This past October I was asked if I would facilitate a class on Ham Radio for the local Boy Scout Troop so they could get their Ham Radio Merit Badge. After doing some research I said, “sure I will give a class on ham radio”. Then I commenced on putting a 3-hour slide show together complete with things the scouts could do during the class (s) to keep them interested.

I gave the class in three sections. Section one and two were each 1 ½-hours classes given two weeks apart. The last section was played out in my radio shack with each scout present making a QSO on my 2-meter radio. Using a local repeater, I had volunteers scattered around my AO to make lively communication with the scouts.

Last Saturday the scouts were up at the redoubt along with some dads during this exercise. When it was all done, and each scout had made their first QSO the dad’s started to ask a whole bunch of questions while the scouts stacked the remainder of my firewood. My 16-year-old neighbor as has been mentioned in previous articles holds an FCC General Ticket and a member of this troop, commented under his breath that I was an “old slave driver”. Oh well idle hands for a dozen or so 11 to 16-year old’s could be a disaster waiting to happen around our place.

I am going to post the most relevant questions from the Dads and my answers because I am sure some of the readers here at American Partisan have similar questions but are hesitant to ask them.

Dads: Is there used radio equipment that is out there? I would hate to lay down lets say a thousand dollars if my son loses interest in 6-months or so.

JMC: Yes! First, take the time to seek out a ham radio club near your AO and attend the monthly meeting’s. Most clubs are open to the public and you or son can join even if neither have received their FCC License.  If someone goes silent key (Dies) 99% of the widows or surviving family want nothing to do with the silent key’s equipment. This equipment is always well maintained and can be purchased for a song.

Dads: What radio would be good for my son to start with?

JMC: Try an inexpensive BaoFeng HT (Handy Talkie) like the UV-5R that goes for around $25-. Heck I still have my first one. When you order the HT also buy; an antenna adapter, a hank of coax to hook up to an antenna that you can easily build. Then follow the local nets from the surrounding clubs or just general chit chat on the local repeater. The rubber ducky that comes with the radio is okay but depending on your AO’s terrain only good for line of site.

I went on to say that several of my friends monitor the local repeater 24/7 along with their volunteer fire companies and police frequency’s. They often comment that due to the radio they know about news events hours before they hit the boob tube or local commercial radio stations.

Dads: Are their local classes we could take to get our Technician’s FCC license?

JMC: “Sure” I replied; “however, they are few and far between” I added. “The best thing to do is…

1) Buy the ARRL Technician’s Textbook complete with the exam questions and answers.

2) Sign up on the site. It is free and there is a bunch of great material there including practice exams.

3) If you have a smartphone, download the FCC exams to your phone.

1a) Each week read one chapter of the textbook and answer the exam questions for that chapter located in the back of the textbook.

2a) The ARRL site has great information for newbies and old timers however the main reason to sign up is you can take the actual FCC amateur radio exams. Once you are averaging around 80% correct or so, it is time to take your actual exam. All clubs give them at different times of the month but mostly at the monthly meetings. The prices range from $15- to free.

3a) I learned this trick from a Professor at the local college. Her 12-year old daughter had received her Technician’s ticket and made sure Mom knew about it. Well she did number one and two from above PLUS the phone app trick. She pulled up the exam questions on her phone when she was…waiting in a DMV line, waiting room at her doctors, while sitting at her daughter’s ballet instruction, etc. You get the idea. Anyway, she received a perfect score, 35 out of 35 on her Technician’s exam.

Dads: How much does it cost to belong to a club and what are the benefits?

JMC: I belong to two clubs. One is $25- a year for an individual member and $35- a year for a family membership. If your son is under 18-years old, then membership is free. The other club is similar in price and rules. I also pointed out that all members regardless of age and if they have an FCC License, are full voting members. Their opinions given are heard with the same gravity and respect as an 80-year old member.

The benefits are great belonging to a club which are many;

  • Knowing about discounted equipment before anybody else does,
  • Having knowledgeable members who have been where you are in your amateur radio journey – Why re-invent the wheel,
  • Someone with an extra set of hands to hoist that antenna or setup that new rig, and
  • The fellowship of like minded and directed individuals.

The two clubs I belong to do about a half dozen or so events each a year. The main goal of these events is to spread the word about amateur radio, fellowship, but most important, is to have fun!

Dads: Can we call you with any additional questions?

JMC: “No! But here is my email address.” Where MrsMac and I live we do not have cell phone voice coverage and I am not to partial to people calling me at odd times on my landline. Email works best for me as I can respond with links to help answer questions too. Bottom-line though, my hearing is poor at best. Let that be a lesson to all of you to, wear ear protection starting at an early age whether you are cutting the grass, cutting and splitting firewood or having fun at the rifle range.

By the time all the questions from the Dads were answered, the huffing and puffing scouts had stacked three cords of wood. I brought out some sugary soft drinks for the crew, congratulated them on their first QSO’s, gave them much deserved praise and they set off to their afternoon Saturday tasks all giving me 73’s. I heard one of the Dads say, “what is 73?” The scout rolled his eyes and responded with typical 15-year old scorn to his dumb father, “Good-buy Dad! Its what you say when you are done with your QSO.” I chuckled to myself and as I closed the front door, nd I clearly heard another Dad say, “what is a QSO?”

73 & God Bless,

Freedom Through Self-Reliance®