Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 2017 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

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Now without further ado…

Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/OSJ-December-17.pdf

Jeff Kopcak – TC

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

I’m touching on a third-rail topic of ham radio this month, licensing and education. I’ve heard any number of hams state something like this about new hams: ‘ham’s today only study the answers to pass the test.’ ‘I don’t like so-and-so’s teaching method because their students don’t know anything.’ They don’t approve of the “boot-camp” style training sessions for many of the same reasons. Certainly their thinking is one school of thought: learn the question pools, know the reasons, learn the theories and be able to provide reasonable explanations before taking the test.

I saw a presentation by Dan Romanchik – KB6NU on the Ham Radio 2.0 podcast (http://www.livefromthehamshack.tv/2017/05/25/episode-97-teach-1-day-technician-class-kb6nu-dayton-hamvention/). His presentation caught my attention because he publishes the “No Nonsense Study Guides” (http://www.kb6nu.com/study-guides/) which is a text-book approach to learning the question pools. Dan is sold on and teaches one-day Technician training classes (also called “Ham Crams” or boot-camps). He teaches the answers to the questions and teaches to the test. At the end of the class, follows up with the Technician exam. Why? To get people into the hobby. As a Volunteer Examiner, I can appreciate that. Getting people into the ranks is always important. Dan claims students will learn something from his class and retain at least enough information to pass the exam. This means students don’t have to make multi-week commitments to attend class. How often does something come up in real life during a 6-week training class? More often than you’d think. Our school systems have been teaching to standardized tests and college entrance exams for decades. Iowa Tests, SATs, and ACTs anyone? The reason for Dan’s teaching methodology is because the real learning happens on the radio.

After watching his presentation, I realized this is exactly how I learned things in ham radio. When I was studying, my dad mentored me with electronic theory because that is his area of education and he worked in the industry. Electronic theory wasn’t necessarily something I cared a whole lot about as a freshman in high school. I knew the Part 97 FCC rules from seeing him operate or explaining them to me and from generally being around the hobby. His interests didn’t cover the HF bands. Even by the time I took my General and Extra, I probably couldn’t hit 40 meters with a shotgun. When the opportunity came and I found myself interested in HF, that changed. Being around mentors and absorbing everything I could, I think, made learning the material on the General exam easier. That learning happened over the better part of a decade after taking my Novice & Technician exams and when I decided to upgrade to General & Extra.

Ham Radio isn’t the only hobby where you receive a license to learn. A roommate in college had his pilot’s license. He was always taking aviation classes and getting flight hours in between his other classes. You have to get a pilot’s license even before you can begin learning to fly an aircraft. The State of Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles requires an applicant for learners permit to pass a knowledge test about regulations and traffic signs. Then the real learning begins – hours of driving and education. Ham radio isn’t necessarily different. Sure, many students will get their license and may not ever become a pilot or ever get on the air, but that’s up to them. I believe the ARRL was trying to accomplish something similar by exploring an introductory license: http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-board-explores-entry-level-license-options-ways-to-face-future-challenges

Hams will argue about skills. Skills needed to build a radio or operate CW are the usual examples. These are seen as relevant to ‘separate men from the boys.’ Yeah, OK. At this point, neither of those ‘skills’ are my interests. Can those same operators write a program from scratch or write an article on take-your-pick of an HF digital mode? Maybe yes, maybe no, but I can. Does that make anyone less of a ham because of different skill sets or interests? I don’t think so. The hobby is incredibly diverse with people from different backgrounds, levels of experience, and interests not even necessary related to being on the air. Such examples would be scholarships, enforcement, advocacy, public relations, regulations, laws, education, spectrum defense, and publications.

On the other hand, the ham community needs to help those hams who want to learn. I think many new hams give up because they don’t get the mentoring they are seeking. They may contact a club or two asking for help and get no response. It’s not fun when you have to constantly beg for help or get talked down to. We are all volunteers, have families, and other commitments too.

Club meetings may spark some interest on a topic but aren’t typically good places for extensive hands-on training. Many clubs focus on similar (related) topics for their meetings. Holding regularly scheduled classes and training is usually an issue due to time commitments, availability, or lack of regular interest. Other places for training might be evening classes at a local university or look at offerings of a local makerspace. Partnering with makerspaces could facilitate a place for demonstrations and training as well as bringing those with radio building skills into the hobby. Work ham radio into topics such as WiFi and Bluetooth transmitters. Don’t focus exclusively on operating demonstrations. Working with other clubs to form special interest groups, utilize subject matter “experts” to share their experiences for an extended hands-on session, or a “program your HT” evening are some other ideas. I would like to hear ideas that have been met with success welcoming newcomers into the hobby.

Retired ARRL CEO Dave Sumner – K1ZZ was on the QSO Today podcast. Dave talked about his 44 years with the League. He started as an intern in the 1970’s. The podcast starts out talking about how he got into ham radio, his antenna farm, and operating interests. Dave covered experiences with the IARU and other radio conferences during his tenure at the ARRL. He talked about programs and history of the ARRL including the Spectrum Defense fund and IARU intruder watch program. Check out QSO Today episode 172: https://www.qsotoday.com/podcasts/k1zz

In some unfortunate news, one of the largest electronics distributors headquartered in Ohio for 40 years and frequent vendor at Hamvention, MCM Electronics, is partnering with Newark element 14. Two plants will close and more than 90 workers will be laid off before end-of-year. MCM sold all kinds of tools, 3D printers, parts, wires, speakers, Arduino and Raspberry Pi computers. As of September 1, their website redirects to the Newark website. I knew the name element 14 from the Raspberry Pi computers I’ve purchased over the years. I had the opportunity to visit the MCM facility during a recent trip to Hamvention. The store was quite small compared to the massive warehouse. I couldn’t believe the size. Hopefully they’ll keep the warehouse open for parts distribution. ARRL News story: http://www.arrl.org/news/mcm-electronics-shutters-two-plants-announces-merger-with-newark-element-14

Finally, don’t forget the HF Santa Net running through Christmas Eve. Starts daily at 8:30 pm Eastern and can be found on 3916 kHz for the little ones to have a chance to talk with Santa! http://www.3916nets.com/santa-net.html. The Santa Watch Net will kick off at 6:00 pm Eastern on Christmas Eve as Santa delivers his presents. The Watch Net can be found on the *DoDropIn* Echolink conference node #355800.

Thanks for reading. Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

73… de Jeff – K8JTK