Starting a School Radio Club
Promoting Amateur Radio – a School Radio Club
Related wiki pages : Ham Radio for Kids
This article presents a pathway to creating a school Ham Radio Club.
As a Ham and a teacher (of Maths) and I firmly believe that the future of Amateur Radio is firmly rooted in education.
I work at a school just south of Brisbane in Queensland Australia. In 2008, Ron Bertrand VK2DQ helped me get 4 students through the foundation course. None of these students went any further than getting their certificate, but one is now working towards his standard call. This year (2009) I have 5 students in a school club, all using the course work from The Radio and Electronics School, working towards a standard call.
- If you are a student who wants to start a club at your school, find a staff member to help you. Typically he/she will be found in the Maths/Science area, but of course this is not always the case.
- If possible get the support of a local club or at least local hams. In my case Peter VK4KTX has been a great supporter of our club, as has Keith VK4XAK who donated a handheld for us to use.
- Talk to your accountant. Here in Australia, if you are being paid to run the club then you can write off the purchase of a NEW rig and other equipment over a number of years. There is a minimum value associated with this – a $120 handheld does not cut the mustard, regardless of its merits or how much you use it. The key to this is being able to give evidence in the form of payslips to show that you have been paid for the activity. You will also need purchase receipts for your tax return.
- Here in VK, risk assessments are a must for any activity involving students. Make sure you do them properly as it will be you who will be grilled in the unlikely event of a disaster . Seek help if you are not sure how to write one.
- Ensure that visiting staff have the appropriate clearance. Here in VK4, they require a “Blue Card” for working with children. Find out what your state requirements are and follow them.
- Be prepared to provide everything. In my case I was lucky enough to scrounge an old stainless steel resuscitation trolley for the “portable shack”. All equipment sits on this and we wheel it from place to place as required.
- Don’t expect to be able to put up a permanent antenna straight away. I use a tripod from a set of workshop lights and vertical antennas for both HF and VHF. Be flexible!
- Be prepared to be of no fixed address until you have proven yourself. Our shack is a trolley that sits at the back of the Music Department store room (it’s close to my staffroom, and big enough for the trolley). I wheel it out when we need it.
- Be prepared to do a range of activities. Here, in addition to doing theory sessions, I have an antenna construction project planned and we will be playing with fox-hunting later in the year.
- Does your school have open days? Have an operational station at the school on that day demonstrating some aspects of the hobby : SSTV, IRLP, voice etc etc. Make sure you advertise it in the Ham community. Plan for and expect it to be a success.
- Make contact with other school Ham Radio Clubs. Our first was with Sherbrooke Community School (VK3KID). Our initial contact with them was in late May this year, and we have made arrangements for regular contacts.
- Get your club callsign. In Australia theACMA handles all licensing and is very receptive to the idea. I had a phone call at work to confirm that I was who I said I was, and now we have the call VK4CCR.
- Involve your students in the operation of the club. One of mine is developing the club website.
- Keep parents informed. Write regular newsletters with details about what you are doing specifically mentioning their children.
- Print QSL cards for your club. They do not have to be fancy or in colour - get your students to design them.
- Use technologies such as IRLP for long distance contacts using basic equipment. They are an integral part of ham radio now, so use them to your advantage.
Finally, be persistent. The bottom line will always be the mighty dollar. The path to the Canterbury College club was frustratingly slow, but I believe that we now have something worthwhile that will benefit many students in the future.
Good Luck! Tim Roberts VK4YEH
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