associated with weather balloons. We’ve delivered this program in 4 local schools and reached several hundred students. These programs have led to many students and their teachers becoming licensed hams.

Similar programs can be created around kit-building and related electronics activities, space and wireless communications, modern digital communications technology, and more.

Consider Supporting a Contact with an Astronaut on the ISS

Student Q&A with an Astronaut on the ISS via Amateur Radio
Student Q&A with an Astronaut on the ISS via Amateur Radio

One of the most effective ways to develop a relationship with a school is to work with a school to make a contact with an Astronaut on the ISS. The ARISS organization provides tools and support for arranging and holding these contacts. Schools work with a sponsoring Amateur Radio Club or group and are required to make a significant commitment to STEM learning related to Amateur Radio and Space Science in order to secure a Contact with an astronaut on the ISS. Working closely with a school provides a great opportunity to work with young people to develop an interest in Amateur Radio.

Treat Your Field Day as a Mentoring Opportunity

Mentoring at a GOTA Station
Mentoring at a GOTA Station

Field Day presents many opportunities for mentoring new and less experienced Hams. In addition to a Get On The Air (GOTA) station, it affords many opportunities to invite folks to learn about and participate in a broad range of station building and operating activities. You can read more about such opportunities here.

Help a Ham to Get On The Air

ARRL Rookie Roundup Ops
ARRL Rookie Roundup Ops – New Hams getting On The Air

Many new Hams earn a license and then find it difficult to find someone to Mentor them and help them to get started on the air. Barriers include Mic fright, difficulties getting an antenna up and gaining access to a radio that they can use, concerns that they don’t know how to make contacts on the air, etc. This is an area where clubs and individual hams can contribute a great deal. Invite a new ham to your station for an operating session. Sponsor an entry in the ARRL Rookie Roundup or a DX contest to introduce contesting.

ARRL Kids Day Event at AB1OC-AB1QB
ARRL Kids Day Event at AB1OC-AB1QB

Sponsoring an on-the-air event around ARRL Kids Day and similar events are also great ways to introduce young people to Amateur Radio.

Young People Experience Amatuer Radio at AB1OC-AB1QB
Young People Experience Amateur Radio at AB1OC-AB1QB

All it takes to create opportunities like these is for a club member or an individual ham to open their station for a day and secure the help and support of a few other friends to help put on an event. These activities are great fun and produce many cherished memories of the participant’s first experiences on the air.

Events like these often form the basis of strong mentoring relationships with new hams. This then leads to opportunities to help folks put their first station together and get on the air.

Summing it all up

The video above shares more about activities that Clubs and individual hams might consider to bring new people into Amateur Radio and help them develop and grow their skills. Amateur Radio can change lives for the better by providing lifelong learning opportunities, helping to develop valuable skills, and creating great friendships. I hope that you’ll consider how you can help.

Fred, AB1OC

Field Day as a Mentoring Opportunity

ARRL Field Day 2021

ARRL Field Day is upon us and I wanted to share some thoughts about the mentoring and learning opportunities that Field Day can provide. Many Clubs and other groups here in New England are planning in-person Field Day operations while practicing good COVID-19 safety procedures as we make progress on bringing COVID-19 under control in the US.

I’d like to encourage hams planning Field Day operations to consider opportunities to mentor new and experienced hams alike as part of their Field Day operations. Field Day provides us with a unique opportunity to provide mentoring and on-the-air amateur radio experiences for folks who are new to our hobby as well as those looking to learn and develop their skills.

Mentoring Through Field Day Station Building

Mentoring through Station Building
Mentoring through Station Building

One good way to mentor is to involve new and less experienced folks in the building of your Field Day station. This is a major draw for many new and less experienced hams as it affords them the opportunity to work alongside more experienced folks and gain hands-on experience with equipment that they may not have access to on their own.

Connor, KC1GGX Building a Field Day Network
Connor, KC1GGX Building a Field Day Network

Young people and many new hams have unique skills that they can contribute to your Field Day operation. One example that we have included here is to network our logging computers so we can execute passes and share log data among all of our stations as we operate. This involves setting up a Data Network at our Field Day operation.  Setting up a network is a great opportunity for young hams at Field Day to utilize their unique skills to contribute to your operation.

Mentoring through Top-Notch Operating Experiences

It is especially important to reward new folks who help you build your Field Day stations with some premium operating time on the stations that they contributed to building. This combination will likely result in a new ham coming back to your group to participate in other activities as they continue to learn.

Abby, AB1BY SO2R Digital at Field Day
Abby, AB1BY SO2R Digital at Field Day

Setting up digital stations at Field Day is another excellent way to provide quality operating experiences for new hams and especially for young people. Many folks who come to your Field Day operation will likely have excellent computer skills and the energy they bring will produce some impressive additions to your score. We have seen our digital teams at our Field Days match the score of some of the best CW operators in the world and demonstrate some advanced operating abilities during Field Day such as operating multiple stations at the same time.

Ryan, KC1KJS Operating 20m SSB at Field Day
Ryan, KC1KJS Operating 20m SSB at Field Day

There is almost nothing that we can do during Field Day that is more important than to provide a young ham or a less experienced ham with a top-notch on-air experience. It’s a good idea to reserve some operating time on your best stations and modes for new folks. Spending some time with someone less experienced to help them operate on 20m SSB on Saturday afternoon will create an interest level for a new ham that is hard to match any other way. More importantly, you will send the message that you and your group are committed to helping young people and new folks become accomplished hams through mentoring.

Your GOTA Station as a Skill Builder

Mentoring at a GOTA Station
Mentoring at a GOTA Station

Get On The Air Stations are the classic way that many Field Day groups provide on-the-air mentoring. It’s important to have an effective and patient mentor who is dedicated to your GOTA station and to creating a great on-air experience for the folks who operate your GOTA station. Also, consider involving your enthusiastic GOTA ops in additional activities along with your experienced operators on your other Field Day stations.

Mentoring While Passing Message Traffic

Message Passing at Field Day
Sterling, AK1K Mentoring folks on Message Traffic Handing at Field Day

Do you do handle Message Traffic at Field Day? This can be a great way to involve new hams with a Tech License in Field Day operations. An experienced mentor can easily help a group of new hams have a great time during a message traffic handling activity at Field Day. Encourage folks to bring their HTs and use them during this part of your operation.

Mentoring while Operating at Home

What if you are planning to operate from your home station for Field Day? You can invite a new ham or a family member or friend who is curious about amateur radio to your station during Field Day to operate along with you. Just be sure to practice good COVID-19 safety when doing this.

You may also find that working with new folks will enhance your enjoyment of Field Day as well as contribute to your operating contacts. A team operating experience with one person operating and another logging can be great fun. You can also take turns operating your home stations to create a memorable Field Day experience.

The Mentoring Centric Field Day Experience

Media Coverage of a mentoring-centric Field Day (click to play)

The video above shows an example of a mentoring-centric Field Day. We thank WMUR Channel 9 for covering Field Day. This puts Amateur Radio in a very positive light and lets hams around your group know that you are committed to helping new hams to learn and develop their skills through mentoring.

I hope that everyone has a safe and enjoyable Field Day!


Fred, AB1OC