I just returned from a brief visit up to our Boy Scout Camp, MaKaJaWan in Pearson WI, about an hour and half from Green Bay. So it’s kind of a drive. This camp serves the scouts from the Northeast Illinois Council, primarily our North Shore, but it also attracts many scouts from neighboring councils. In fact, this year, there were some visiting scouts from England. They were at the EAA show in Oshkosh and were looking for a camp to extend their stay. Years ago, when I was Scoutmaster, these were the weeks I would take our troop to camp and I remember the times well. I often would drag out my trusty ICOM 706 and would talk late at night to hams around the country from our rugged little campsite. The boys were generally impressed, although many had cell phones that could wrap ham radio around its ear bud…however, turns out, cell phones don’t work well at camp! (Hmmm sounds like a familiar story, thank Goodness! Peace and quiet.) So, after the activities of the days die down, and the boys are starting to settle in for a night’s sleep, it was a great time to fire up the rig. It was really a great deal of fun introducing them to ham radio. Fade out, fade in.
Today, the camp has adopted a program to support youth interested in STEM activities, and the NSRC has contributed a couple of rigs and some other equipment to the cause. The radio course is taught by one of the camp counselors, who has a license and is supported by a number of visiting adults who drop in during the summer to demonstrate how radio works. The course work is really an introduction to ham radio. They attract about 60 scouts to the program every year.
The station is located in the heart of East Camp, right next door to the most popular place at camp…the Trading Post (read: ice cream and candy bars). So, you always have a bunch of curious folks gathering around the place. When I was up there this week, I fired up the rigs and had some nice conversations with some folks on 20…40 was miserable (and to be sure conditions in general were pretty bad). I could barely hear Don Whiteman, KK9H, and we had to be less than 100 miles apart. The boys were filled with a zillion questions, as usual, but they quickly could see how the technology could have some use….and could be fun.
As I was leaving camp, I was reflecting on the many wonderful young people (yes, there are some girls in Scouting too) that I met this week. Scouting attracts some very bright kids and camp seems to bring out the very best in them all. Camp is a very friendly village. Everyone waves and says hello. Everyone has a bright smile on their face. Yes, it is kind of a throwback to another time, when terrorists or idiots with weapons weren’t lurking behind every bush. Here, in the free air, under the stars, people can let their guard down. That is when it hit me just how critical it is for us as a club and for me as an individual, to keep trying to demonstrate this technology to the young folks. I know many of you got into radio because you had to complete the Morse code requirements for First Class rank (I know I did). They have since dropped that requirement, but Scouting and ham radio have been partners for years, and the relationship has not diminished. In fact, it may have become even more important. We must continue to inspire the next generation so that they can better solve some of the enormous challenges that our generation has left on the table. Ham radio is a gateway to many things, science, technology, friendship, a simple old-fashioned conversation. I learned a while back that the best teacher is example. The more people see us ham radio operators, as they watch how we communicate with each other, the more the values that bind us together as a community will be shared by these young people as well. There is a formality to ham radio that might seem anachronistic to some, but is at the heart of what young people are seeking as well. So, my point is simply this: teach your children well. (Thank you, Crosby Stills and Nash).
So, thank you to the NSRC for supporting this great cause and now, join me in sharing with others the thrill of amateur radio.
73, Rob K9RST