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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
Sponsoring an on-the-air event around ARRL Kids Day and similar events are also great ways to introduce young people to Amateur Radio.
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.
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!
NASHUA, NH: Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC, has announced his intention to run for the position of ARRL New England Division Director. Kemmerer has a long history of helping individuals to become licensed, learn new skills, and become active in the Amateur Radio Service. Fred has also served as President of the Nashua Area Radio Society, a club that has provided many hams licensing and development programs over the past six years.
“I believe that Amateur Radio clubs and interest groups play an essential role in bringing new hams into the Amateur Radio Service and in helping hams to develop new skills,” said Kemmerer. “As New England Division Director, I will work with clubs and individuals in New England to help them expand their role as mentors and create a world-class environment for learning based upon Amateur Radio.”
Fred, AB1OC, also serves as an ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) Mentor and Ground Station, helping schools around to world to participate in STEM learning based upon Amateur Radio. “I will help groups and individuals in New England to create projects and programs to bring Amateur Radio to young people across the division,” said Kemmerer. “Amateur Radio provides a tremendous opportunity for youths to learn about technical topics and to develop valuable skills that they can use throughout their lives.”
Kemmerer has been an active amateur for over 10 years with a broad range of Amateur Radio interests. “I enjoy many aspects of the hobby, including DXing, contesting, EmCom activities and Field Day, satellites, station building, and weak signal operating on the VHF and higher bands. One of Amateur Radio’s most important strengths is its tremendous diversity and range of interests and activities. We need to work across New England and the ARRL to grow our hobby and protect our spectrum by encouraging our hobby’s broad use.”
Fred, AB1OC, continues to devote considerable time and energy to license new hams and help all hams to upgrade their licenses and get on the air. “I’ve had the pleasure to lead a team of hams who have taught license classes, enabling over 360 people to earn a license or upgrade over the past five years.” Kemmerer has created some innovative approaches to new ham development and getting hams on the air. “We created a very popular program called Ham Bootcamp, designed to help both new and experienced hams get on the air, build their stations, and participate in new operating activities.” The last Ham Bootcamp drew over 480 participants from across the United States. “I hope to help clubs and individuals around New England and across the ARRL to develop successful programs to license and assist hams to get on the air and have fun in new activities,” he added.
Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC, is an electrical engineer by training and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in EE. He has served in many business leadership roles, including Chief Technology Officer, VP of Strategy and Business Development for a large telecommunication equipment company, VP and General Manager of a large data networking and communication business, and a Project Leader at Bell Laboratories in the development of wireless and wired data communications technologies. Fred has also served on the FCC’s Technical Advisory Council where he assisted the FCC in developing public policy related to wireless and broadband communications. Fred holds an Amateur Extra license and has been quite active on the air logging over 100,000 contacts on the HF and higher bands over the past 10 1/2 years. You can read more about his background on LinkedIn here.
You can learn more about Fred, AB1OC’s campaign, and what he is hoping to accomplish as ARRL New England Division director at https://ab1oc-4-director.org.
Hello, I am Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC. As many of you know, I have been dedicating much of my time and energy to helping folks to get into Amateur Radio, to learn new skills through our hobby, and to experience the joy and sense of accomplishment that Amateur Radio brings.
I have been able to accomplish many things to help hams and grow Amateur Radio as part of the Nashua Area Radio Society in the past 6 years. We have licensed or upgraded over 350 hams. We’ve provided training and help for hams to get on the air, build stations, and learn new skills. We’ve developed some world-class Amateur Radio training programs through our Tech Nights, Ham Bootcamp, n1fd.org, and more.
We’ve done some great work in local schools to introduce young people to Amateur Radio and to provide STEM learning experiences and licensing opportunities in schools as well.
We’ve also supported the ARISS space station contact programs in two schools in our area and this has led me to serve as an ARISS Mentor and Ground Station; helping schools around the world to enjoy the thrill of making contact with an astronaut on the International Space Station.
Amateur Radio changes people’s lives for the better. I know this because it has changed mine in significant ways. It led me to become an Electrical Engineer and helped me to develop many skills that have enriched my life and allowed me to enrich the experiences of others.
Where To Next?
Several friends and supporters have approached me about running for the position of New England Director in the ARRL. Directors serve on the Board of Directors of the ARRL for a three-year term and are elected by the members of the ARRL in the Director’s Division. In our case, this encompasses the sections of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Eastern Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
Folks are encouraging me to take on this responsibility for several reasons with a chief one being the expectation that we can create, through this role, an environment among the clubs and the ARRL Membership here in New England that will encourage new people to join the Amateur Radio Service and encourage all hams to grow their skills. The work that we have already done, we believe, can be leveraged through the New England Director’s position to benefit clubs and individual hams across New England and throughout the ARRL.
After much consultation with friends, Nashua Area Radio Society Members, my wife Anita AB1QB, and others who have played major roles in the ARRL, I have decided to take on this challenge by running this fall.
What Will We Do?
I believe that it’s important to work with clubs and individual hams here in New England and across the ARRL to grow the Amateur Radio Service. This means bringing new people into Amateur Radio, helping existing hams get on the air and develop new skills.
I am seeking the office of New England Division Director so that I may work to create an environment in our region and across the ARRL that will help everyone to fully develop our skills to bring a rich Amateur Radio experience to new folks and experienced hams alike. I believe that Amateur Radio clubs and interest groups have always been the foundation of mentoring and skills development in our hobby and I plan to focus on working with clubs across our region to accomplish these goals.
We cannot grow Amateur Radio without embracing and supporting a broad range of Amateur Radio Activities including DXing, Contesting, EmCom, VHF and higher band weak-signal work, and plain old rag chewing via phone, CW, and digital modes. The breadth of activities that Amateur Radio affords is one of its greatest strengths and I will work to support and help to expand interest in all aspects of the hobby.
Regular, two-way open, and honest communication between the ARRL leadership and ARRL members is an essential part of success in meeting these goals. I am committed to creating a process and forums for regular, active 2-way dialog and sharing of activities that are successful in growing Amateur Radio and expanding opportunities for all hams in New England to grow their skills and have fun through Amateur Radio.
I hope that you will consider supporting us in this effort. I very much look forward to the opportunity to serve hams in New England and across the ARRL.