The Thrill of wireless

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Mainly the blog contains Amateur Radio information stuff collected from varies Ham Radio sites and provided to the people who want's to be a Ham

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Saturday, 17 November 2012

Students call CQ: Area students keep ham radio alive

Parker Jones, left, works the radio, while Slade Jeppesen looks on, and Andrew Farmer and Ron Call work on the computer next to the radio as part of the ham radio club Monday afternoon at Madison High School.
 REXBURG — How many parents have worried about their children talking to strangers? In one club at Madison High School, talking to strangers is encouraged.
    These strangers just happen to be living around the world, and the ham radio club at Madison High School is listening for them. The club is making it possible for a group of seniors and budding amateur radio operators air time, and they are taking advantage to make contacts in around the globe.
    This past Monday, a group of five seniors gathered around the radio, searching for someone to talk to, or at least listen to.
    Parker Jones was on the dial, scrolling through the frequencies, while Slade Jeppesen looked over his shoulder. William Johnson and Andrew Farmer looked through the computer next to the radio, helped by their advisor and teacher, Ron Call. They were searching for stations around the world to contact.
    All of these students have technician licenses. But the most experienced and highest licensed operator in the club was sitting behind them watching the boys work. That would also be the only girl in the club, Madchen Franson.
    What’s the toughest part about being the only girl in what seems like a boys club? That would be getting on the radio.
    “If these guys let me,” Franson said.
    She got her first license with her mom, who had heard about ham radio as part of emergency preparedness. After getting her technician license, she got her general license in April. That was when the rest of the Madison club got their technician licenses.
    With a general license, Franson has more options as an operator.
    “It opens up many more frequencies that you’re allowed to use,” Franson said. “I can choose what I want to, but we keep it here.”
    That would be on the smaller range of frequencies that technician licensed operators can use. Franson’s first contact was to an operator off the coast of Africa, on the island of Madeira
    “She was a little nervous, it took her a few tries, but it was her very first contact,” Call said.
    William Johnson has also made a first contact with an amateur radio operator in Georgia.
    Call says the club and his tech classes provide a great hands-on learning environment for those interested in electronics, engineering and computers
The classes started seven years ago with a small amount of funding scraped together by principal Rodger Hampton.
    Since then, after Call had been certified through Idaho State University to teach the technical classes, the program has grown from one class a year to a three-year program and the funding is through the state. Call is a science teacher by training, but with his certification now splits his time between teaching AP biology and the tech classes.
    “The kids that I get for the second and third year, they are very dedicated,” Call said.
    The ham radio club’s funding comes from members of the community through the Madison Education Foundation. That funding allowed Call to purchase a used radio, transceiver and signal booster.
    His senior class built the antenna, which was only hung outside the building about a month ago. The antenna is a wire, more than 100 feet long, and it hangs suspended from two walls outside of Call’s classroom.
    “Most of the signal will radiate to the northeast and to the southwest, which gives us great propagation into Europe and into say, Australia and the Pacific,” Call said.
    The radio is only 100 watts, but that’s enough power for the 40-meter waves that bounce through the atmosphere, reflecting off the ionosphere and the surface of the earth, around the globe.
“It amazes me and the kids are amazed, with 100 watts of power, you can talk to people in Europe and the Pacific,” Call said.
    And with those 40-meter waves, even though the antenna is right next to a brick wall, it’s as if the school wasn’t even there.
    “That’s the nice part about using the frequencies we’re using, the building’s not going to be any interference at all,” Call said.
    There is one thing that Call is concerned about when it comes to the future of the club.
    “It’s an older machine and I’m afraid if it has problems I’m not going to get replacement parts for it,” he said. “So I’m actually writing a grant right now to try to get new equipment.”
    The American Radio Relay League has a grant that Call is looking for, but he is also looking to see if there are more members of the community who want to keep the club going for years to come with donations for a newer radio. But even if the club doesn’t get more donations for a new radio, members of the community are invited to use the equipment, because it was members of the community who paid for the radio.
    “Of course, anybody that’s interested from the community wants to come over and be involved, it’s not just for the students,” Call said. “People from the community are welcome to come over and be a part of the ham radio club.”
    But they’ll probably have the same hard time that Franson does when it comes to getting air time — the line to use the radio, Call said.
    “That’s the hard part.”

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