There is much being said and written these days about the importance of bringing new people, especially young people, into our Hobby. There are many obvious reasons for this. As we all get older or get busy with other aspects of our lives, some will leave the hobby. Also, we have the use of many commercially valuable portions of the RF spectrum and there is always pressure to reallocate bands or segments of bands which are not fully utilized.In my mind, the most important reason to bring new HAMs into our hobby has to do with the energy and new ideas that these folks bring to Amateur Radio. Amateur Radio has always been a learning hobby and new folks help us to keep this important part of what makes our hobby so much fun vibrant.
Anita (AB1QB) and I try to put a lot of time and energy into getting folks started in Amateur Radio and helping them to build their skills and progress. Our Amateur Radio License Classes and the youth outreach work that we’ve been doing are two good examples of this. To make these efforts as successful as they can be, it’s also very important to provide good opportunities for folks who are new to various aspects of Amateur Radio to learn and gain experience. This means becoming an “Elmer” or a HAM Radio mentor to people who are less experienced in some part of the hobby than you are….
The Nashua Area Radio Club has begun teaching a Morse Code training class on Saturday, July 16th 2016. The class was created in response to interest in learning Morse Code, expressed by several club members who are drawn to this unique mode of communication. While this unique skill-set is no longer a licensing requirement it continues to be a long standing practice enjoyed by may radio amateurs worldwide. Numerous groups and organizations exit to encourage and promote the practice of communications using Morse code such as FISTS; North American QRP CW club (NAQCC); CW Operators Club (CWops); and the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC). Also, you can learn more about Morse Code and CW operation on our website here.
The use of Morse Code is one of the simplest ways of modulating a Continuous Wave (CW) RF carrier by generating characters composed of a series of “dits and dahs” to create a message. Most QRP (low power) operators favor CW operation because of its low circuit complexity, lightweight (for portable operation) and extreme efficiency. A limited number of amateur radio operators find great satisfaction in operating using Morse Code aka CW as their only mode.
The Nashua Area Radio Club Code course employs the Chuck Adams – K7QO, training CD. Chuck’s course is available for download free of charge and is well-organized with over 500 audio MP3 files to help learn and improve your skill levels. Our class encourages following K7QO’s guidelines and instructions to develop good CW habits that avoid the later roadblocks to greater speed and proficiency. Our class has introduced a few variations to Chuck K7QO’s training plan with a couple of special CW practice quizzes that help keep the classroom fun and more interesting. The G4FON software trainer utility has added to the fun with background noise, QRM and QSB listening challenges, which adds a taste of real CW operation. Learning and gaining proficiency with Morse Code requires practice, practice, practice. The K7QO training MP3 files can be listened to with a PC, MP3 player or in many of the newer car CD players.
Our training class has provided an opportunity for many of the students to observe several different Morse Code keys. A couple of students have also brought in some innovative code practice keys that were constructed from some unique household items. Other students are building a small microcontroller based keyer that can be used with a straight key or a single or dual paddle key for training or use with a transmitter. The class will continue for a few more weeks and then many of the students will be ready to try their first on the air CW QSO. Each on the air QSO will help grow their CW skills and is ultimately the best form of practice, practice, practice.
Our club has had quite a year in 2016. We initiated many new activities and our members learned some new skills. Most importantly, we contributed a great deal to the Amateur Radio Service through license classes and other educational and outreach activities. We have plenty of material to include in our 2016 Highlights video which follows.
Highlights From Nashua Area Radio Club’s 2016 Activities
We made a video as a sort of memory book about our club’s activities and accomplishments in 2016. We hope that you enjoy it!
Our club has accomplished a great deal in the last year. We have grown to over 130 members. We have introduced many new people to Amateur Radio, helped them to earn their Licenses and worked with them to get on the air and develop their knowledge and operating skills. We’ve also worked hard to provide opportunities to enjoy and learn about Amateur Radio for members of our club and for the Amateur Radio community which we are a part of.
Much of the credit for our club’s success this past year belongs to you, our members. We very much appreciate all that you have done to contribute to our success and the fun that we have all had as part of what we have done together. Your enthusiasm and support provide great encouragement and inspiration to the many new members who have joined us as well as to all of us who are part of our club’s Leadership Team.
We, as your club’s Executive Committee, have been working on a set of goals and plans to continue on this path during 2017 – to provide even better opportunities for our members to learn more about and to enjoy Amateur Radio, to continue to encourage people to join the Amateur Radio Service, and to provide opportunities for STEM learning for young people.
Our goals and focus for 2017 centers around continued success in and focus on the following areas to benefit both our members and our community as a whole:
- Education and Licensing through activities like our License Classes, our Tech Night Program, our Kit Building and Home Brewing activities, our CW Training Classes and other training opportunities
- Building our operational skills through on-air activities like Field Day, club participation in Contests and on-air activities such as the SOTA Program and the 13 Colonies Special Event
- Continuing and expanding our focus on STEM learning opportunities for young people through our High-Altitude Balloon Project, outreach activities through groups like MakeIt Labs and other activities focused on introducing young people to STEM learning through Amateur Radio
- Continuing our work to introduce and interest new people in Amateur Radio through our outreach efforts and get them involved in the activities and the work that our club is doing through membership
To do these things and to be successful as a growing club, we are also pursuing status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. This will enable our club to more effectively secure support from other groups to further our work towards these goals.
Each of us has taken ownership for creating a focus on meeting different aspects of our goals for this year. We are planning to share more about our plans for 2017 at our February Club Meeting.
We are asking that each of you, as members, to consider how you can get the most from all of these and the other opportunities that our club provides. We are working hard to try to create something for everyone that can provide enjoyable opportunities to have fun, to contribute, and to expand the value that we all create and derive by being part of the Amateur Radio Service. We are also asking each of you, our members, to consider helping us with these initiatives in 2017.