Since the summer time, many of you have seen a flurry of activity on the website regarding our efforts to attract more young people and especially kids into the hobby. And let’s not kid ourselves, this is by no means an easy feat. It’s a legitimately difficult problem that many clubs all over the country are facing and is large enough such that it is recognized by the ARRL. It’s the lifeblood of the hobby — passing the torch on, teaching what we can and what we know. In my humble view, I feel an almost civic duty to actively recruit these younger folks and what is advantageous to us is that we can sell the club and its activities under the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) movement. This means we can open up the study of electronics, robotics, radios, physics, and the AdS/CFT correspondence (relating 4D strongly coupled quantum gauge theories to 5D classical string theories in curved spacetimes…pretty trivial stuff) to the younger crowd. So now that I’ve set the stage for you, the remainder of this blog will talk about what we, your fearless youth outreach crew (see figure below), have been up to.
Our activities were planned from 9 am – 5 pm on November 19. The day, of course, started earlier — around 830am where we began to set up the ubiquitous GOTA station at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock facility in Nashua as well as the litany of other activities we had planned. We had decided that the best set of activities would be:
- GOTA station (the infamous IC-7300 making another appearance)
- Electronic snap circuit stations where folks could experiment with the projects supplied with the kits
- Morse code station where kids could follow along with “The Rhythm of the Code” and then eventually build up to sending more difficult messages. (Disclaimer: This video is annoying and useful all at the same time. Consumer beware :)
- QSL card station: After making a QSO, we posted the locale on a world map next to the station and printed out a memento of the contact on the back of our NARC QSL cards!
- Foxhunting: Everyone loves a good fox hunt. From ham radio enthusiasts to Quentin T. Butternuts, Esq. and his gaggle of British compatriots (No foxes were hurt in the hunt itself).
Some pics of our activities are below:
Volunteers present at the event, from the club, were: Brian (AB1ZO), Jamey (KC1ENX), Abby (KC1FFX), Connor (KC1GGX), Fred (AB1OC), Anita (AB1QB), Tony (KC1DXL), Wayne (KB1HYL). All in all, we enjoyed hosting 13 people! 7 internal to our club and 6 external. Our internal members were Greg (W1TEN) and his 2 kids, Ira (KC1EMJ) and his grandson, and Don (KC1CRK) with his wife (they LOVED the snap circuits…thank you!).
I think we had a hit! Two families in particular (new to the world of amateur radio) stayed with us for most of the day and we were very grateful for their participation! They graciously provided us with additional avenues to explore and other people to contact to engender more interest in our target population. Our numbers from outside NARC are beginning to grow, and as such, we are always looking for help/advice from you, our club members.
Lastly, we did learn several lessons from this event.
- We need to continue to proselytize our message. We understand that not everyone is available to come volunteer and help out physically at the events themselves. What we do need however that is a HUGE help is having our members spread our word, flyers, pamphlets, and any literature we can distribute. The two people I would really like to recognize for their contributions are John (W1SMN) and Tony Rizzolo’s (KC1DXL) wife Josephine. They really went to bat for us and sent out our flyers everywhere. Because of our event, we made new contacts with folks from the Boys and Girls Club in Nashua and also MakeIt labs in Nashua, as well as some local charter schools. We intend on bringing the fight to these places, do some demonstrations, and recruit more kids to do additional activities with us. All in all, in addition to what we are doing, we value your input, so please send an email to myself or Jamey (KC1ENX) with your thoughts.
- Pick hands-on activities. I think one reason our activities at this event were successful is that the kids were engaged the whole time. Thinking down the road, we need to keep this momentum moving forward with well-thought out activities. Some of these which occurred to us were kit-building electronics afternoons. I could see this being fun during the Winter months. Projects with Arduinos and Raspberry Pis, with some emphasis on amateur radio application. Or, even a high-altitude balloon build: we could imagine putting a transmitter on one of these and ask the kids to design/build/execute over the course of several weekends. (This is of course once achieving critical mass). The point is, we do not have to gear every activity towards amateur radio, but rather gear it towards the STEM aspects of the hobby that we all find appealing.
- Get buy-in from the parents. The parents are the masters of their children’s schedule. If they feel the time is not worth it, our efforts are for naught. We need to remember while cultivating a child’s interest, we also need to do so for the parents.
Jamey and I will be regrouping in the coming weeks to figure out our next steps/strategies — both short-term and long-term. You will certainly see future blog posts from us, so please stay tuned and let us know if we can pique your curiosity to join us during some of our upcoming events.
Best and 73,