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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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!