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OT School Radio Club

Dear all

I hope to get a few of the children from school through one of the practical assessments for the Foundation Licence today.If anyone is about in the Congleton area, please listen for us at around 15:30 local time today on 145.5 FM.

Thanks.

Richard
G3CWI

GL Richard. There may be some greetings messages being passed by my new set of students around 3pm today as well. Won’t be around at 3.30pm unfortunately as will be on way to an away match for the staff football team.

Tom M1EYP

The eagle-eyed amongst those of you that plough through all my rubbish on the reflector, may have spotted that my career has been taking a very different trajectory over the past 4 years. When I was a full-time school teacher, I had managed to negotiated to have the Foundation Licence course as part of timetabled school lessons to Year 7 and Year 8 students for two hours a week, something I believe was unique (as opposed to running it as an extra-curricular activity).

This venture was very well supported by my friends in SOTA, and a good number of rigs, plus other items like ATUs, power supplies, headphones, logbooks etc were generously donated for use in this project. A good number of newly licensed young radio amateurs were brought into the hobby, and we used to run a SOTA outing at the end of each course.

Since leaving full-time teaching, I have been filling in between my gigs and tours with some supply teaching. I looked for opportunities to introduce amateur radio to the schools I was working at, but nothing suitable materialised - until now!

One of the schools I visit from time-to-time is in Stoke-on-Trent, and in fact a neighbouring school to the one I was a maths teacher at for many years. One of the employees there is a friend of mine - Leigh M5GWH - and he has set up an amateur radio club and licence courses at the school. Leigh has an interesting model that provides opportunities for both students at the school, and members of the public.

He has made me one of the licensed officers of the club, and yesterday I handed over all the rigs and gear. The one thing Leigh was struggling with was equipment - but not any longer - he now has plenty for what he needs.

I will be helping out with supervising Foundation practical assessments when I am available, and visiting the school to give talks on SOTA and other aspects as and when.

I’m delighted that all the equipment is again being put to good use, and indeed the use intended when generously donated, largely by the SOTA community.

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A very credit-worthy effort, Tom. But have you any idea what percentage of the “newly licensed young radio amateurs” are still active in the hobby?

73,
Walt (G3NYY)

Vanishingly low I fear… I ran a course at my school. Two passed, as far as I’m aware neither took the hobby any further. It’s one of those metrics that no-one seems tro bother to measure, prefering to gauge success by exam passes. Of course as a teacher I can see several other benefits to the individuals involved - which justifies the effort.

When I was a teacher, I ran the school club ON4HTI for 21 years, until my retirement, when no one wanted to continue the club and I had to close it …
The majority of the students that got their license is no longer active, but some are still very active, and I see or hear them regularly.

One activity that always interested the young people is the ARRL School Club Roundup.
There is a session in October and one in February.
See info here : http://www.arrl.org/school-club-roundup
There is also a nice logging program for this activity
http://home.earthlink.net/~scr-log/
where you will also find a chatbox for making skeds etc.

It is mainly a USA contest for school clubs, and with current propagation it is very difficult to work any US schools, but it can still be fun to get after some other goals, like work as many prefixes in one week, use as many different modes as possible, etc … make it into a word game, using the letters in the calls that you work !

You don’t need to be a teacher, or the school does not need to have a radio club. If a group of hams has good relations in a local school, you could agree to set up a simple station for just that week, and invite class groups one by one to see what ham radio is all about.
We need the young folk into the hobby, right ?

Luc ON7DQ

That would be really hard to do here in the UK. The complications of safeguarding together with the very limited time available for anyone to do anything that is not leading to a school qualification would make it hard to organise. The RSGB used to go round to schools with an impressive mobile display room but eventually they abandoned this approach.

I managed to start a Morse code club at my primary school last year that had 5 members meeting once a week. One of the even learnt the whole Morse alphabet off by heart. I get to work a bit of ham radio into my computers and technology course, but that’s about it. The Foundation License is such a good idea, and one many other countries would do well to take note of. If children can’t get HF privileges then what’s the point?
73 de DL/OE6FEG/P
Matt

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No idea whatsoever. For good reasons, you tend not to keep in touch with former students - unless, if many years later, they get in touch with you. I would imagine one or two at most.

But that doesn’t concern me whatsoever. They had a great time and learned new skills and knowledge through the experience of doing the course. That’s sufficient isn’t it? They enjoyed it and got a lot out of at, when they were doing it, at that time.

If what I did was to be measured as a recruitment drive for amateur radio, then it was probably equally successful, in percentage terms, as timetabled school music lessons are for producing musicians! That’s not to say the students didn’t enjoy and learn in those lessons.

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Really good idea getting a radio club going! I ran a Jamboree on the air last year for the Scout group I help run, and despite my best efforts found it fairly difficult to motivate kids that I know are generally very positive. I think my next attempt will probably start with a lot of wire, batteries and a field telephone.
Over the last five years I think it is probably harder, kids under about 12 have probably never tuned an AM or FM radio and where for our generation (assumption here about ages - sorry!) tuning a radio dial and turning a reciever to get a better signal was something almost everybody did. Talking or sending a signal on the radio was the next step. Currently children will livestream or use youtube or iplayer so the entire concept of a radio signal, that you listen to now and can’t replay later is a bit odd! I was working in a school with 10/11 year olds and the carefully planned lesson took a detour as we discussed the wifi not working and the concept that the wifi was a radio signal (What is one of those sir?) that went through the air without them being able to see it. (They were not a daft class, they just had no concept of radio!

So what seems to work?
Morse can be fun to try and decode
A field telephone is great for simple circits and also for practising sending a single message
The BBC Microbit https://www.itpro.co.uk/desktop-hardware/26289/13-top-bbc-micro-bit-projects has built in bluetooth which is programmable - it will send simple messages and can even be set up for a simple foxhunt with recievers and transmitters programmed on the Microbit.
A greetings message on a simpe QSO didn’t work didn’t work very well, and on JOTA I was very disappointed by well meaning amatuers asking Scouts “What is your name? How old are you? and where do you live?” which taken out of context sounds like the sort of conversation which could get you a special meeting down at the police station…
Why should we do it? To make kids think and open minds, and if 0.000001% become radio amateurs it will still be more of a success than not trying…

PS Still not entirely given up the idea of Scouts and SOTA, hiking to the top of a hill, assembling the kit and putting up an antenna to make at least four contacts is probably a challenge they would enjoy, just need to find the right hill, complete a two day first aid course and try and work out if I can get a special event station licence for a portable location…

Paul

Their starting point has to be something that they are familiar with. I would have thought that the obvious starting point is their mobile phones. These are radios, they are a particular form of a walky-talky, the step from that to a ham radio is comparatively small - let them think of it as a mobile phone that lets them talk to similarly-equipped friends and new acquaintances all over the world, free of charge, no metered minutes, no roaming charges, just a new set of limitations and a world of new opportunities! Worth a try, I would think.

I talked about SOTA at the climbing club, as expected somebody asked me why I bothered as the mobile phone was so much easier. I exaggerated a bit by saying that I could switch my radio on and strike up a conversation with somebody anywhere in the world, I wouldn’t have to know their phone number and it only cost the price of charging up the battery no matter how many times a day I did it. Once they could relate ham radio to something familiar they could get a feel for what was going on.

That’s a good illustration Brian. The concept that you can complete the communication yourself, without relying on a third party (commercial) network, seems to strike home.

With regard to Paul’s observations, with Year 7s (11/12 year olds) I used to spend the entire first term just getting them to tune analogue radios. I had a variety of old portable receivers with rotary tuning dials. I used to start them on FM, and simply ask them to listen with headphones, and write down the names of the radio stations they could identify. This activity then moved onto medium-wave and then short-wave. The children loved finding English language broadcasts from foreign broadcasters (as indeed I did myself back in the day!). I would then encourage them to write down a few details - date, time, signal strength, programme details etc and get them to post their reception reports to the stations concerned! QSLs coming back were a great thrill for them.

Into the second term, I would start to demo amateur radio, and start working, gradually, through the Foundation practical assessments, and moving through the Foundation syllabus, but always linking everything with practical demos and activities.

It certainly helped that I was able to negotiate two hours of curriculum time for an entire academic year to be able to deliver this.

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