Amateur Radio News

Students Thrive on the Air at K8LPS Thanks to DX Engineering and a Community of Support

It takes a village to raise a radio station, so the saying goes. Or rather, it takes a community of supporters who understand the life-changing impact ham radio can have on young people to make it happen.

Such was the case with the building of the recently upgraded HF/UHF/VHF K8LPS amateur radio station housed in the classroom of Colleen Campbell, KB8VAQ, a science teacher at Columbiana High School in Columbiana, Ohio.

Getting the station up and running has been an effort that combined the generosity and talents of local businesses, individuals, students, teachers, and area hams devoted to making the learning opportunities and fun of amateur radio available to today’s students and generations to follow.

Students get on the air at K8LPS

“The educational benefits of amateur radio for middle school and high school students are endless,” Campbell said. “From learning about the physics of why everything works, to geography based on where we can talk to, to improving social skills by rag-chewing, amateur radio provides opportunities and learning experiences that are unmatched by any other hobby or activity. We have had five students earn tech licenses, two upgrade to general, and one to extra. It creates another generation of excited amateur radio operators!”

K8LPS is the call sign of the Columbiana Clippers Amateur Radio and Electronics Club—a group that began taking shape in November 2018 after school resource officer, Wade Boley, N8YMX, did a classroom demonstration on the electromagnetic spectrum for a seventh- and eighth-grade science class.

“The class enjoyed the demo and showed quite a bit of interest in furthering their learning about the electromagnetic spectrum,” Campbell explained. “As a result of this interest, seventh-grade science teacher, Ashlee Sherwood, KE8LQS, and N8YMX started an amateur radio and electronics club together.”

Members of the Columbiana Clippers Amateur Radio Club at a meeting of the Columbiana Exempted Village School District Board of Education October 10

Campbell joined as co-advisor, and the station, which included some equipment but no permanent HF capabilities, was relocated to her classroom. Up until then, participation in ARRL School Club Roundups depended on borrowed equipment and a temporary G5RV antenna. This changed when Graft Electric of Columbiana, Ohio, donated a brand-new Icom IC-7300.

“That made School Club Roundups far easier, but we still didn’t have a permanent antenna and were still setting up and tearing down a temporary dipole and telescoping mast twice a year for the weeks of the School Club Roundup,” Campbell continued. “Not having a permanent antenna made it challenging for us to get kids on the air during regular club meetings, so we were looking to get a permanent antenna set up so we could get them on HF more frequently.”

Members of the DX Engineering team first learned of K8LPS before Field Day 2021 and kept in touch with the school as the station grew over the next couple of years.  

“Earlier this year, we were discussing with them an upcoming tower project,” said Scott Jones, N3RA, DX Engineering sales manager. “Tim Duffy, K3LR (DX Engineering CEO) and I decided it was time to get DX Engineering involved.”

In addition to providing technical advice, DX Engineering contributed a range of equipment for HF operation, including the heavy-duty DX Engineering RT4500HD rotator, as well as rotator controller, clamps, shelf, and cable; DX Engineering TB300 Advanced Design Thrust Bearing; coaxial cable, connectors, and adapters; steel tubing; and antennas from EAntenna (five-element 6M loop-fed array), Hy-Gain (HF 11-element five-band Yagi), and Diamond (2M/70cm base/repeater). Later they contributed an Icom IC-9700 VHF/UHF/1.2 GHz transceiver to enhance station capabilities.

“Youth are critical to our hobby’s future, and we really enjoy doing what we can to help,” Jones said. “I grew up and got started in my school club (Sharon High School, Sharon, PA) back in the late 70s, so I know how meaningful and important these clubs can be and the lifelong impact they can have. While it’s impossible for us to help all clubs at this level of support, we hope our participation in this project encourages others to step up when called upon.”

As the tower project commenced, others joined in to lend assistance. Scott Dunn of RAA Data Services generously assumed the construction role, which included student involvement at every step of the process, Campbell explained.

“Over the summer of 2023, we started by pouring concrete and installing a tower that was graciously donated by George Rockenberger, running Heliax cable donated by Tri County Tower,” she said. “RAA Data came out with a team of volunteers who gave up their summer vacations, and together they spent more than seven full workdays installing the new tower and making sure every part of our new station was working properly.”

Campbell also made special note of the many others whose support has helped students learn about the magic of amateur radio, including the Fairfield Ruritans and the Columbiana Foundation.

With the DX Engineering-donated 11-element, 20/17/15/12/10M Yagi in place, the club was able to increase its number of DX contacts in the School Club Roundup this year to nearly 50, while exposing students of all ages to a world of communications possibilities. The station is seeing plenty of on-air activity, according to Campbell. For example, her daughter, Katie, KE8LQR, visits the station during lunch to practice CW.

“Being part of a school club was a key factor in my getting licensed because I saw people outside of my family having fun with the hobby,” said Katie, who was a participant in the 2023 Dave Kalter Memorial Youth DX Adventure at K3LR. “The permanent station donated to K8LPS has allowed me to be able to share what I’ve learned with other students and has helped me find and keep in touch with like-minded friends around the world. I appreciate being able to converse with experts in the field at hamfests and encourage and help get other friends and family members to get licensed and upgraded.”

In addition to third-party operating using the K8LPS call sign, the station is used by the Columbiana Clippers Amateur Radio and Electronics Club, which meets there every other Tuesday. The station also experiences a flurry of weeklong operating and demonstrations during School Club Roundups, as science teachers grades 6-12 make use of the station.

“We now have third- through twelfth-graders talking to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, the Western Sahara, and all of Europe,” Campbell, KB8VAQ, said. “This also means we can be on HF during our regular club meetings biweekly, not just as special events. The station is used daily by members and will be enjoyed by students for years to come.”

The future of amateur radio is in good hands!

The station and those who helped to make it possible were honored at an October 10 meeting of the Columbiana Exempted Village School District Board of Education held at Columbiana High School. The event included a tour of the station and an impressive demonstration of students’ CW skills. Jones and Mark Ludwick, W8BBQ, DX Engineering customer/technical support specialist, represented DX Engineering at the gathering.

“I am proud to be a part of DX Engineering and all the goodwill the company provides to the ham radio community,” Ludwick said. “It is very special to see projects like this come together at this level of learning. DXE has assisted many such stations at the collegiate level, but here, such a project provides direction, experience, and generates interest for those students that are already orientated toward STEM fields, or those whose interest will be piqued from their involvement.”  

Scott Jones, N3RA; Mark Ludwick, W8BBQ; and Katie Campbell, KE8LQR   

School board members and K8LPS contributors

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