Posts Tagged ‘teaching. licensing’

A word of advice

This past Saturday, I served as a Volunteer Examiner at the finish line of a "Ham Cram". The Middlesex County Office of Emergency Management offered the day long session in order to allow CERT members from various municipalities throughout the county the chance to earn their Technician licenses. There were twelve participants, and at the end of the day, half of them had earned their licenses.

All of these people were all enthusiastic and determined to become Amateur Radio operators. So what went wrong? Why wasn't there a higher success rate? What went wrong was a lack of lead time and mis-communication.  Some had learned of the Ham Cram session only three days beforehand. The information about the session was directed to the participants through their local municipal OEM directors. Middlesex County OEM did their due diligence by sending out the information in plenty of time, but we all know that information that goes through the chain-of-command can travel particularly slowly, especially if the "powers that be" aren't all that familiar with the information they are passing on. Not realizing that this information was time sensitive proved to be a major handicap.

For those of you who are not familiar with the term, or the concept, a Ham Cram is defined as a six or more hour long session where prospective Hams are crammed with the info they need to earn their license.  Think of the all-nighters you may have endured before a particularly tough exam in college. The concept is the same.

The problem with the Ham Cram concept is that many people think they can walk into one as a blank page, and will then walk away as a book filled with all the knowledge they need to pass the license exam.

For the Ham Cram concept to work (and it works remarkably well if implemented correctly), the students need to get their hands on a license manual and read and study for six to eight weeks prior to the Cram session. The Ham Cram session educator needs something to work with. It's highly improbable that someone can walk "cold" off the street and earn their ticket after only six hours of cursory study - unless of course, you have a photographic memory.

Again, going back to the "all-nighter" session in college.  That exam prep marathon came after an entire semester of classes.  You were, in essence,  reviewing what you had hopefully learned throughout the proceeding months. We all know that if you waited until that evening to crack open a book, then you were toast.

Or if you want to think of it another way, the Ham Cram instructor is like a diamond cutter. With a raw diamond he can produce a work of art. Give him a piece of coal and he'll be out of his element. So if you know of a prospective Ham and he or she is talking about participating in a Ham Cram, then the sagest advice you can impart upon them is that they should begin the studying process WAY in advance (weeks/months).  Then they'll arrive at the Ham Cram as a rough diamond ready to be polished into a prized jewel.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

A word of advice

This past Saturday, I served as a Volunteer Examiner at the finish line of a "Ham Cram". The Middlesex County Office of Emergency Management offered the day long session in order to allow CERT members from various municipalities throughout the county the chance to earn their Technician licenses. There were twelve participants, and at the end of the day, half of them had earned their licenses.

All of these people were all enthusiastic and determined to become Amateur Radio operators. So what went wrong? Why wasn't there a higher success rate? What went wrong was a lack of lead time and mis-communication.  Some had learned of the Ham Cram session only three days beforehand. The information about the session was directed to the participants through their local municipal OEM directors. Middlesex County OEM did their due diligence by sending out the information in plenty of time, but we all know that information that goes through the chain-of-command can travel particularly slowly, especially if the "powers that be" aren't all that familiar with the information they are passing on. Not realizing that this information was time sensitive proved to be a major handicap.

For those of you who are not familiar with the term, or the concept, a Ham Cram is defined as a six or more hour long session where prospective Hams are crammed with the info they need to earn their license.  Think of the all-nighters you may have endured before a particularly tough exam in college. The concept is the same.

The problem with the Ham Cram concept is that many people think they can walk into one as a blank page, and will then walk away as a book filled with all the knowledge they need to pass the license exam.

For the Ham Cram concept to work (and it works remarkably well if implemented correctly), the students need to get their hands on a license manual and read and study for six to eight weeks prior to the Cram session. The Ham Cram session educator needs something to work with. It's highly improbable that someone can walk "cold" off the street and earn their ticket after only six hours of cursory study - unless of course, you have a photographic memory.

Again, going back to the "all-nighter" session in college.  That exam prep marathon came after an entire semester of classes.  You were, in essence,  reviewing what you had hopefully learned throughout the proceeding months. We all know that if you waited until that evening to crack open a book, then you were toast.

Or if you want to think of it another way, the Ham Cram instructor is like a diamond cutter. With a raw diamond he can produce a work of art. Give him a piece of coal and he'll be out of his element. So if you know of a prospective Ham and he or she is talking about participating in a Ham Cram, then the sagest advice you can impart upon them is that they should begin the studying process WAY in advance (weeks/months).  Then they'll arrive at the Ham Cram as a rough diamond ready to be polished into a prized jewel.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Rookie Roundup

The South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club ran a station for the ARRL Rookie Roundup today. While we ourselves were ineligible to operate, we did put out an invitation to all the newly licensed Technicians from our Fall and Winter classes to come out and get their feet wet in HF. The idea, of course, was to show them that there's a whole other world out there in Amateur Radio beyond what they hear on VHF/UHF.

Club member Dave KD2FSI, who qualifies as a Rookie by time, volunteered to set up the station. I say Dave qualifies as a Rookie by time, because by the rules of the contest, he does - he was licensed less than three years ago. However, he is certainly not a Rookie by experience. He has already upgraded to General and is a very busy Ham, diving headfirst into many different facets of the hobby, portable operations being one of his favorite. I wish I could take credit for steering him in that direction, but Dave discovered that joy on his own, without my help.


We had agreed to meet at Putnam Park in town at Noon, in order to set up for the 2:00 PM start. By the time I got there, Dave already had things quite well in hand.

Marv K2VHW and Drew W2OU served with distinction in the coaching perspective. Marv is quite the instructor. He has a gift and a natural talent for teaching and was able to make our Rookies feel like Old Pros in no time.


Here's a picture of Marv explaining to Mario the ins and outs of making a SSB Contest QSO. Mario made his very first HF QSO today, and the process was amazing to watch. The first few QSOs were halting and tentative, but due to Marv's excellent guidance, Mario was having a blast within short order.


Within a short amount of time, our Rookies were able to handle QSO and logging chores while we stood in the background as control operators for NJ2SP.

The opportunity seemed golden. HF operating under portable ops conditions. With QRPTTF next weekend, how could I not bring the QRP gear along? It's always good to perform a test run, no?

I bungeed my 31' Jackite pole to a nearby post and set up the EARCHI antenna as a sloper.In between my stints as an HF coach, I went to town working stations on 20, 17, 15 and 10 Meters. A lot of the contacts were MM contest QSOs, but there was one ragchew in there, also. I worked

9A7R
ZW8T
OX3XR
CO8EH
WD4MSM - ragchew
KP2F
TM9B
EG8TRV - Special Event Station
HA8VK

Not bad for the time I had, in between helping with QSO procedures, serving as a helping set of ears, and talking with some of our other newly licensed Techs about equipment, making recommendations, etc.

The Rookies had a blast as well. 10 Meters was open to Texas and the West Coast and our newbies were amazed that "talking to a guy in Idaho" was as easy as talking to a guy on the local 2 Meter repeater - and that the guy in Idaho sounded better than the guy on the 2 Meter repeater!

In all it was a fun day. I'm not sure who had more fun - our new Techs in getting their feet wet in HF, or us veterans watching their fun and excitement. It was definitely rewarding, and I hope we pushed some people a little more deeper into this fine hobby.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Ring that school bell!

Our second Technician License class started last evening. This time, instead of being open to just the "public", this one is primarily intended for the Clark, NJ CERT Team. Drew W2OU, Marv K2VHW and yours truly met with, introduced ourselves to, and began the process of instructing 15 potential new Hams.


It's always fun and exciting to be with a group of people who show genuine interest in Amateur Radio, as was the case last night. All of these folks showed enthusiasm and curiosity and an eagerness to learn.

 That's Marv K2VHW on the left and W2LJ on the right. 
Notice the coffee cup - gotta have cup of coffee before class, after a long day at work!

We will become "buddies" over the course of the next seven Tuesday evenings, and hopefully after that, we will add more people to the ranks of Amateur Radio.

And if the teaching gig isn't enough, I was thinking of home brewing a magnetic loop this winter. My line of thinking is that I could build one for let's say 40-10 Meters. From what I understand they're not huge. Then, when it gets really frosty in the basement, I could just set the loop up on the main floor and operate temporarily from the dining room table or something like that.  Just a thought, though, as funds are kinda tight.  I have some spare coax (enough for a loop), and I think the only expense at this point would be the tuning capacitor. It doesn't need to be one of those expensive vacuum jobs, so maybe I can find something reasonable on eBay.

My inspiration for this has been Greg, N4KGL. I've been following his posts on Google+ and through his blog.  He seems to be having so much success with his loop that it seems like a worthwhile endeavor. That, and the fact that I feel like building something.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Joy and Disappointment

Last night, our Technician Licensing class formally came to an end.  We held a VE Session which was at once extremely gratifying and at the same time, bittersweet.

It was a bit of a whirlwind evening for me, so I'm a bit shaky on the numbers. Of the 16 student we started with, about 10 showed up for exams last night.  Two couldn't make it due to doctor appointments and one get held up at work. What happened to the other three is beyond me. I had everyone's e-mail and was sending out regular announcements. These three individuals haven't come to class for the last couple of weeks.  There was no indication of a lack of interest, or lack of understanding the material - so maybe it's been personal issues.  Life happens, we all know that, and most people are reluctant to talk about their circumstances.

Everyone who turned out last night earned their Technician class licenses with the exception of two.  The two who missed, missed by very little - the bittersweet part.  Just about everyone who passed took a stab at the General, and one actually earned it.  That was very gratifying.

We have decided to hold another VE session this Saturday morning at 8:00 AM at the EOC.  The people who couldn't make it last night will get their opportunity. The people who missed get the chance to dust themselves off and give it another go.  And maybe some will return for a second crack at upgrading to General.

Everyone was invited to the monthly South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club meeting tonight. The real "Elmering", the real teaching starts now. It's one thing to help someone to get their license. It's another thing entirely to transform these newbie Hams into confident, knowledgeable, content and active Amateur Radio operators.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


For any readers from the greater NYC region

The following came from Mike Lisenco NY2BB, our ARRL Hudson Division Director:

Gordon "Gordo" West, WB6NOA, author, lecturer and creator of many Ham Radio study guides and related products will be in town this weekend and next week. 

He will be at KJI Electronics this weekend, where he will be holding Technician and General Class license review classes followed by an exam session.  Advanced registration is required as space is limited.  Go to www.kjielectronics.com for more information.

He is the scheduled guest speaker at the Suffolk County Radio Club Meeting on Tuesday, November 18 at 7:00 PM (Time change! From 8:00 PM to 7:00 PM!).  Guests are always welcome so feel free to attend:

Grace Lutheran Church
240 Mastic Road
Mastic Beach, NY

For more information, the club website is: http://suffolkcountyradioclub.net/

He will also be at the Great South Bay Amateur Radio Club on Thursday November 20th at 8:00 PM:

Babylon Town Hall
220 East Sunrise Highway
Lindenhurst, NY. 

Talk-in on the W2GSB repeater 146.685 MHz 110.9 HZ PL For more info go to the club website: http://www.gsbarc.org/

This information appears too good not to share - so I re-posted.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Review session

The last class of our Technician License course was held last night. We had what I guess you could call a review session.  Drew W2OU provided me with two practice exams, which I printed out and distributed to the class members.  We treated last night as the actual exam session. So not only did they get practice, but they also now know what to expect for next week.

After each exam was completed, we went over the tests together as a group.  It appears that on both exams, no one got more than six answers incorrect.  Since a passing grade allows for nine incorrect answers, it would appear that we are looking at a bunch of new Amateur Radio ops as of next Tuesday night.


To break things up a bit, we showed an Amateur Radio video in between the two exams. In all, I thought last night's session was exceptional. Our class members have proven to be eager, bright, inquisitive, and open to what we have been presenting to them.

It has been an honor and a privilege to work with them, as well as with my two fellow instructors, Marv K2VHW and Drew W2OU.  These two are amazing Amateur Radio ops and have an amazing amount of experience behind them.  The fact that Marv K2VHW is a retired broadcast engineer from WABC with a couple of Emmy Awards under his belt doesn't hurt, either!

I am looking forward to next week, and I just sent the group a final e-mail, detailing what to bring next week and basically telling how proud of them that we are. It's great to be able to help increase the ranks of Amateur Radio.  I also reminded them to relax. This is supposed to be fun, and besides, in the scheme of things, it's not like we're looking to cure cancer or end world hnger.

Oh, and by the way, I did work John K4BAI in Georgia, one of the 40 Meter Foxes last night.  I tried to work Kevin W9CF in Arizona, but I think the good props between NJ and AZ were over by the time I got home and wolfed down dinner. I see from his Fox log that Kevin worked some NJ stations, but that was while I was still in class.  By the time I was trying to work him, he was 229 - 339 at best and I just couldn't make myself be heard. There is nothing more frustrating than calling a station who is sending a CQ in the clear, only to have them resume calling CQ after you send your call!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

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