Posts Tagged ‘RSGB’

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?

Contact with Tim Peake on a handheld.

And a happy new year to you too.

Today was a great day. I wanted to listen in on the ISS as it flew past and especially the contact that Tim Peake was going to have with Sandringham School in St. Albans.

The pass was scheduled for 8:47am and I decided that I would share my experiences of listening in and also show you all how easy it is to accomplish with nothing more than just a handheld radio.

Today I used my Yaesu VX8. only because it was the only radio charged up. The fact is that any 2m FM radio will be able to listen in on the ISS and other amateur satellites that fly overhead.

Anyway here is the video, I hope you enjoy it. And yes. It really was very very cold.


Contact with Tim Peake on a handheld.

And a happy new year to you too.

Today was a great day. I wanted to listen in on the ISS as it flew past and especially the contact that Tim Peake was going to have with Sandringham School in St. Albans.

The pass was scheduled for 8:47am and I decided that I would share my experiences of listening in and also show you all how easy it is to accomplish with nothing more than just a handheld radio.

Today I used my Yaesu VX8. only because it was the only radio charged up. The fact is that any 2m FM radio will be able to listen in on the ISS and other amateur satellites that fly overhead.

Anyway here is the video, I hope you enjoy it. And yes. It really was very very cold.


Acorn II – Buildathon instructions

For those who have not seen the Arcorn II SDR kit, you can now purchase the complete kit for just £29.95 from www.kanga-products.co.uk The kit is an excellent entry into SDR receivers and we will be featuring this kit as a a part of the 2015 buildathon at the RSGB convention.

To aide the construction, I have created a set of instructions that may help with anyone who is building this little kit. You can download the PDF here,  There are significantly more pages than the Kanga instructions, but for a group construction project we find that lots of space and easy to follow instructions are a great help.

And if you haven't seen the construction video - here it is again.





Acorn II – Buildathon instructions

For those who have not seen the Arcorn II SDR kit, you can now purchase the complete kit for just £29.95 from www.kanga-products.co.uk The kit is an excellent entry into SDR receivers and we will be featuring this kit as a a part of the 2015 buildathon at the RSGB convention.

To aide the construction, I have created a set of instructions that may help with anyone who is building this little kit. You can download the PDF here,  There are significantly more pages than the Kanga instructions, but for a group construction project we find that lots of space and easy to follow instructions are a great help.

And if you haven't seen the construction video - here it is again.





Hamfest HAB Launch likely to be postponed to Saturday

Given the latest flight path prediction, weather forecast and approval restrictions I will unfortunately have to likely postpone the National Hamfest high altitude balloon till Saturday.

The forecast for tomorrow is strong gusty winds at ground level which isn't ideal for launching, but that is the least of the issues.

The current flight predictions for tomorrow are not good. The prediction model used is accurate and for the size of balloon I have and the amount of helium at my disposal even a maximum fill giving the maximum ascent rate and assuming the calculated decent rate for the parachute it is still putting the likely landing right on the coast. Earlier in the week the landing wasn't quite as marginal but as the model's data set have been updated it has drifted further eastward, it is odds on it will actually land out to sea.

However the real show stopper was when I received the CAA approval for the launch this morning. They have put a restriction not permitting a launch if the balloon and payload is likely to go on a North Easterly or Easterly path that could interfere with operations on local military airfields.

This is the predicted flight path, generated by the CUSG Landing predictor at predict.habhub.org and the flight path currently goes directly over RAF Cranwell but not at a high enough altitude. 

Flight prediction for Friday
Saturday is forecast to be a much calmer day with a predicted path as shown below

Flight prediction for Saturday

There would be no issues with the airfields for that flight path and has the advantage of going almost straight up and landing close by.

Apologies to those wanting to track on Friday, but the situation is out of my control and I would be foolhardy to ignore the prediction and  it is very unlikely it will change significantly to allow a flight tomorrow so I hope you can all track on Saturday. I will still be at the Hamfest tomorrow with the equipment if you want to know more about what it is all about.


Hamfest HAB Launch likely to be postponed to Saturday

Given the latest flight path prediction, weather forecast and approval restrictions I will unfortunately have to likely postpone the National Hamfest high altitude balloon till Saturday.

The forecast for tomorrow is strong gusty winds at ground level which isn't ideal for launching, but that is the least of the issues.

The current flight predictions for tomorrow are not good. The prediction model used is accurate and for the size of balloon I have and the amount of helium at my disposal even a maximum fill giving the maximum ascent rate and assuming the calculated decent rate for the parachute it is still putting the likely landing right on the coast. Earlier in the week the landing wasn't quite as marginal but as the model's data set have been updated it has drifted further eastward, it is odds on it will actually land out to sea.

However the real show stopper was when I received the CAA approval for the launch this morning. They have put a restriction not permitting a launch if the balloon and payload is likely to go on a North Easterly or Easterly path that could interfere with operations on local military airfields.

This is the predicted flight path, generated by the CUSG Landing predictor at predict.habhub.org and the flight path currently goes directly over RAF Cranwell but not at a high enough altitude. 

Flight prediction for Friday
Saturday is forecast to be a much calmer day with a predicted path as shown below

Flight prediction for Saturday

There would be no issues with the airfields for that flight path and has the advantage of going almost straight up and landing close by.

Apologies to those wanting to track on Friday, but the situation is out of my control and I would be foolhardy to ignore the prediction and  it is very unlikely it will change significantly to allow a flight tomorrow so I hope you can all track on Saturday. I will still be at the Hamfest tomorrow with the equipment if you want to know more about what it is all about.



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