Forget cellphones and e-mail. A group of more than 35 McConnell Middle School students have a different way to keep in touch with folks across town and around the world!
Members of the McConnell Amateur Radio Club use “ham radios” to communicate with other radio operators. The club holds an FCC license and has its own call sign, KD4TGR. FCC-licensed teachers Jean Delashmit (KM4FVO) and Dr. James Reeves (KF4AQO) sponsor the club. The Gwinnett Amateur Radio Society has supported the effort, helping to train the students and obtain radio equipment. Club members built an antenna, which has allowed club members to be on the air regularly.
So far, five club members have become licensed radio operators after passing the FCC licensing exam, including Connor, who got interested in amateur radio because of “the fact that I could be a part of a group of people that is reporting any crazy weather events in my area.”
When severe weather takes down primary communication networks, amateur radio operators are trained to support emergency services. They also can support public events, such as races, parades, and sporting events. When large crowds on cellphones tax capacity of cellular systems, ham radios can get the message through!
Another licensed operator, Maggie, says the chance to talk to people all over the world hooked her on amateur radio. "The coolest thing I've done since I got my licenses has been listening out on the echo link repeaters and hearing conversations in German and other languages," she says.
Part of the school's STEM initiative, the radio club brings in aspects from across the curriculum… from weather and topography to electrical circuits and communication. While amateur radio is a lifelong hobby for many operators, it also serves as an entryway into many STEM-related careers such as information technology, electrical engineering, aerospace engineering, robotics, meteorology, emergency services, and communications.