Amateur Radio in College Leading to a Career – A Testimonial

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I got my extra-class license in 2007, at age 16. I studied for the tech, general and extra licenses in band class, in literature arts (where I also wrote a winning essay contest), and at every waking hour of my time away from school and other extra curricular activities.

I learned about trigonometrical impedance calculations (a.k.a. phasors), P-N junctions, oscillators, transistors, and some calculus and more all before my senior year of high school.

I applied for only a few colleges – Truman State and Missouri S&T (formerly University of Missouri – Rolla). Only one of these had a ham radio club. Can you guess which one I attended?

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It was not until my junior year when I realized my college curriculum has taken me beyond the extra class license test. Although the classes were much greater in depth (and much more important for me to pass!), the Extra class license greatly prepared me for my studies in Electrical Engineering.

During my first week of college I joined the ham radio club, WØEEE. I spent all 4.5 years in an executive position, and taught myself circuit design and layout techniques and software, how to install a repeater (including a D-STAR repeater), and participated in contests, public service, and other clubs like IEEE, Solar Car, and the Mars Rover Design Team and the Satellite team where I designed telemetry and wireless networking systems.

Mars Rover electrical team and I making aggressive electrical modifications and repairs to Phoenix
Mars Rover electrical team and I making aggressive electrical modifications and repairs to Phoenix.
The 2014 Mars Rover "Phoenix" after having survived said modifications.
The 2014 Mars Rover “Phoenix” after having survived said modifications.
In my junior year, I was offered an internship at the Very Large Array Radio Observatory in New Mexico. I accepted, and spent 8 months there, installing antennas, studying RFI, learning about radio astronomy, and participating in the Socorro and New Mexico Tech amateur radio clubs. The Socorro, NM population is literally 10% hams, and the Radioshack is staffed by two hams and features a station behind the counter! See more of my VLA experience at my A Zero in Five Land blog.

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I participated in “SmartRock” research, which was to be a device that would record its position and movement underwater, and transmit that data back to the surface wirelessly – through up to 30 ft of water – to study and prevent erosion and scouring from destroying bridges. I studied all manner of ways to do this including ultrasonic, light, RF, and inductive coupling. I also was responsible for a power supply design using supercapacitors.

Then I got a job…before I graduated. Due to sensitivity I won’t say exactly what company I work for, but it’s a large aerospace company that builds very fast jets.
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I’m on a communication systems team that’s in charge of a huge number of avionics, including HF/VHF/UHF voice radios. The reason why I got this job, and the ones before it was that the experiences I had were listed on my resume. A resume-reading robot found the trigger word set for this particular requisition: ham radio.

Or maybe it was just radio…who knows, but as a part of the interview process, ham radio was mentioned a LOT.

My college and career goals was made possible by amateur radio, and that is the number one reason why I promote this hobby like I do. As a collective we are slowly realizing that ham radio is an excellent segway into a number of career fields (not always involving electrical engineering and radio), and there is huge potential energy in this hobby for young people, but there is not yet a person to push the ball down the hill.

That person may not be me, and it may not be just one person, so hopefully this story helps you understand the technical merits of ham radio and inspires you to be the energy in your radio club to do more for high school and college student amateur radio clubs.

How Many 1-Shot DX Contacts Can You Make?

To all hams who enjoy DXing, here is a challenge for you:

You only have one shot of calling DX.

If they don’t return to you in one call, then you have to try again after working another DX station with the same rule. Doesn’t matter the power or antenna situation – 1 watt or 1000.

Only.

One.

Shot.

How many can you make?

First of all, it can be done (I discovered this with 100 watts on CW with a G5RV with the 2009 Desecheo Island Dxpedition K5D), and secondly, it’s a testament to proper listening skills that allow you to do this – operating split, analyzing the operator’s technique, analyzing the technique of the callers, finding the open spots. Sure, your 5-beam stack on a hill 3 miles from the DX station would get in MUCH easier than my G5RV on the ground with dog poo all over it. But all things considered, it’s still a challenge for the most of us.

Foundations of Amateur Radio Podcast Logo
Foundations of Amateur Radio Podcast Logo

I heard this on an episode of the Foundations of Amateur Radio Podcast by VK6FLAB. It’s an excellent, 3-minute-or-so podcast that answers a question or poses a challenge like this. It’s definitely my favorite podcast because Onno, in his comedic deadpan attitude, always questions the status quo, presents an interesting challenge, or a fascinating discovery, with no overhead, no music, no pizazz.

Lol too many commas.

Listen to the Foundations of Amateur Radio podcast directly, on Overcast for iOS, or iTunes.

Also, listen to Onno’s former podcast – What Use Is An F-call? – which answers the question, what use is an F (for foundation license in Australia, equivalent to the technicians license in the US) call. There are 206 episodes, directly, on Overcast, and on iTunes as well.

Collegiate Ham Radio is on fire today!

Today was a maelstrom of emails, reddit posts, facebook messages, ARRL articles, some more emails….all thanks to this article: http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-acting-as-catalyst-in-college-radio-club-revitalization-campaign

I posted it to the amateurradio subreddit, where it got some discussion. Then, another post, nearly simultaneously popped up on reddit regarding interest in a “University/Colleges on the Air” – of course they couldn’t call it Schools on the Air, as that would compete with the other SOTA, but that’s besides the point.

There are a lot of college and university amateur radio clubs out there, both active and defunct. There have been attempts to collect interest, either through collegiate contests or sub-contests (such as the Intercollegiate Championship that hasn’t been going on since 2011), online communities (like CollegeARC developed by Brent and Bryce Salmi from Rochester Institute of Technology K2GXT, but went defunct sometime in mid to late 2013 after they graduated), and now the Dayton Hamvention Collegiate Dinner and the Collegiate Ham Radio Operators Facebook Group.

I have great interest vested in these topics. Throughout my ARRL Youth Editorship, I poked and prodded ARRL to do more to promote amateur radio to colleges, and vice versa.  It cam in the form of free books, promotional materials, and licensing materials, but never have they showed the support they are featuring in the article.

ARRL provides a large amount of grants and scholarships totaling many tens of thousands of dollars – or more – but many of these scholarships often go unclaimed! This is because too many don’t know about them.

Promoting amateur radio in colleges is a huge untapped resource for both the hobby, and the STEM economy. Every technical job I had was resultant of something ham radio related, and it’s obvious that it the hobby has huge merits in electrical and computer engineering and computer science.

Plus, as mentioned in the article, colleges are super competitive! College football wouldn’t be a thing if they weren’t!

Although I don’t agree with the name “Ivy + Amateur Radio” as an all-inclusive invitation to colleges and universities across the world to join up, I still think the ARRL is doing collegiate ham radio a great service to show support, especially from the CEO level. After all, a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.

I hope to see something great come of this! Conference championships? Colleges/Universities on the Air? A yearlong QSO party for colleges? Incorporating “college” category into large ARRL contests like sweepstakes and ARRL DX? Revamping school club roundup? Tons of ideas.

Please feel free to contact me at n0ssc@arrl.net or comment below if you wish to talk college ham radio. Or send your support straight to the ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher NY2RF, himself!