Saturday, April 30, 2005

Take Your Kids to Work Day

This is a new experience for me. My own blog - devoted to, but not limited to Amateur Radio. This should be fun, interesting; and will hopefully also be a learning experience.

Last Thursday (4/29/05) was national "Take Your Kids to Work Day". You might be asking yourself how is this related to Amateur Radio. I'll tell you.

I belong to the Piscataway Amateur Radio Club in Piscataway, NJ. Right across the street from our meeting place is the IEEE. The IEEE is the professional association for electrical engineers. This is THE place if you are affiliated with any of the electronic fields. The wife of one of our member's works there; and approached him about the possibility of our club giving a presentation on Amateur Radio for that morning. The reasoning was, that since Amateur Radio is at least related to what the institution stands for, it just might be a good time.

We were wondering how much interest we would garner. A lot of folks out there think Amateur Radio is a dying endeavor. Maybe from the experience we had, I'm thinking the reports of our demise might be highly exaggerated.

in the weeks leading up to the event; we were told that twenty children signed up for the presentation. We were enthused. Then twenty became fifty; and then fifty became eighty and then eighty became one hundred and twenty. When the demo actually took place, a head count was taken and one hundred and seven kids attended. We were overjoyed!

There were six of us from the radio club. We started the presentation by showing the ARRL's DVD presentation of "Amateur Radio Today". This was followed by a talk by Bob Hopkins WB2UDC which included a QSO over a local 2 meter repeater and then another video. This was followed up by the kids being allowed to play with and be shown smaller presentations on Morse Code, a SSB HF station, a PSK-31 setup, and the kids even got to play with and twiddle the dials of some old Hammarlund and Hallicrafter boat anchors.

The surprise for us though, was that the hit of the day was the Morse Code displays. We had two laptops set up with Morse Midi on them; so the children could type something in and then listen to what they had typed. And we also had Morse Code practise oscillators going. We could not tear the kids away! I knew we had them hooked when one little girl had typed into the Morse Midi box; ready for translation - "This is so cool".

At the end, each participant was given either an Icom comic book; or a CQ magazine publication. We gave each a Morse Code sheet as well as a sheet we had made up listing some Websites pertaining to Marconi, crystal radios and, of course, Amateur Radio. Each kid got a QSL card with contact information to the club with an offer for tutoring, if desired. On each QSL card was a number; and for the coup de grace, we gave away a hombrewed plaque which had a Speed-X straight key to commemorate the event.

Is Amateur Radio dying; and are kids so spoiled by the Internet that our hobby is considered geeky and anachronistic? Ask any of these 107 kids and you might get a very surprising and pleasant answer!