By Mariah Bennett | Personal editor
The Amateur Radio Club returned this semester after being inactive for years. Now the club is open to all interested students and holds meetings for members from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Rogers 312.
Amateur radio, also known as amateur radio, is both a hobby and a service that people use to communicate over long distances. Without the need for internet or a cell phone, users can travel across town, across the world or even into space and still be able to talk to each other via radio.
“To me, amateur radio is a gateway to different tools, to different experiments,” said Josh Ward, senior academic advisor and consultant.
The club, which currently has six active members, began in the 1990s providing educational opportunities for students about amateur radio and acquiring radio licenses. According to Patrick Hynan, Advisor and Director of Technology and Facilities, the club was inactive because there was a lack of members – not because there was a lack of interest.
“There was a group of people who had expressed interest last year and a few people who came through Connect or found the club through Connect,” Hynan said.
According to the National Amateur Radio Association, amateur radio is not only a fun, social, and educational activity, but can also serve as a lifeline in an emergency.
“One of the things that amateur radio operators will typically help with is emergency communication,” Hynan said. “You will have amateur radio operators who will come in and help with communication in the event of a natural disaster… We have methods and practices that we follow that can help.”
Ward said he also uses ham radio as a tool in other ways.
“I play more on the experimental side,” Ward said. “I send balloons up to 80-90-100,000 feet with GoPro cameras, and I happen to use devices that allow me to track those balloons in real time. I use ham radio as a way to facilitate some of my [other] hobby.”
The Federal Communications Commission requires individuals to have a license to operate on amateur radio frequencies. Currently, the club is working to help students obtain their FCC licenses so they can participate in amateur radio; students plan to take the test in October.
Hynan said after students graduate, the club will ask members what they want to do throughout the semester. Two ideas so far are to learn how to prepare for emergencies and to participate in a game called “fox hunting”.
“[It’s] a bit of hide-and-seek using the radio — just using the radio to find boundaries on campus,” Hynan said. “A student is going to go somewhere on campus; let’s find them.
Hynan said the ultimate goal of the club is to create space for anyone interested in amateur radio. He said he hoped to expand the club on campus by including activities such as balloon launches, satellite communications and long-distance contact.
“The sky’s the limit, literally, for what we’re doing here,” Hynan said.
According to Hynan, ham radio operators will also hold contests to hone their skills or simply to meet and talk to others with the same interest.
“Amateur radio operators will enter a contest to try to talk to as many people as possible in a 24-hour period or try to talk to as many different schools in a week-long period,” Hynan said. “I don’t necessarily like to be on the radio just to talk to people, but I do like to do some fun things. And if the club wanted to get involved in a competition, I would go ahead and say ‘Of course I can help, [and] I would be happy to help you.
Ward said students who are licensed, interested in getting licensed or just intrigued by the club can get in touch via email or Connect.
“For me, it opens up a lifetime of potential learning,” Ward said. “There are so many different ways to play with amateur radio.”