Posts Tagged ‘Jackson Amateur Radio Club’

Initial Get S.M.A.R.T. @ the Library a Success

Our first Get S.M.A.R.T. @ the Library event last Saturday (March 2, 2024) was a success. The Jackson ARC is holding quarterly Get S.M.A.R.T. events at the Madison (MS) Branch over 2024. Held at the Madison (MS) Branch of the Madison County Library System, we had 13 participants. Four declared that they were committed to getting their Technician license. After Library staff welcomed the group and introduced me as ARRL Assistant Director for the Delta Division and JARC President, Jim AK5J, Board Member Clay AC5Z served as the EmCee for the session. As the picture below illustrates, some were on the edge of their seats learning about today’s amateur radio story!

We used the ARRL slide deck for the basic overview during the first hour. This material is very good for introducing amateur radio to the public from my reading. We did not use the video but will use that to review in our third event, as explained in more detail below. Clay AC5Z was the lead speaker for the first hour’s information. He began with a personal “war story” but his details made the point of our theme: this is NOT your father’s radio! Here’s a snippet of that segment.

This broad overview from the ARRL material was followed up in the second hour by localizing amateur radio to the Madison area. Using the map of hams created by Ross  KT1F, we first showed the famous Herman Munster segment operating in his basement as a ham. All in attendance had some recollection of this cartoon-ish description of hams. Afterwards, the point was made that licensed operators aren’t likely to be very scary. Many live nearby, often in an audience member’s own neighborhood! While all knew that Herman was a fictional character, this attacked head-on the notion that hams are “different” in negative ways. But no, they are a lot like you and may well live next door. This map localized the some 250 licensed hams in Madison County in a way that is not possible with mere words alone. It clearly and emphatically made the point that we needed to make with a high degree of audience enthusiasm. Here’s a screenshot of that map, centered on the Madison Branch Library.

This second hour was largely spent on several hams giving brief explanations on one of their respective specialties. Mike K5XU, a blind since birth ham of over 50 years who has a career in broadcasting, explained his use of Morse Code in his CW operations. He related his early experiences in the Mississippi School for the Blind where a librarian helped him get amateur radio materials to learn CW. Rick N5ZNL extolled his love of working satellites as the audience piled on the questions about this segment of the hobby that is growing in popularity. Rick’s enthusiasm was contagious in the group in attendance. I (Frank K4FMH) discussed my activity in building things, emphasizing transceivers packaged for portable operations. These include various transceivers, ranging from QRP-ish rigs to a 500w station in a Gator Case, and battery boxes to power them. Clay AC5Z discussed his using Arduino-based tools to construct an automatic satellite tracker device for a light-load satellite antenna. This set of brief (and I emphasize brief) comments about various specialties that local hams participate in were very effective tools to give public attendees a clear sense of what we do. Many had questions, asked with enthusiasm. I believe that they will tell others before the next meeting.


 

Librarians as Hams, Libraries having amateur radio “shacks”

In addition to hosting these Get S.M.A.R.T. events, the MCLS has announced a goal of having at least one library staffer at each county library branch licensed in the near future. Coinciding with this licensure plan, they will be obtaining a ham station at each branch with a licensed amateur radio operator on staff. We hope to assist MCLS in obtaining equipment for operating on both VHF/UHF as well as HF as this effort matures over the year. This addition to their “maker space” facility development is huge.

This commitment by the Library System was unexpected on my end. But it underscores the interest by libraries to catalyze their STEM programming efforts. With homeschooling being a significant and growing trend, local public libraries are also school libraries for some. STEM programming is a “thing” these days for public libraries as they try to better serve their market. In Madison County (MS), they see a local amateur radio club like JARC being a highly valued partner in this effort. So much so that they are willing to get staff licensed, equipment acquired and installed, and give demonstrations for library patrons. Add bringing in JARC members for enhanced instruction and there’s a winning combination.

In our next Saturday Morning Amateur Radio Time (S.M.A.R.T.) event at the Madison Branch Library, we will conduct an activation behind the library using their Garden area. It has a permanent Gazebo and fixed picnic tables with seating. There are tall trees. This is planned for early May when the weather is more predictable here in Central Mississippi. We may promote this as a field test for “Libraries on the Air (LiOTA)” but I haven’t firmly decided on that. This activity will give attendees a chance to see amateur radio in action and participate themselves under a control operator. We will have HF stations operating CW, SSB and FT8 along with a VHF/UHF rig talking to local repeaters and Rick N5ZNL waving his Arrow antenna toward the sky for satellite contacts. Rumor has it that hot dogs, potato chips, and a cold drink may be available. Hmm. Should the event be titled, “All that Ham Radio—and a Bag of Chips“?

The final two Get SMART events will be back in the Library meeting room during late summer and fall. I’ll have a better sense of the topics that will be most effective then, after the activation event. We hope to have a summer Technician training and testing class in the Library, as four declared their commitment as well as library staff who are interested.

This year-long cycle, managed by the Jackson ARC in concert with my efforts as ARRL Delta Division Assistant Director, will tell us a great deal about how to partner with public libraries as a “served educational agency” to reach the public. Thus far, I could not have asked for a better partnership than with the MCLS and the JARC.


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