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?
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.
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.
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.
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.