Posts Tagged ‘teaching. licensing’

Priorities

Tonight is the beginning of the 2014/2015 QRP Fox Hunt Season. Yay!


I may not be there for a huge part of it. Boo!

But as always, there is a bright side, so this is not a "pity party". As the Hunt starts tonight, I  will be with Marv K2VHW and Drew W2OU as we hold "Review Night" for our Technician License Class students.  Next Tuesday is the Big Night and after that, I should be able to participate in the Hunts until January. Beginning in January, we will be starting another Technician License Class for the Clark, NJ Office of Emergency Management, who has CERT members wanting to earn their tickets. Ergo, no Fox duty for me this year - there's just too many slots that I would not be able to fill. I will have to be content with being a Hound, with limited hunting time, at that.

So the bright side is ushering new Hams into the fold.  Even if a majority of the Clark CERT members become "emergency communicators" only, there is always a chance that the hobby will grab on hold to some of these individuals and they will come to enjoy Amateur Radio for Amateur Radio's sake. And that is what we old veteran Hams live for.

That's another reason why, during these classes, we try as hard as we can to impress upon the students the MANY facets of Amateur Radio, whether it be DXing, rag chewing, CW, kit building, restoring antique radios, digital communications, satellites, VHF/UHF, contesting ........ whatever. The list is almost endless and there's sure to be something of interest for just about everyone.

Now for tonight.  The QRP Fox Hunts run from 9:00 to 10:30 PM EST (local time). I should get home around 9:30 or 9:45 PM.  Assuming I take the time to wolf down (pun intended) something for dinner, that will leave me roughly 30 - 45 minutes to grab a scent, and find and work two Foxes.  Think I can do it? Wish me luck (and propagation!).

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



Reaching the halfway point

At the conclusion of tonight's SPARC Technician License course, we will have reached the halfway point.  Four sessions down with four to go and then the exams on the night of November 18th.  There is soooo much to cover and so many questions to answer.  Each session is supposed to end at 9:00 PM but except for one, they have all gone over.

In between classes, our students are supposedly doing their reading and we advised them to really begin with the online tests, if they haven't already.  They know enough by now, that they should be able to at least get a 50%. I have also been e-mailing video links to them, giving them You Tube videos to watch that hopefully might augment the material we covered in class the previous week.

All this makes me wonder how useful are those HamCram classes that you read about.  I've been a VE at a couple and they seem successful enough.  I am told that the way it is supposed to work is that the students study the license manual and do all the reading on their own for 8 weeks prior to the cram session. Then the all day (or two day) cram session winds up being a "super review" session where the material is gone over, reinforced, and any questions or unclear concepts are made crystal.

I'm not sure that would have worked for me back in the day when I became a Novice. I liked the fact that there was a licensed Ham that I could go to each week to have as a resource to answer the questions I had  - and there were plenty. Plus the fact we had to learn Morse, we needed that weekly encouragement with that, also.

Even though our students are sharp, they still have questions. We clear them up the best we can, so they can move on to the next batch of material without unsettled concepts lurking around in the back of their minds. I'd hate to think of how I'd spend a day (or two) answering 8 weeks worth of unanswered questions!

I suppose if you're a real disciplined, self-starter type that doesn't need the occasional nudge, then a HamCram might work well for you.  I am happy with our format, though. I like the idea of getting to know our students over the 8 week period and helping them feel like they're being welcomed into the Amateur Radio community.  I am hoping that these students will become way more than that, that they will become my friends who I will get to know even better, and share laughs and Amateur Radio adventures with in the years to come.

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

School Daze

A daze, that's what it was.

Last night was the second session of our eight week Technician class license class. I think some of our seventeen students walked out of the building with dazed expression on their faces. And I guess that's to be expected right now, as we're out of the introductory "This is Amateur Radio" feel-good fluffy part and we're now into the heart of the course, which is basic electricity and components and all the good stuff.

The concepts of current, resistance, voltage were easily digested by their inquiring minds. The concepts of capacitance, inductance, reactance and impedance? Not so much. But Marv K2VHW and I broke it down into the simplest "lay terms" that we could and I am pretty confident that they have a basic, rudimentary (if not shaky) understanding of the concepts.  I am trying pretty hard to find "real world" equivalents that they can relate to, so these concepts don't totally fly over their heads.

I have to admit that back in Ye Olden Days, when I was studying for my Novice license, I wore the very same expression on my face when I left those sessions each Tuesday evening in October and November of 1978.

If you have no concept of electricity and electronics, it CAN seem daunting. But if our students do the required reading, and maybe even do a little Googling on their own, they will have that "Aha moment!" when it all comes together.

As a class, they have several things going for them. The first is that our young students are whizzes at note taking.  While Marv is handling the teaching part of a segment, I try to keep an eye on our charges, to watch facial expressions and such.  The younger students have their highlighters and pens going at warp speed, taking notes and marking pertinent paragraphs and sentences in their license manuals. The older adult students are no slouches, either.  But there's one important difference - their facial expressions are more telling.  While the "kids" are sponges, absorbing all this stuff, every now and then, I will see one of the adults screw up their faces as if to say "What?!?"  It's at that moment when I will try to pause things for a bit and try to interject an example or some such thing that they're familiar with that brings the concept home to them.

The important thing that we try to stress as much as we can (without beating them over the head with it) is that they HAVE to do the required reading homework.  This way, we can answer any questions on any sticky points that they might have. We also give them the reading material that will be covered in the next week's lesson, so that they're not walking into the material blindly.

These two weeks will probably be the very hardest of the eight week class.  Electrical concepts and components last night. And next week, electronic and basic radio circuits.  After that, we'll get into "the good stuff" - propagation, antennas, operating procedures, setting up a station, etc.  That material is probably more in line with what they expected when they were signing up for an Amateur radio course.

I will make it my business during this coming week to make up a handout with some Internet sources that they can refer to in order to make the "meat" that they were fed last night just a little more palatable.  As any licensed Ham knows, this is an ongoing process that doesn't end with passing the test. In fact, it's just the very beginning.

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

Excited


Marv K2VHW and I, under the auspices of the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club, will be teaching a course for those in the greater Central New Jersey area who want to earn a Technician class license.

Here's the flier that Marv designed to advertise the class:


I'm excited, because so far we have eight potential students who have pre-registered. We have room for more, so if you're interested or know someone in the Central NJ area who might be interested, contact either Marv or myself.  We would also ask that anyone who has pre-registered or wants to register, to please try to attend the next SPARC meeting on Wednesday, September 17th at 7:00 PM at the South Plainfield OEM building.  At that time, we will be taking count and placing a group order for license manuals for the class.  Marv and I are both ARRL Registered Instructors, and a such we can apply for a group rate for the manuals.

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

Not often

that I link to an article written for eHam, but here’s a really good one written by Ron KA3J:

http://www.eham.net/articles/32380

It regards Technicians (or any new Hams for that matter, CW and QRP – relevant topics for this blog!) And just to let you know how good it is, up to this point in time, Ron has not been heckled in the commbox!

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

Learning things

I have heard it said that everyone learns differently.  That is most likely true; but I am living proof that even one single person can learn things in different ways – namely the easy way and the hard way.

The weather today in NJ has been really cold.  When I woke up this morning, it was 15F (-9C) outside.  As I returned home from work tonight, it was 16F (-8C).  It’s a very clear night with the Moon and Jupiter shining brightly in the sky. I will not be surprised if we get down into the single digits tonight.

Why do I bring this up?  Because of a lesson learned the hard way.

When I was a kid, I spent my summers at the grocery store that my Dad and my uncle owned.  It was a small, family owned “Mom and Pop” kind of place.  The entire width of our store probably wouldn’t amount to more than three aisles in a supermarket of today.

We sold groceries and meats.  My Dad and my uncles were butchers as well as grocers.  From the age of 7 and up, I worked most of my summer vacation time at our store, stocking shelves.  When I got to be a teenager, I wanted to graduate from shelf stocking to butchering.  My Dad was reluctant and was never thrilled with the idea; but I bugged him until he taught me.  My last several summers of working at the store involved stocking shelves; but I also got to cut cold cuts, make chopped meat, bone out cuts of beef, pork and veal for kielbasa stuffing, among other things.  But perhaps the toughest job of all was when chickens came in.  We were a dealer for Perdue chickens – fresh chickens that were packed in ice – never frozen.  When the whole chickens came in, I was given the delightful job of removing the livers and necks.  They came packed in wax paper inside the chickens, exactly the same way that giblets and necks come delivered inside your Thanksgiving turkey.  But imagine if you will, removing the livers and necks from many dozens of ice cold chickens, all in one sitting. After a while, I couldn’t even feel my hands as they were numbed by the ice cold chicken flesh.  And of course, it had to be done this way, because you couldn’t let the chickens warm up.

My point?  I had to learn the hard way, what my Dad tried to tell me.  Stick your hands in cold meat for a long enough time and you’re going to develop arthritis in your hands.  By the time my Dad retired, his hands were pretty disfigured.  He never removed his wedding band, but even if had wanted to, his knuckles were so permanently swollen and his fingers were so crooked, that it would have been an impossibility.  And now, when it get this cold, MY hands feel like two giant toothaches, even with Thinsulate gloves on.  I didn’t butcher meat for anywhere near as long as he did; but those 5 – 7 summers were enough. Now I will suffer with “mildly” arthritic hands for the rest of my life – a lesson learned the hard way.

But, I’m not hopeless!  I can learn things the easy way, too.  And I was reminded of that when I read Jim W1PID’s post on AmateurRadio.com this afternoon – “Around The World for Morning Tea” and I was transported back to my youth.  It was stories similar to this that reinforced my desire to become an Amateur Radio operator as a kid.

Travelling the world from a room (in my case, my bedroom) had an appeal that did not fade with time.  A seed was planted that grew to fruition in my very early 20s, when I earned my Novice ticket back in 1978.

I am very glad for that Novice ticket, because it turned out to be learning “the easy way” (relatively speaking).  My intention from “the get-go” was to get on the HF bands.  The Technician class existed back then, too; but held no appeal to me.  For me, Amateur Radio meant getting on the air with the possibility of communicating anywhere around the world.  Whether what actually occurred was communicating down the street or around the state didn’t matter, as long as that possibility also included talking to far away places on the globe remained.  The Novice ticket filled the bill, and thanks to good Elmers who taught me, I was able to procure my license with the least amount of frustration.

I am very grateful for the Novice sub bands that existed at the time.  There were very small slices of 80, 40, 15 and 10 Meters where we were allowed to prowl.  Of course, it was CW only but that and the frequency limitations were our only limitations!  There was plenty of DX to be had and I got my share.

I worked Hams of just about every license class that visited our Novice sections in those days. But of course the majority of other stations worked were other Novices.  We “grew up” together, we learned together, we made the same mistakes together, we honed our skills together.  For most of us, upgrading was our reason for being. And, most importantly, when we upgraded and discovered that VHF/UHF wasn’t the end all and be all of Amateur Radio, we had our HF skills to fall back on.  We were literally eased in to the operating habits and skills required by the higher class licencees.

I often wonder how the loss of that introductory Novice class has affected Amateur Radio in the United States.  I suppose I could research trends and numbers that have occurred since.  But in my heart, I think the impact has not beneficial.  Thankfully, we have a lot of good Elmers out there who are willing to pass on what they have learned, whether by teaching classes, or producing learning materials and software, it is still possible to learn how to be a Ham “the easy way” – not stumbling around by yourself in the dark.

But I still wonder if having the Novice ticket and the Novice sub bands (or something like it) might be an effective tool to avoid the problem of new Hams who find themselves in that “VHF/UHF rut”, and get tired and disenchanted, only to never bother to further explore the varied possibilities of this wonderful hobby.

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

Today was a very good day

Amateur Radio-wise, that is!

At the VE session this morning, we were able to welcome three new Hams into the fold. Well, make that two and one revert.  One of the candidates was a Ham years ago; but let his license lapse. So maybe it would be more accurate to say that we welcomed three potentially active Hams into the fold.

I guess I am from another era; as I get frustrated (a bit) when the first question out of a new Ham’s mouth is something to the effect of, “So where can I get a good price on a dual band handheld?”  Man, when I was studying for my Novice ticket, the LAST thing I wanted was an HT. All I had my sights on was HF and working the bands.  In fact, I didn’t get my first VHF radio until nearly a year after I was licensed.

I got my ticket in December of 1978.  Spent November and December and part of January assembling my station, which was a “pre-owned” Drake 2-NT transmitter (which was my Christmas gift from my parents that year) and a Heathkit HR-1680 receiver which I saved up for and built all by myself. That receiver was the very first of many Heathkits that I was to build.  Between buying, building and making an antenna, I had my first QSO on January 29th, 1979.  And it was an HF QSO.  I still have that QSL card, framed in my basement.  Can’t recall the entire call of the poor victim that I plied my nasty fist on, but I do remember his name was Adam and he was KA9something.

My first VHF radio was a Tempo1 handheld, the very first to have a synthesized VFO, not relying on crystal control.  I bought it a year later, after I had upgraded to General, specifically to assist in the 1980 Winter Olympics Torch Run.  Those were the Lake Placid “Do you believe in miracles?” Olympics and the torch run  traveled right through Central NJ on its way to Lake Placid.  I was with a local club providing communications in an ARRL led effort.  I still have the Public Service Commendation hanging on the shack wall that commemorated that event.

But for me, VHF and UHF were never a Number One favorite. Don’t get me wrong, I have spent A LOT of time on UHF and VHF repeaters – making friends, doing public service and all kinds of stuff.  But in W2LJ’s mind, when Ham Radio pops up in a little thought balloon, it’s always a picture of an HF radio, making worlwide contacts.  Just me, I guess.

I had another treat this afternoon, working my good friend, Bob W3BBO, who also took the plunge and just very recently got a K3.  He finished building his this past week and this was our very first K3 to K3 QSO.

It wasn’t a long rag chew, just enough of a QSO to see how we each sounded to one another. Good signals both ways.  It was a hoot!
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!


Subscribe FREE to AmateurRadio.com's
Amateur Radio Newsletter

 
We never share your e-mail address.



Do you like to write?
Interesting project to share?
Helpful tips and ideas for other hams?

Submit an article and we will review it for publication on AmateurRadio.com!

Have a ham radio product or service?
Consider advertising on our site.

Are you a reporter covering ham radio?
Find ham radio experts for your story.

How to Set Up a Ham Radio Blog
Get started in less than 15 minutes!


  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor




Sign up for our free
Amateur Radio Newsletter

Enter your e-mail address: