Posts Tagged ‘Amateur Radio Clubs’

Yep, Winterfest Got Their Windfall!

The hamfest held each year in the St. Louis suburb of Collinsville, IL is called Winterfest. I blogged earlier about the hamfest getting a windfall this year in adding to their growing set of Forums and other programs on contesting and so forth by welcoming the Wes Schum Symposium. Here’s how the Winterfest 2020 Chair described this past January’s events:

The St. Louis & Suburban Radio Club Winterfest has added some great events from previous years. We have added floor space to include Education Alley, doubled our forums and increased our operating hours to 4pm. In addition to these changes, Winterfest has been selected as the ARRL Midwest Conference for 2020. The weekend starts on Friday January 24th with the W9DYV Radio Symposium during the day and a DX/ARRL banquet that evening. Saturday January 25th Winterfest kicks off at 8 a.m. with the opening of the sales floor, VE testing, all day topical Forums, and Contest College starting at 1 p.m. with 10 plus hours of contesting forums and discussion hosted by top area contesters. We invite all hams to come to Winterfest for a weekend of Amateur Radio fun.

Rebecca Carroll, Winterfest 2020 Committee Chair

Kyle Krieg AA0Z, President of SLSRC, and Rebecca KC9CIJ sent me the numbers from the hamfest. They were up 20 percent from the previous year! Wow! How many local or regional hamfests can report that “windfall” in attendance? I don’t have the numbers for that but I don’t think there’d me too many but it’s unfortunate that we don’t have a national set of numbers on hamfest attendance. Hmm. ARRL, if you’re listening, I hope you find those 30,000 hamfest attendance numbers…too soon, Lol?

Nick Tusa K5FF, who chairs the Wes Schum Symposium each year, sent me a list of pre-registered attendees for that specific part of Winterfest 2020. He said that there were a considerable number of walk-up registrants so his list is an under-estimate of this year’s actual attendance. I’ve prepared a map illustrating the “draw” to the Symposium this year in Collinsville (marked with a + sign). If we ignore the extreme distant pre-registrants, it appears to represent the market potential map I created in my previous blog post about where Winterfest could draw from in the coming years. It’s unfortunate that Winterfest per se does not record the call signs of those paid attendees so we could see where their market draw looks like. Perhaps next year!

Map of only Symposium Pre-Registrants

The 8th W9DYV’s Amateur Radio Symposium wrap-up with video of the presentations can be found at the Central Electronics website. They are well worth watching! They include (with embedded links to the video):

Windfall for Winterfest 2020? Yep. A 20 percent bump certainly suggests that. Our public relations contributing to that? Yes, but even though there were a lot of eyes seeing both the AmateurRadio.com syndication and the QRZ.com front page articles, it’s a stretch to make such claims and I do not, at all. But our discussions on what Rebecca and her team had planned as well as what Nick was doing by moving the Symposium to Collinsville, IL certainly did not hurt! The fundamentals are the hard work, ingenuity, and willingness to plan for a hamfest that hams would enjoy should they decide to attend. That’s always the case. But it can help if you wave your arms—or get others to wave theirs on your behalf—and let folks know about what you’re planning. Keep an eye out for the St. Louis & Suburban Radio Club’s website for next year. I hear they’re already at work lining up a terrific banquet speaker!

Attracting Youth to Ham Radio: Get Out of Their Way!

Amateur radio has a demographic problem. In the U.S., there is a clear belief that members of the hobby are old. And getting older. What that means in actual age distribution just isn’t known. Unfortunately, our “visions of gray” are based not upon accurate scientific measurement but on the assembled impressions we get through our personal “windshields” as we go about our daily travels. It’s standard convention to hear us hams urge everyone in hearing or reading range: we need to get more young people into amateur radio!

But whose amateur radio? The extant one driven by us largely gray-haired middle-aged to geezer-dom adult (men)? Yep, that’s the one generally being referred to in this wisdom. Our collective strategy amounts to getting them to come to “us.” How’s that working out for us? Given that our knickers are a bit tangled up over the issue, I’d say not so good.

Lee Corso, the curmudgeonly ESPN television sports announcer, is famous for his Not So Fast! comment when he questions another view or approach to the featured college football game being broadcast. Our attempts to bring new, young hams to our clubs is, in principle, admirable and understandable. But how is that working? Imagine a hobby dominated by young people. Say, competitive eSports (video games). We geezer-dom adults are approached to come to a teen-driven club, learn about it, and then join to continue to attend each month. How many readers would find that appealing? I’d bet not that many.

Not so fast, says Lee Corso!

My recent interview in Episode 319 of the ICQ Podcast with Graham Brody KD9NTQ illustrates the clear market failure that this singular “come to us” approach has yielded. Graham’s interview suggests that while this is a good outreach program for many young prospective hams, it’s not enough to engage them broadly. And, it simply does not reach the market where the most likely candidates are socially engaged. Instead, Graham says help them get started…and get out of their way!

Graham KD9NTQ started the Illinois Young Ham Club to engage young people to converse about ham radio and grow into the hobby. We should listen to him and learn what one approach is to do what we collectively tell one another must happen. Talk is cheap. The walk, well, is just more effort. I’ll let you listen to my interview with him for the nuances of the details. But here are some bullet points that are take-away strategies.

  • Do encourage young people to get involved with adult-driven ham clubs. But then encourage, sponsor and assist them to create their own youth-driven groups. Get out of their way but be available to help when called upon!
  • Rich environments for exposing young people, both male and female, to amateur radio lie in Maker Spaces and Gamer Groups. Seek out, especially, maker spaces which tend to be advertised in local communities. Clubs should offer to give a demo—not longer than 30 minutes—without a lecture but with an actual demonstration of amateur radio operations.
  • ARRL and RSGB should “tag” youth-driven or youth-oriented clubs in their Find-A-Club databases. Graham found the North Shore ARC in the Find A Club database. The Illinois Young People Ham Club, for instance, should be tagged as a youth club as should any others. ALL ARRL-affiliated clubs should report annually the number of members who are less than 25 years of ago so the League can track them. This should be a bench-mark metric to gauge progress in recruiting youth into amateur radio and the League itself. (To my knowledge, the ARRL is doing nothing released publicly to track youth members or contacts.)
  • ARRL should offer a “build a club” set of actions to help young inquirers to the League start their own club. They will want to engage with others of a similar age range, Graham says, and the League should explicitly foster that activity, perhaps matching them with an existing adult-driven club for assistance. Be there if asked but get out of their way when they are enjoying the hobby! Walking the walk here as the League has already been talking the talk.
  • Should the ARRL and RSGB buy adverts (or give ad swaps) in gaming magazines, promoting ham radio contesting as a greater challenge? Yes! Track the “how did you find out about us” using conventional “use this code” tags in the adverts. If one thinks they’ll just run across QST at their local Barnes & Nobles, they are very sadly mistaken. Graham bumped into ham radio on Youtube!
  • Help them get launched. Get out of their way. They will grow into mid-adulthood and join our extant adult-driven clubs. Plant the seed. And get out of their way!

It is unfortunate that many organizations are heavily imbued with a “not invented here” mindset. That is challenging for outsiders to the inner circle of power to break through. See the thread and comment by W9WHE on eHam.net regarding the ARRL, for instance. There are many other examples of this opinion regarding the League. I suppose similar comments could be made about the RSGB, of which I am also a member. But whether “invented” by the central staff or Board of either organization, this teenager has given us a general road map to reaching young people, both boys and girls, similar to him: interested in technology but had to run across something called “amateur radio” on YouTube rather than the explicit efforts of the League. Quit talking without walking.

Graham’s a leader at age 15 already, just won his Extra license, and clearly has an understanding of many of these issues. We have to resist the conjuring up of all the reasons of why they won’t work from a geezer-dom world view. Well, a guy like me can dream, right?

Plant the Seed! Sow the Future

There is much rhetoric in amateur radio about getting more people into the hobby. Especially young people. The ARRL has a Teachers Institute which reflects the conventional “train-the-trainer” model of getting K-12 school teachers (mostly) into ham radio in order to expose their students to the fun and learning. The challenge of this is that it’s quite small, even when effective.

Moreover, clubs face increasing challenges simply getting into schools, particularly public schools, to offer programs to students. It doesn’t take much imagination for a school administrator to evaluate the typical proposition. Hmm, a group of usually old guys want to spend time with students during or after school to talk about something called “ham radio.” I can say no and that’s that. I have no consequences in my decision. I can say yes but I need to do background checks to rule out folks on some nefarious list, find a teacher who will stay with them to watch over the process, deal with space requests and insurance liability (“Can we put up an antenna permanently?”) and so forth. If something bad happens, I have to deal with that and I could get demoted or worse, fired. Which option would you most likely take if you were the administrator and not a licensed amateur radio operator yourself? I have only spoken with a few Principals and Superintendents but I was told by these career professionals that this is likely to occur in many instances. It varies, of course, but this does illustrate the vagaries of getting programs from outside into schools these days.

Visiting the library remains the most common cultural activity Americans engage in, by far.

Gallup Poll Report, 2019

The ARRL and other EmComm groups often use the term, “served agency,” to indicate an agency or organization needing specific attention by amateur radio groups. We have yet to implement a similar perspective or approach for educational outreach, from everything I’ve read. Schools can be one. But so can public libraries. In fact, Gallup just reported from one of their surveys that “Visiting the library remains the most common cultural activity Americans engage in, by far.” Visits to libraries were 10.5 per year in 2019 which exceeds eight other leisure time activities. Library visits were about double annual visits to movies (5.3 per year).

The number of public libraries in 2016 (latest year data is available, covering 98% of the total public libraries in the U.S.) is more than 17,000 central libraries, branches, and bookmobiles in more than 9,000 public library systems. According to my analysis of the 2016 data, this includes a median of 122 children’s program per year, which means at least one half of the 9,000 or so public library systems had at least that many programs directed toward children. (This includes 205 that reported having zero programs directed towards children.) There is potential here!

Public libraries may well be a more efficient “served agency” within which to reach children, young adults and older persons in communities as compared to schools. I do not make this argument to lessen the attempts to get amateur radio curriculum and experiences into schools but simply want to emphasize the untapped potential that the Public Library System has for reaching the public to promote amateur radio.

Which Section can get the most libraries served by constituent ARRL Affiliated Clubs donating the League’s 10-book Library Set to libraries near them?

David Norris K5UZ ARRL Delta Division Director

Starting with the ARRL Louisiana Section Convention in Minden LA last December and continuing to last weekend’s Mississippi Section Convention in Jackson, Delta Division Director David Norris K5UZ and I created a new program just announced in Jackson. It’s the Plant the Seed! Initiative. It’s being rolled-out in the four Sections comprising the Delta Division as a Director’s Challenge to the Section Managers. Which Section can get the most libraries served by constituent ARRL Affiliated Clubs donating the League’s 10-book Library Set to libraries near them? The League offers these book sets, including the two big ones (Handbook, Antenna Handbook), for $200 including shipping. The contents and offer description from the ARRL website is as follows:

ARRL LIBRARY BOOK SET
Special money saving offer! This book set includes popular ARRL publications, intended for clubs or individuals that wish to make a gift to a local library or school. Only complete sets of these publications are available at the special price of $200 per set. Price includes ground shipping throughout the 48 contiguous states, only. Call for other shipping options. Editions sent will be those available at the time the order is received. Publications and prices are subject to change without notice. This special offer applies only to orders purchased directly from ARRL. Orders must be pre-paid.

ARRL No. Title Value (Retail Price)
 4050    ARRL Handbook $49.95
 6948    ARRL Antenna Book $49.95
 5965    ARRL Operating Manual $29.95
 #9857   ARRL Satellite Handbook $24.95
 0977    Ham Radio License Manual $29.95
 8119    ARRL General Class License Manual $29.95
 5170    ARRL Extra Class License Manual $29.95
 0823    Understanding Basic Electronics $32.95
 0915    RFI Book $29.95
 8737    ARRL Instructor's Manual $19.95
 9728    Getting Started with Ham Radio $19.95
 1173    FCC Rules and Regulations $5.95
 7717    ARRL Map of the World (Azimuthal) $15.00

As David said in his announcement to Section Managers on Friday, “This Initiative has indeed already begun. The Mississippi Section’s affiliated club, the Central Mississippi Amateur Radio Association, has already obtained two (2) commitments: one from the Board who challenged the membership to match which they quickly did. Other clubs can quickly follow suit. As described below, the affiliated club membership numbers show that the donation per-member to reach the $200 goal is minimal, ranging from $1.46 to $40.00 in the Division with an average of $7.36 (median is $5.00). So, for the average price per-member of less than ten dollars, ARRL-affiliated clubs can plant the seed of amateur radio and sow the future of the hobby.” CMSARA’s two sets of book have already been delivered and the club has identified two area libraries that will receive them shortly.

The median contribution throughout the Delta Division of just $5 per club member can potentially reach many people in the community for years to come. I constructed a map using GIS software and databases to identify which club is nearest each public library. These are shown by (tan) lines below. Spreadsheets were then exported for each of the four Sections and, within each Section, each club. These files are stored online with a link included in David’s email to each SM in the Delta Division. The Section Manager can email the club contact using information in each club’s spreadsheet with their customized listing of potential “served libraries” nearest them. This makes it very easy for Section Managers and local clubs to consider the Initiative and take action without much spin-up on their end.

Map of Delta Division Clubs (Red) and nearest public libraries (Green) linked by lines (Tan)

Vice Director Ed Hudgens WB4RHQ added, “This is a very exciting Initiative that we are launching. It puts action in the hands of local ham groups who can easily make an impact in their communities with public libraries.” I’d have to agree with Ed’s sentiments. It’s not a vague idea to change the world waiting for “big things” to happen. The Plant the Seed! Initiative is something that for less than a pizza or hamburger lunch per member, a local club can get a broad set of books from the ARRL onto the shelves of a local public library. Getting a photo of the donation into the local newspaper wouldn’t be a bad thing for the club, either. I hope you’ll agree. You can spread the word by copying the logo I created for the Delta Division Initiative below and using it to promote the program in your club, section or Division. The Delta Division has already started and Malcolm’s (W5XX) Section is in the lead. You’re playing catch-up…but the competition is what this kind of “radiosport” is all about. And to Sow the Future of the amateur radio hobby.

Smoke & Solder Host to Kick-Off Banner Year of CMSARA Speakers

January 11, 2020. (Brandon, MS): For Immediate Release

Information Contact: Frank Howell K4FMH [email protected]

A fan favorite from the internationally known video podcast, Ham Nation, kicks off the 2020 programs for the Central Mississippi Amateur Radio Club. “We are delighted to have George Thomas W5JDX, star of the Solder Smoke segment on Ham Nation and founder of AmateurLogic.tv, give our first presentation on January 14, 2020,” said Frank Howell K4FMH, Vice President for Programming. Ham Nation Founder Bob Heil K9EID says that Smoke & Solder is by far the most popular segment of the show according to email and other feedback. George’s topic will be, “DIY Projects Using Arduino and Raspberry Pi,” beginning at 7:00pm at the Rankin County Extension Service and EOC Building. CMSARA President Quinton Frasier KW5TON added, “I’m excited to see George W5JDX in person this month at our meeting. It’s unusual that we could get him to give a live talk since he’s so busy with Ham Nation, Amateur Logic TV, and his day job of RF Engineer for many radio stations in the Central Mississippi area.”

George W5JDX is only the first well known ham to headline this year’s program agenda, added Frank K4FMH. “We will follow George with the prolific author, broadcaster, and ham radio operator Don Keith N4KC in February.” Don’s recent book, Firing Point, was made into a very popular movie, Hunter Killer, with others on the way. He is a prolific author of books about shortwave and amateur radio, one of which is The Amateur Radio Dictionary: The Most Complete Glossary of Ham Radio Terms Ever Compiled. Don’s February presentation via Skype will be on Ham Radio Lingo. Our year will backend with Rob Sherwood NC0B, producer of the Holy Grail of receiver measurement ratings, the Sherwood Tables. Rob’s talk, also via Skype, is titled, “How to Use My Tables.” These are very well-known amateur radio operators but we have much more during the year planned for presentations.

“We wanted to blend some well-known ham speakers that we do not regularly get to experience in a club setting with informative topics from both our own members and other area hams,” Frank K4FMH said. “I think we’ve done that.” Topics and speakers include operations on six meters (Mike Duke K5XU), WSPR (J.D. Toony K5HH), APRS (Mike McKay APRS), and digital modes on HF (Eddie Pettis N5JGK and Carolyn Irons KJ5RC). We will also cover preparing for contest operations (John Struemph  K1JHS), establishing basic test equipment on your workbench (Tom Brown AE5I) and a festival of pictures of CMSARA member shacks during a program called Shack Night!. Frank K4FMH said, “I’m very pleased to have area hams who are affiliated with the Jackson ARC and the Vicksburg ARC to deliver top flight presentations to our membership and meeting attendees.” The ability to have an interchange of ideas and experiences from area hams is a real benefit to maintaining a vibrant club.

CMSARA welcomes non-members, hams who are visiting the area, and groups from nearby cities to join us at the Rankin County Extension Service auditorium where we have plenty of seating, good audio-visual equipment, and Internet access. We keep the “business” end of our club to a minimum and include a half-hour of pre-program fellowship as well as after the program itself. VE Testing is available every month with the exceptions of June and December due to Field Day planning and our Christmas Party respectively. The club has periodically had car pools of hams from as far away as the Starkville and Columbus areas attend CMSARA programs.

J.D. Toony K5HH, Vice President of Special Events added, “This will be an exciting year for radio amateurs in the Central Mississippi area. Not only for this month program agenda but for the multiple outings we are planning, a group Field Day, our new involvement with the Girl Scouts program, and a new repeater Net for new hams.” CMSARA welcomes visitors so get a car pool together and come visit us! Our website at http://centralmsham.club has updated information as well as via our Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/CMSARA/), e-mail ([email protected]) and telephone (601-345-1654).The Central Mississippi Amateur Radio Association is a non-profit 501(c)(3) status Mississippi  corporation serving counties in the Central Mississippi area. We focus on promoting having fun within the hobby and serving our communities through emergency and public service communications. We meet monthly on the second Tuesday at the Rankin County Extension Service / EOC Building, 601 Marquette Road, Brandon, MS 39042. Contact us at 601-345-1654 or at [email protected] for additional information. Any program changes will be communicated via the club website and Facebook page.


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