Radio. All of you take for granted that people know what radio is…and I am talking about simple AM and FM radio, not even the more exotic ham radio we all enjoy. No. Virtually none of the millennial children I know (my grandkids included) have a clue about radio. TVs, iPads, iPhones rule the earth.
So, now you have some idea of the challenge that we faced when Greg Karlove W9GAK and I set up a bunch of radio gear at a Cub Scout event recently to demonstrate ham radio. But the good news here is that most of the Dads (and some moms) truly understood what we were trying to do…and, in fact, that is where we have found many of our newest club members. There was one mom who knew her son was fascinated by technology and actively encouraged him to talk to us. Took a while, but we eventually teased some interest out of him (you could see it in his eyes…he just didn’t want to give his mother the satisfaction!) No doubt, PSK was the most attractive mode. Kids just seem to be naturally attracted to anything computer. So it was fun to show them what we can be done with a keyboard, a radio and a simple antenna. The kids got it. Some enjoyed talking to other scout groups that were doing the same event as we were around the world. We held a long conversation with a ham/scout group on the Cayman Islands. It was freaky how we had a solid pipeline on 15 meters to them all day long and could call with certainty that we would get a reply. That always helps when you are dealing with impatient scouts. (“What do you mean we have to listen for a while!!?”)
One of the larger PR concerns we encountered was that Greg brought an old fire truck ambulance from his Boy Scout Troop. It still looked like a fire truck, even though I had placed NSRC signs all over it. So we looked more like an official truck on stand-by than hands on activity. I have to admit the warm truck was much more inviting than our make shift canopy tent from years past. It was great fun to play radio and teach the young folks what we do. Most of the young kids seemed to understand how an HT works…although the tendency to scream into the HT mics still amazes me! And, the concept of push-to-talk is still a skill that needs to be taught! After an intense fall season of public service work, it was great fun to get back to HF.
Meanwhile, quickly dashing back to public service…I went to a wrap up meeting for the Evanston Century Bike Club’s North Shore Century. We have helped them for 7 years and it has evolved into a nice partnership. We support the 2000+ bicyclists on course that day. There are ham teams embedded at each of the rest area, and hams in cars (called SAG cars) patrolling along the course. We are looking for broken down, distressed or just tired cyclists. Of course, we have a large team at the Command tent who receive phone calls from the field and can dispatch SAG cars via the radio to meet up with the riders. We have been using some interesting dispatch software, called TicketsCAD. It is a very sophisticated integration package that allows people to manage the entire operation. It’s really a great way to spend a fall day…unless it rains and then most of the rules change. (Rain usually means more flat tires.) We have been fortunate that for the past several years the WX has been perfect. After discussing some of the things that went well — and many things went very well — we focused on what to do next year to make improvements. One major challenge the Bicycle Club faces next year will be a dramatic change in leadership for this event. There will be many new folks working in new positions. I have signed up to serve as the ham radio lead for this event, and would like to encourage all of you to help join me. It’s good for ham radio and good for our club.
I have been excited to see the number of requests that have come in to help build or rebuild antenna systems. For too long, most of our work has been to take aluminum down, and while we don’t mind the service, it is always more rewarding to help get new stuff in the air. When I first joined the club, we had a robust team of about 15 people who would be called upon to descend on a fellow ham’s house and have an “antenna party.” I am glad to see those days return.
Finally, congratulations to the Club on an outstanding Field Day achievement for 2015. This is the first FD I have missed in years. I had a good excuse, my daughter got married at the Grand Canyon that weekend. I do look forward to jumping back into the battle for 2016. In fact, I have already started fixing tents!
Meanwhile, my own shack remains in a state of shock. I have been re-engineering it for the umpti-umpth time, each time with new knowledge, insights and gear. It is just frustrating not be able to sit down, turn things on and expect it all to work flawlessly. I’m not there yet. And, yes, I know the answer…and it is one that I cannot spell. My wife tells me, I need to learn to say, “NO!” Well, what fun is there in that?? Hmmm, maybe I’ll practice here: No, I won’t rake the leaves and NO, I won’t clean the gutters, but, NO. I don’t think that is what she means!!
73, Rob K9RST