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Re: Re: Re: Discovery Project: Which Mission Next?

>Why is a child more deserving of a contact with an astronaut then an adult?

Jon, this is not specifically in response to your post but just some
food for thought for all who read it.  Elmering can bring great

Sorry in advance for the long post.  If you do not like to read just
read the closing comments to make the long story short and get
to the point. For me, it was impossible to find an Elmer when I
needed one.  Read on....

The children are our future!  As an Adult there is no end to the
joy seen in a child's eyes that have just spoken with an Astronaut.
Recounting my first few years in grade school, I remember we
finally got a TV at our school so we could watch the Apollo Moon
missions.  I have never forgotten the excitement that it brought to
all of us in that small West Virginia Coal Mining community
classroom.  A place where few people left the area as a way of
life.  There were only 5-6 kids in my class from first grade to sixth
grade.  It never entered my mind that one day we would be able
to talk to Astronauts via Amateur Radio.  At the time, I had no
idea that Amateur Radio existed, except for what a few CB radio
operators referred to as the 'Short Wave'.

One day at an estate auction, I convinced my mother to bid on an
old Silvertone tube radio set.  Most of the people thought it was
a piece junk, because the dial cord was broken.  I stuck my head
inside the big wooden box and seen the problem.  Yes, I was a
tinkerer with anything mechanical up to that point.  We got it for a
couple dollars and I was extremely delighted to have a new toy or
any toy for that matter since I was so inquisitive.  When I finally got
the radio to work, it would tune the AM broadcast band as well as
the mysterious 'Short Wave' spectrum.  When you tuned in a radio
station, it had a tube referred to as a Cat's Eye that closed on the
front dial which added to the excitement.  I listened for hours to
worldwide radio broadcasts and finally discovered some Amateur
Radio operators using AM modulation talking back and forth.
Then, there were those stations that sounded pretty garbled which
I recognized as what sounded like single sideband on a CB radio.

My first radio exposure was the CB band using a Signature JR
radio that was nothing more than a walkie talkie with a fixed
transmit frequency, a tunable receiver, and a Morse code lever
in a box that looked like a base station radio.  I teamed up with
some friends that had walkie talkies and we learned we could talk
to each other.  After graduating to a real full powered CB radio,
I started tinkering and found they could be modified to hear those
HAM guys on the 10 meter band. Still, I knew no Ham's in the
area and I thought they were a very rare breed.  In fact, I was a
little frightened that maybe you had to be real smart and pass a
difficult test to become one of these alien people.  Since I was
still a kid, I was very intimidated by this thought.

My Uncle from South Carolina came to visit us in West Virginia
one afternoon and mentioned a book that Radio Shack sold that
taught Morse code and how to get your Ham license.  It was titled
"From 5 watts to 1000 watts".  Some of you may recall this book.
I scrounged up some money from mowing neighborhood lawns and
traveled to town with my mother to purchase this book that was
going to help me get my Ham license.  For Christmas that year, I
got one of those Radio Shack "100 in 1 kits" to start playing with
some electronic stuff since I was so excited about this radio stuff.
What a great tool to learn electronics.  Anyhow, this Ham book that
Radio Shack had on the shelf finally made it with me to the house
where I read it as fast as I could digest it.  The Radio Shack
"100 in 1 kit" provided me with a code oscillator to practice the
code.  I must have driven my parents crazy with it.

Still, I did not know any Hams in the area.  I swear they were extinct.
I finally discovered 73 Magazine at a local Drug Store and seen the
words Amateur Radio on the front.  I had to have it and read what
the real Hams had to say.  This is where I found information on the
Wayne Green's code tapes.  Wow!  It was just what I needed to help
learn the code.  After a few more lawn jobs, the code tapes were on
the way.  Within a few weeks of falling asleep with the headphones
still on my head, I was copying at least 18 words a minute and felt
like I was ready to get a license.  However, I was still intimidated
by the big written test.  Since the Ham population was extinct in
my area, or at least it was in my mind, I had nobody to help me
understand what to expect.  I found a few more books at a local
Electronics Shop in Fairmont, WV (TPS Electronics which was
a Lafayette store previously) that had some more books on Amateur
Radio,  but these books were really lacking some detail on where
I could take the test.

I discovered the closet place to take the test was 100 miles away
and was only given every 6 months!  The next test was coming up in
2 months, so I rushed to get my request into the FCC for the test.  I
had big sights on getting that General Class license right at the
beginning, but I would have to wait for 2 months and then drive 100
miles up to Pittsburgh, PA to take the test.  This gave me plenty of
time to learn every  word in the Radio Shack book along with the
Part 97 rules.  Oh yes, I had to order  the Part 97 rules from a
government publication office in Washington, DC.  This was getting
to be serious stuff for a kid, but I was determined to make it happen.
You might ask why did I go straight for the General ticket.  Well, it is
quite simple.  Since I thought the Ham population was extinct, I did
not have a clue what kind of equipment was available and it all
seemed very expensive.  All I knew at the time was I had a President
Washington SSB CB radio with an MB8719 PLL chassis that I knew
I could be put on 10 meters.  So, I ordered a crystal and put on the
10 meter band.  What a great radio it was on 10 meters for AM and
SSB.  This radio did not have CW, so I would be wasting my time
without a license that gave me no voice privileges on 10 meters, or
at least that was my rationale at the time.  Later I discovered that CW
sounded like a tone on SSB.  So, with my limited wisdom I realized
that if I  added a sine wave oscillator and injected this signal on one
of the sidebands it would create a CW sounding signal, it might
suffice for Morse code work.  It worked and nobody ever knew the
difference.  I got most of my ideas from that old Radio Shack
"100 in 1" kit that had a circuit for a Morse code oscillator.  The 73
Amateur Radio Magazine was packed with loads of great
construction articles in those days and were a tremendous help.  In fact,
it was about the only Amateur Radio magazine I could find at the time
at the local Drug Store.  Oh yes, I almost forgot, they also carried the
Popular Electronics magazine that was another great source of

Fortunately, right before I went to take the big Amateur Radio test, I
found a Ham who could help calm my fears or make them bigger.
My Uncles Father In-Law was a Ham.  Boy, was I excited to talk to
him. I finally found someone to tell me about the BIG FCC Test.
Although  he was very helpful, he also put the fear of God in me
when he conveyed his personal experience with the FCC Examiners.
It seems that he copied the 20 WPM code test 100% at 70 years of
age, but somehow got all his answers off by one line and they failed
him.  He said the examiner showed him his mistake, but would not
allow the 100% copied scratch pad to change their mind.  As you
can imagine, I was even more frightened about taking the test.

During the time I was waiting to take the big test, I converted the
Single Sideband CB radio to the 10 meter band as mentioned
earlier and had it working like a champ.  Now, I had a radio to get
on the Ham bands as soon as I could pass the exam.

The big day finally came.  The 100 mile trip went very fast and my
nerves were on overload.  Prior to the test, a group of people were
talking in the waiting area outside the examination room. I heard all
these big city people talking about the Bash book.  I am sure this
brings back some memories for a few folks.  I had no knowledge of
Dick Bash or the book, but I quickly realized these guys were in the
know.  All they could talk about was how they memorized the actual
test right from this magical book.  I was just a country boy and a coal
miner's son from way out in the country sticks and could not believe
there was a book that contained the actual questions and answers
for the test.  These guys were bragging about how easy it was to
take the test.  One guy had a Bash book with him, so I leaned over
his shoulder to take a peek.  In my amazement, I could not believe it!
There really was  a book that had all the answers.  I was in shock
thinking to myself, why did I go through so much trouble when I could
have read the book with all  the answers.

The doors swung open and the stone faced FCC examiners did
not crack a smile.  I was so nervous...  First, it was the 13 WPM
code test that echoed at least three times in that big room, but I
got through it even though the guy beside kept looking over to see
what I was writing.  This was all that I needed, getting distracted by
the bobbing head beside me.   It was over and I had passed the
code test.  I will never forget the name used in the code test.  It
was "Katashi".  This was obviously a name that you where not
going to guess very easily if you grew up in the country.  I was sure
I copied it wrong, because I had never heard this name in my life.
In my disbelief, I discovered it was indeed the correct name that
was echoing through the room in Morse code that I had copied.
What a relief!

Next, was the big written test that really had my nerves on end.
There were 75 questions on my test to cover the Novice, Technician,
and General class elements.  I went through the test with blazing
speed and found it to be very easy after all the studying.  When I got
to question #50 there were several people finishing their work.
When I got to question #65, the room was getting empty and I was
checking off the answers as fast as I could read them.  Finally, I got
to question #75 and decided to review my answers before
submitting them to the unfriendly people in front of the room.  Yes, I
was full of fear.  The time had come.  It was time for the examiner to
check my work.  As the examiner went down the list, I was waiting to
see him make a bunch of marks and tell me to get lost.  Instead,
there were no marks. I had PASSED the test!  I was definitely the
youngest person in the room that day and commented to the
examiner that I was feeling  pretty dumb for taking so long in
completing my exam.  He leaned over and whispered that I only had
25 more questions than everybody else since I was covering the
Novice, Technician, and General elements. I realized the examiner
was not such an evil person after all.  It finally hit me what he said and
I did not feel so bad.  It did not matter to me anyway, because I had
just passed the test.  I asked the examiner if I could take a shot at the
Advanced test while I was there.  He explained that I would have to
come back in 6 months to take the exam because they only bring
what is requested prior to their trip from the Gettysburg office to

On the way out of the examination room, I met up with several people
who were outside looking like somebody had just passed away.
Why, it was all the Bash book readers who had all the answers that
failed the test.  It seems the FCC pulled a fast one and came out with
a new set of questions not covered by the Bash book.  For once in my
life I felt pretty proud that I had taken the rocky road to success.  All of
that hard work and studying really paid off.

Then came the Amateur Satellites.  Another mystery in Amateur Radio.
I had a hard enough time just trying to figure out how to get my license.
If somebody had told me about Amateur Satellites, I would probably
have went for a Technician license, chose a different career path and
forgot about upgrading.  Yet, satellite operation is still a mystery to
many Amateurs and non-Amateurs worldwide.  We need more
Ambassadors to spread the great news on Amateur Radio Satellite
operation.  A short simple demonstration is all it takes.  Recently, I just
gave a short satellite demonstration using an Arrow handheld antenna
with an HT at the Huntsville Hamfest and attracted a growing crowd.
Thanks to all the satellite operators who recognize the plea for Hamfest
demo contacts,  you really make the show eventful.  Then, when you tell
the crowd to tune their dual band radios to the downlink and they
actually hear the satellite, it really generates some excitement.  They
realize that satellites are no longer mysterious things in the sky.  At the
very least, it brings in a crowd asking questions at the AMSAT booth
on how they can work the satellites with such a simple system.  Then,
the fun begins...

We even had some antenna manufacturers come out to see what we
were doing at the hamfest.  When I said we could try their dual band
antennas and do the same thing, they quickly obliged to get us an
antenna to demonstrate.  There are some opportunities there...

Unfortunately, there are still areas in our country and the rest of the
world where it is difficult to find an Amateur Radio Operator to help
Elmer a prospective newcomer to the hobby.  Now, when I go back to
West Virginia to visit, I am excited to take my hand held radio and an
Arrow antenna to share this experience.  It always draws a crowd to
see what in the world is that guy holding the antenna is doing.  Of
course, I always respond, "it is what is out of this world that I am doing."

Closing comments:

So, why do I tell you this story.  It is quite simple.  Times have changed
in the past 20 years since I took my first Amateur Radio exam and
there are more opportunities to take an Amateur Radio Exam today
than ever in the past.  Yet, the Amateur Population does not reflect
how easy it is to pass the big test.  Why?  Maybe we are caught up
in our own pleasure of the hobby that we take little time to share it
with the rest of the world.

There are still plenty of opportunities to spread the good word and get
people involved. This is not an exclusive club and the children are our
future.  Without them, Amateur Radio has no future.

As an adult, if you like talking to an Astronaut, what better way to do it
than sharing that experience with a child or an entire school.  That way
you get to initiate the contact with the Astronauts right along with the
students.  We are all big kids and the enablers for the little kids.  What a
great way to introduce the hobby to young and old alike.  There are so
many bad things a child can get involved with these days that a great
hobby like Amateur Radio could really make a difference in somebody's
life.  It can certainly occupy their time learning new things.

The biggest question is how does one move forward and bring
Amateur Radio into the schools?  Perhaps, we could all benefit from
a 101 class on how to do it and make it successful.

Does anybody have any thoughts, ideas, or approaches that they have
used to bring Amateur Radio into the schools?  Who did you contact at
the schools?  What made it successful or unsuccessful?  Where did you
get your material to talk to the class?

Any thoughts would be helpful to all of us.

>I'd resign my membership in a heartbeat.  It's fine to have demos for kids,
>but if we are going to spend money on stuff then let's make it available to
>everyone, adults included.

I am sure there will be plenty of time for adults to make a contact.  Keep
in mind that schools do not operate 24 hours a day and the Astronaut
schedules may not always coincide with school hours or reasonable
hours of operation.


Tim - N8DEU
Huntsville, Alabama

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