Each June, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) sponsors Field Day, a national amateur radio event that simulates a disaster where electronic communications are disabled. In this scenario, almost all of the services that we use in our daily life are affected. Hundreds of thousands of text messages and calls are not reaching their recipients across the country. For the most part, that would be a devastating blow. However, for the students of the Case Amateur Radio Club, it would be just another Tuesday.
Professor David Kazdan is the radioclub’s advisor. In his role, Kazdan helps prepare students to become fully licensed amateur radio operators and participate in the annual ARRL Field Day. For the field day, students should set up a communication station and attempt to contact other stations using different high frequency bands.
To do this, they must first install several antennas high in the trees to pick up and receive the transmissions. Placing different lengths of cables allows a team to connect with more operators and thus score more points. As the club prepared for the next day on the pitch, the question arose as to what the ideal antenna setup was.
Earlier in the semester, Kazdan approached Katie Wheaton, professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, to help her prepare for the ARRL competition. Wheaton teaches a surveying course and has used the proposal as an opportunity for his students to gain real experience working for a client.
The students traveled to University Farm, where they used digital measurement tools to survey the area and create a detailed map with suggested locations where the radioclub could set up specific antenna lengths between trees. This interdisciplinary collaboration illustrates how students at Case Western Reserve University solve real-world problems by applying knowledge and techniques learned in the classroom.