Events

All About YOTA–History, Present, Future

YOTA, or Youngsters on the Air (or Youth on the Air as it’s known in IARU Region 2) has begun to make its name known around the world for its success in attracting, advocating for, engaging, and growing young amateur radio operators. It all started as a group of young ham friends who grew their club into an International Amateur Radio Union (IARU)-supported organization that features numerous activities and experiences for the young ham, including summer camps, on-the-air events, online events, and putting new spins on everyday ham radio activities like contesting.

YOTA’s flagship experience is its yearly summer camp, which has been taking place since 2011. It has given numerous young hams incredible, eye-opening adventures in ham radio. I was one of the lucky first Americans to be invited to a camp (Austria, 2016), and I can say, without a doubt, that it changed my life.

YOTA has been successful due to one very simple principle: show young hams that there is a place for them in ham radio. Hams are keenly aware of our aging population, much to the chagrin of young people finding their way into the hobby. One of the first things we tell new hams is to join a club. Joining an amateur radio club can be highly beneficial and rewarding, but for younger hams it can be off-putting and intimidating if they are the youngest person in the room by a factor of decades.

YOTA aims to help the younger ham find peer groups of their own age, which I believe is the most powerful tool we have in our arsenal to attract and retain young people in our hobby.

Expanding YOTA Around the World

YOTA started as nothing more than an idea, with no expectations of global impact. Its impact is fortunately worldwide thanks to the efforts of organizations like the IARU, The Yasme Foundation, and numerous IARU member societies like RSGB, DARC, and OVSV, to name a few. They collectively realized the importance and significance of youth-oriented organizations and advocacy, and helped boost it to a global scale through a variety of initiatives.

My work started mainly due to encouragement from Ward Silver, N0AX, current Yasme Foundation president. Yasme sponsored Sam Rose, KC2LRC, and me to attend the 2016 YOTA camp in Austria. We were the first Americans to attend a camp (it was also the first time I’ve ever flown across the Atlantic Ocean). Yasme tasked Sam and me to take lots of notes, photos, and videos; make friends; and learn how to promote youth in ham radio so we could bring a similar initiative to our own IARU Region 2.

And so we did!  It was a truly eye-opening and positively life-altering experience that really showed me that there is youth in ham radio. More youth initiatives are showing up in IARU Region 3–Asia and Pacific. YOTA groups have been formed in Japan and Thailand and more are coming online very soon.

2021 YOTA-R2 Camp

The 2021 IARU Region 2 Youth On The Air Camp, scheduled to be held at the Voice of America Museum near Cincinnati (July 11-16), is still a GO. The planning committee (led by Neil Rapp,WB9VPG) will make its final determination on whether to run the camp this year in mid-April, contingent on national vaccination status and CDC recommendations. At time of writing, vaccine status is looking promising with tiers in many states opening up to all ages in mid-April to May, but stay tuned to YOTA’s website for the latest information.

Youth On The Air will feature a variety of activities, workshops, lectures, and fun, modeled from past camps. Watch the trailer for the event here.

Next Steps

The future of our hobby lies in our willingness to accept newcomers into the fold, young and old. I’ve made it a priority to do what I can to ensure this happens, with young people fairly represented at the big round table. As such, the IARU Region 2 executive committee, led by Ramón Santoyo, XE1KK, asked me to lead youth as their first Youth Liaison. In this position, I’ve been officially tasked to advocate and promote youth in ham radio. One of the first steps is to execute a Youth Action Plan throughout the Americas, especially Latin America, through online meetups, on-the-air events, surveys, and liaising. Progress has been slow due to the pandemic and personal events, but we could use your help to promote youth in ham radio! Just contact me at sterling@n0ssc.com to start a conversation.

Thanks for reading, and 73!

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