Friday, April 3, 2015

Kids and Amateur Radio

Did we manage to get a half dozen elementary school kids to pay attention to amateur radio?  Yes, yes we did.  How?

  1. We arranged to set up a demo table at their school Science Fair.
  2. We arranged to have young hams in nearby areas be on the air at that time, and had two young hams (one who attends the host school) run the radio.  We used a club callsign for the non-ham guests.
  3. We booked our local repeater system and set a NO ADULTS policy for the operation.  Kids would only have to talk to kids.  

Myself and another adult ham were nearby monitoring with HTs to ensure Part 97 rules were followed.  Was there silliness?  Yep.  Poop jokes?  Yup. At one point they all made up tactical callsigns for each other like "Cheeseburger" and "Side Salad".  It was great to see them having fun like this.  I think I'm going to start calling myself "Fish Sandwich" on the air.

Did they sometimes forget to identify w/ callsigns?  Yes, and when they were gently reminded about the rules they towed the line.  And then we backed off and let them continue by themselves.

Result: I now have two 5th graders asking to get their licenses.  One kid came over, initially immersed in his smartphone, and ended up on the air - phone off to the side, forgotten.

Why did this work?  Because instead of trying to entice kids into our adult interpretation of amateur radio, we created an environment where they could encounter amateur radio on their terms.  It's simply not true that kids aren't drawn to amateur radio.  They're just not big on hanging out with adults.

Big thanks to +Beric Dunn for his support with this.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

RIP RadioShack

Just a few hours ago I placed what will be my last online order with RadioShack.  Rumors over the past week that the company will declare bankruptcy came true today when news hit that the New York Stock Exchange will delist RadioShack stock,

Some of the stores will be sold to Sprint, to be used as mobile phone retailers.  Other rumors are circulating, such as one in USA Today that Amazon might create "showroom" stores for technology items.

This is particularly sad news for me, and I suspect for many other hams.  As I wrote back in 2010 RadioShack was a big part of my childhood.  I went to the local store every day after school.  My first "consulting" job was delivering catalogs in exchange for store credit, which I used to buy my first real CB radio.  I learned about electronics from being around electronics, absorbing terminology and bits of knowledge from overheard conversations between customers and store employees.

RadioShack hung on for a long time, and tried to rally in the 21st century - they started selling Arduino/RPi/BeagleBone components, and created a set of revamped "concept/flagship" stores and invited Makers to showcase DIY gadgets in those stores.  In the end they couldn't compete with online retailers.  I have to admit that after I spent the day showcasing as a Maker in their Mountain View flagship store they gave me a generous amount of gift cards - which sat unused in my desk until today.  It's not that I haven't bought circuit components since then.  It's just that RadioShack is no longer my go-to source for such things.

There's an irony here.  My first and last transactions with RadioShack - separated by 42 years - were both paid for using store credit, not cash.