Ham Radio in the Schools, Grants, and Emergency Communcations.
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Attracting Youngsters to Ham Radio is the Future of Emergency Communications in the U.S. 

Emergency communications depends of amateur radio operators.  Today's most experienced, knowledgeable, skilled and able hams tend to be the ones who entered ham radio as teenagers or younger.  These hams tend to renew their licenses, engage in public service, such as emergency communications, and serve in roles which advance amateur radio.  These are high commitment hams.  

Young people tend to be more curious, willing to learn, expereiment, risk failure and embrassment.  This is the spirit of ham radio!  Most of today communication innovations have roots in amateur radio innovation.  There is no more important task for amateur radio and its emergency communications mission than to attract, train, acculturate, and mentor (elmer) young people.  Please see:  http://www.hello-radio.org/ 

Since the 1980s with computers, the internet, cellphones and video games, many people have written off amateur radio as obsolete.  However with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the public, the media, and lawmakers alike, saw a meltdown in communications infrastructure.  They saw about one thousand hams from across the U.S. and Canada volunteer and bring their own equipment, pay their own and pay for their own food and lodging to help in the disaster relief. Policy makers also noted the age of these volunteers.  There were few ham radio volunteers under 50.  Smart policy makers realize that as this group grays their ability to provide communications in disasters will be curtailed. 

Yearly, 870 hams in Los Angeles County are lost primarily due to death, non-renewal, and/or moving.   As the older, well trained and experienced hams die off, they are being replaced with new hams who have got their license after a one-day cram session.  Many of these new hams are concerned with emergency communications.  They tend to be in the 50s and 60s.   Unlike the previous generations, these new hams often regard ham radio as a back up 911 emergency personal cellphone.  Few are willing to use ham radio to help their neighborhoods and the country. 

Our research of select LA zip codes indicates, almost none of these new hams is on the air.  Their main reasons for inactivity are that they don't know how to use their radio and that ham radio is too technical.  In contrast, hams started in the 1970s and before who built their own equipment or kits.  As these hams die off, they are being replaced by hams that are totally dependent on store bought equipment and tech support from ham radio stores.  These ham radio stores will not be opened in an emergency.  In fact they will likely be looted and burned.  Few of these newer hams are capable of independently establishing a communications link in times of emergency.  Passing a test in which the questions and answers are published does not mean one can carry out the mission of the amateur radio service. 

In order to rebuild ham radio and its emergency communication capability we must start from the ground up.   This means attracting, training, acculturating and mentoring young people.   To facilitate this goal, ham radio needs to get back into the schools.  In the 1980s and since educational reform sought to turn around an educational system which was failing in many places.   While reform is needed, reform has thrown the baby out with the bathwater.  Eliminating the places in the crrriculum where amateur radio was teaching children about electronics also cut off the lifeblood of amateur radio. 

Amateur radio not only teaches children about electronics, science, math, and geography it prepares them for careers in high tech.  See: http://www.arrl.org/FandES/ead/careers.html   Computer skills are not enough.  Children need to learn about wireless communications.  By communicating with others, young people get a chance to develop their verbal skills and learn about diversity.  Ham radio builds good citizenship by instilling a value of community service.  Please see the story of and accompanying links of young people in ham radio http://www.arrl.org/news/features/2006/06/26/1/.

A.C. Stelle Middle School. 

At A.C. Stelle Middle School in Calabasas, California, Science Department Chair Karl Beutel, KE6MAO had longtime ham Norm Goodkin, K6YXH and emergency coordinator visit his class and gave a presentation on amateur radio.  (For Norm's power point slides, please visit: http://www.lvusd.k12.ca.us/stellesite/stelle/academics/departments/science/Extra%20Credit%20Ham%20Radio%20Project/Amateur%20Radio.htm).    Karl gave extra credit to his eighth graders who earned a Technician amateur radio licenses.  Norm provided the students with study materials and led the volunteer examination team which passed seventeen new hams (see photo below).  The exam was held during a regular class session during the school day.  Some students finished the test in as little time as five minutes. 

Please visit Karl's webpage:


Moorpark High School. 


At Moorpark High School in Ventura County, California, (Las Virgenes and LA Unified School District) math and meteorology teacher Tom Baker, NC6B teaches a year long elective service learning course called "Radio Amateurs and Disaster Operations" (RADIO).  Students from the 9th to 12th grade can take this course and earn an amateur radio license, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certificate, and American Red Cross CPR and 1st aid certification.  Students also learn about the National Incident Management System (NIMS), Incident Command System (ICS) and governmental organization.  Graduates of the program develop a wide skill set which enables them to assist the families and community.   

The class was concieved by Tom Baker and his colleague Guy Arnoff, and Principal Kirk Miyashiro after Hurricane Katrina occurred in 2005.   Students who were moved by the devastion of Katrina wanted to help and responded to the class offering.   After Tom, Guy and Kirk came up with the idea, the Mayor of Moorpark concurred.  The School Board was approached for further buy-in before the class was launched.  For more information see the ARRL story: http://www.arrl.org/news/stories/2006/05/02/3/?nc=1 or contact Tom Baker call (805) 378-6305), a local news story http://www.venturacountystar.com/vcs/mo/article/0,1375,VCS_167_4991626,00.html, or the RADIO webpage.  

John Burroughs Jr. High School. 

Bob Spears, LA Unified School District's Emergency Director stressed the necessity in finding inspiration teachers to teach hams radio so that the graduates of this program are technically competent and have the commitment and staying power to serve the public in the long haul.  Almost all the ham radio in the schools programs, started with teachers who were themselves excited about ham radio and wanted to share it with their students.   

One such teacher existed in Los Angles Unified, Ted Ryan, WB6JXY (sk).  Ted taught at John Burroughs Jr. High School from 1969 to 1983.  For remembrances from the students he inspired please visit www.TedRyan.bappy.com

Ted was the Electric Shop teacher but taught 6 classes of amateur radio a year, 2 a semester during the regular school year, and 2 sessions over summer school.  He taught both Novice and General levels.  He taught Basic and Advance Electric Shop which gave hams he licensed a solid technical foundation.  Hams trained by Ted could have up to 4 semesters of formal instruction.  Many went on to become electrical engineers and technicians.   

At night, Ted taught Novice and General level amateur radio licensing classes for three-and-a-half-decades from 1965 to 2000 for the San Fernando Valley Amateur Radio, W6SD.  On Saturdays, Ted would tutor people at his home who wanted to upgrade their license or teach people who could not come at other times.  When Ted was not teaching, he would fix old junk or WWII surplus radios which he gave to underprivileged kids so they could get on the air once they were licensed.  Ted did all this for free, never making a dime off of his students and ham radio.   For more of Ted's story and to see the proclamations from the U.S. Congress, California Governor, California State Senate and Assembly, Los Angeles City, County and School Board, please visit www.TedRyan.bappy.com.  

Starting a Ham Radio in the Schools Program.    

For a ham wanting to share amateur radio it is natural for we know what a great hobby it is and how much we contribute to society through our good works.  Not everyone understands this.  ...and we need to be respectful of this.  Keep in mind what we perceive as a gift may not be perceived that way by those we try to give it to.  If you have to give a gift, it is not a gift.  There is no room in ham radio for proselytizing!  Ham radio is about communicating; coming to understand and respect others.   

A ham radio in the schools program needs to start organically from the inside out.  Trying to impose a program on a school does not work.  Finding a teacher who already has a license is the best way to start.  If none are available, then finding a teacher who may personally be interested in ham radio is the next best way.  Avoid persuading them.  Let them come to their own conclusion that ham radio would be a wonderful addition to their life. 

Realize that while teachers may see ham radio as a useful vehicle to teach science, electronics, math, geography, social skills, and diversity, they are often beleaugered by conflicting pressures.  They are held accountable that their students perform well on standardized tests.   Many teachers see themselves as having little discretition to innovate. 

Only when the teacher is personally committed to ham radio can they start thinking about starting a ham radio program.  If this happens, then hams outside the school need to be there at every turn supporting the teacher where ever possible.  The supporting hams need to be in it for the long haul. 

Some times starting off with ham radio is an ineffective approach.  Perhaps starting off with shortwave listening may be best.  Often this may lead to interest in amateur radio. 

For more advice on starting ham radio in the schools please visit:


Help for Teachers.  

ARRL Education and Technology Program Coordinator Mark Spencer, WA8SME, spencer@arrl.org, (530) 495-9150 says a successful ham radio in the schools program has "three components that will be necessary for success: a motivated teacher, supportive school administration and strong support and involvement by the local ham community."   Motivated teachers like Ted Ryan and Tom Baker cultivated strong relationships with administrators.  Ted Ryan had the support of a large and old amateur radio club, the San Fernando Valley Amateur Radio Club, W6SD, where he was a key member and their teacher. 

To find hams willing to be supportive, The American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the national organization of amateur radio, has programs to support teachers http://www.arrl.org/FandES/tbp/.  ARRL can also help in finding a local ham to help make presentations, arrange for donations and give advice may be difficult if the teacher does not know any active hams, or of the ham they know is not aware or willing to help.  Locating an active club may be a useful path.  However, be aware many clubs are inactive.  Yearly active hams who are public service oriented go to Field Day, a yearly disaster preparedness exercise in which hams go into the field for the last weekend in June to set-up their radios and antennas to run off generator or solar power.  In 2006, there were only two clubs in LA that were active and large enough to operate field day, the San Fernando Valley Amateur Radio Club, W6SD and the United Radio Amateur Radio Club, K6AA.  Please do not be discouraged by inactive hams and clubs.  Doing ham radio in the core of city is problematic due to high cost of housing.  Antenna restrictions by landlords and home owners associations often means hams inside the city get discouraged or even give up ham radio.   Antenna restrictions result in lack of emergency preparedness.  There are active hams in the City of Los Angeles. 

The ARRL breaks the U.S. up into divisions and sections.  The Los Angeles Section (LAX) is part of the Southwest Division; which covers the bottom half of California and Arizona.  There are about 42,000 hams in Southwest Division.  They have elected a Director and Vice-Director.  The 20,000 hams in LA elect a Section Manager.  LAX section is most of LA County except the San Gabriel Valley which is in Orange Section.   Interested teachers should contact their Section Managers who will refer them to people who can help.  In Los Angeles Section (LAX) the Section Manager is: Phineas J. Icenbice, Jr., W6BF, (818) 349-3186 (t), w6bf@arrl.org.  The Southwest Division as an affilated club coordinator: ARRL Southwest Division Club Coordinator Bill Leslie, WA6POK (626) 579-1761 WA6POK@arrl.net.  Note not all clubs are affiliated with the ARRL; nor are all hams ARRL members.  There may be active hams willing to help teachers who the ARRL is not in touch with.   If the section does not give a teacher sufficient help, the teacher should contact the Divisional Director.   In the southwest, which includes the bottom half-of-California and Arizona, the ARRL Division Director is: Richard Norton, N6AA, (310) 455-1138, n6aa@arrl.org

ARRL has a program which supports teachers and schools - see: http://www.arrl.org/FandES/ead/teacher/ and used the name "The Big Project" http://www.arrl.org/FandES/tbp/

The program has five components:

1) Classroom Bookshelf - enables local amateur radio clubs to purchase at a discount, as a gesture of commitment to helping a particular school, instructional and reference materials, 

2) On-Line Sourcebook - provides tips and ideas for teaching wireless technology to youth in schools, community groups and clubs,  

3) Radio Lab Handbook - handbook of lesson plans and projects to help teachers provide authentic, hands-on technological experiences for their students,   

4)  Stations in Schools -- provides Amateur Radio equipment to establish a school station, for qualifying schools,

5) Progress Grants - $500 grants to teachers currently using Amateur Radio in their classrooms - for such things as Amateur Radio license manuals and instructor guides, station upkeep and maintenance (e.g., replacing a worn cable, equipment repair), upgrades (e.g., replacing a satellite-tracking computer program with an updated version), and various supplies and consumables.  Please see: http://www.arrl.org/FandES/tbp/progress-grant.html

For application see - http://www.arrl.org/FandES/tbp/school-ap.html

For discounts on instructional materials see: http://www.arrl.org/FandES/ead/discount/

Please remember the Neighborhood Emergency Radio Project is willing to help where possible. 

2006, New Hams, A.C. Stelle Middle School

This year (2007) we got 47 new student hams!  That’s almost triple what we did last year – we think it’s because of several factors: We told them it was fun (we stressed emergency communications and service last time), we showed them the picture of the 17 hams from last year, and we told them it was like a big party line with their friends.  Karl also offered them ‘massive extra credit’ if they passed the Tech exam before the end of the school year.  We also demonstrated the ARRL Grant station, an FT-8800, connected to the VHF/UHF antenna on the roof.  We made contacts with members of the PAPA System, a linked network of 13 repeaters that covers all of Southern California.  Karl lit fluorescent lights next to a portable antenna to demonstrate the relative power of a 50 watt ham radio vs. .5 watt FRS radio.  The kids learned some science along the way!  They’re putting together a petition to start a ham radio club at the high school next year – look for more on that.

We’ve also made progress with the City of Calabasas; Gary Lysik and Debbie Larson (see below) put on two 1-day Tech sessions, adding 46 hams to the community’s emergency service groups – they’re finding that GMRS, FRS and commercial radios are not sufficient in our area (Malibu Mountains).  This follows presentations to the Calabasas Emergency Response Program and Public Safety Commission on how ham radio can help improve public safety.  Gary and Debbie are looking for ways to support and encourage the new hams, including the possibility of setting up a local repeater system.  Our DCS group provided the venue for the licensing sessions, and most of the VEs were from our DCS group.  We ran tours of our EOC and communications vans for examinees waiting for results (recruiting!). Here are pictures from the June 2, 2007 session: http://goodkin.net/public/HamRadio/2007-06-02VEsession/  Note that the kid in the front center of the is only 9 years old, the son of one of the Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness new hams – Ben started studying at 8pm the night before and the next morning, taking the exam at 1pm with the rest of the group

The adults in the picture are:

(right, top)  Norm Goodkin/K6YXH, LA County Disaster Communications Service (LACDCS), Lost Hills Station Membership Officer, VE; Mari Levenson/KA6PTV, VE

(right, middle) Dick Norton/N6AA, ARRL Southwest Section Director; Sandra Smyser, Superintendent, Las Virgenes Unified School District (LVUSD)

(right front) Naomi Goodkin/WB6OHW, LACDCS, VE;  Debbie Larson/KG6ZRF, Risk Management Analyst, head of  the City of Calabasas Emergency Response Program (CERP); Somer Harding, Assistant Principal, A.C. Stelle Middle School

(left front)  R. C. Smith (Smitty)/W6RZA, Chairman, Greater Los Angeles Amateur Radio Group: Captain Tom Fakehany/N6FDR, LA County Sheriff’s Department Reserves, LACDCS, Lost Hills Station Liaison; Gary Lysik/KF6BIX, CFO, City of Calabasas, responsible for CERP

(center front) Karl Beutel/KE6MAO, Chairman, A. C. Stelle Middle School Science Department – these kids are all from Karl’s science classes

       73, Norm/K6YXH