HAM Radio 101

Be a Show-Off for Amateur Radio

We know that amateur radio is the greatest hobby in the world—it has something for everyone. But what about the average Joe or Jane who doesn’t know what ham radio is all about? It’s time for us to seize opportunities to show them what they’re missing.

Public Service

Radio communications come in handy for public service. You can help support local parades, fun runs and races, fairs, and other events requiring coordination of the host team. You can offer the services you and your fellow hams can provide for community organizations. Let them know your group or club is willing and available.

Hams from our county generally combine efforts to assist with annual events. One example is the Youngstown, Ohio, Christmas Parade, where we help guide groups in the parade formation. Many of these same hams lend a hand with the Youngstown Roadrunners Club Mill Creek Distance Classic. They work with park police and the Roadrunners to track participants, provide communications assistance, and report emergencies that might happen during the race.

The Special Olympics has relied on amateur radio operators from our area to help keep events running smoothly. Providing communications between the organizers, coaches, and people running the events helps make sure rosters are up-to-date and contestants show up at the right place at the right time. In the event of an injury, help can be summoned quickly.

Adopt a School or a Scout Troop

A successful STEM education provides students with science, math, and engineering/technology knowledge that can be used with real-world applications. A STEM teacher from the Youngstown City Schools contacted the Mahoning Valley Amateur Radio Association (MVARA) two years ago and asked us to do a presentation for his classes. This has now become a semi-annual event.

Learning modules included hands-on calculation of wavelengths, digital QSOs with hams around the U.S., and some HF radio demonstrations. Interestingly, the one they liked most was Morse code. Maybe it had something to do with having secret conversations in the classroom—and the teachers wouldn’t have a clue.

School-sponsored clubs such as K8LPS at Columbiana Exempted Village School District are the ultimate STEM activity encompassing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in every facet of the art and science of amateur radio. Groups like these exist because teachers and the ham radio community support them.

Each year, more than a million Scouts and Guides get together over the airwaves for the annual Jamboree-on-the-Air (JOTA). Some Scouts and leaders hold licenses and have their own stations, but the majority participate in JOTA through stations operated by local radio clubs and individual radio amateurs like you.

Did you know ham radio has been a part of Scouting since 1918? How about conducting Radio Merit Badge sessions? Scouts who are working on the Radio Merit Badge discover the world of broadcast radio and hobby radio. They learn how radio waves make it possible for people around the world to communicate.

More Radio Merit Badge counselors are always needed. Hams wishing to register as counselors should contact their local BSA Council office. Also, read here about getting involved in the ARRL’s Radio and Wireless Technology Patch program for the Girl Scouts.


Field Day is an obvious choice for most ham clubs. Besides practicing emergency operation and skills, it’s a great opportunity for the public to see amateur radio operations firsthand. Many groups set up in an easily accessible public location for that reason. You’ll want to contact your local newspapers, TV, and radio stations about your plans. Having the media outlets cover your event helps make the public aware of your Field Day site and keeps amateur radio in the public eye.

A welcome table complete with a greeter and brochures about amateur radio helps visitors feel more involved. You can provide tour guides to help steer your visitors through your site and explain what they will see and hear. Technician or Novice licensees, newly licensed amateurs, other generally inactive licensees, and non-licensed guests can experience firsthand the fun of amateur radio by allowing them to Get on the Air (GOTA).

Silly Science Sunday is an event sponsored every year by OH WOW, the Children’s Center for Science and Technology in downtown Youngstown. It spills onto the adjacent downtown area for a street festival focused on hands-on, interactive STEM displays, exhibits, and stage shows.

The MVARA has participated in Silly Science for the last three years, introducing children and their parents to amateur radio. Demonstrations included two working stations, including an HF rig and a 2m radio. The 2m radio was dedicated to chats with “Santa” to share Christmas wish lists. There was also a Morse code practice station where visitors could practice sending their names in dits and dahs.

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