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.

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