Sequestered behind a partition in the corner of the Berthoud high school library, a group of students, teachers and adult volunteers bent over a radio.
“CQ, CQ, this is Whiskey Zero Bravo Hotel Sierra High School Station,” Sergey Eggers, a junior from Burgdorf High School, said into the radio microphone. “Waiting for a call from anywhere.”
As a participant in the American Radio Relay League’s School Club Roundup, Eggers put out a call for random radio contact anywhere in the United States or abroad. Burgdorf High School – also known by its call sign W0BHS – is in its first year of participation in the competition, which challenges amateur radio clubs in schools nationwide to make as many radio contacts as possible within 24 time.
Amateur radio, also known as amateur radio, is a form of electronic communication used by amateurs to talk on designated radio bandwidths between cities, around the world, or even in space.
While amateur radio operators typically must pass a test to be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission before hitting the airwaves, students can participate under the supervision of a rotating pool of licensed volunteers.
About 90 students signed up to take turns playing on the microphone or as news recorders during the week-long competition. Each student could take one or more 32-minute shifts on the radio during their lunch breaks, study halls, or library hours.
The competition imposes strict rules – a station cannot operate for more than 6 hours in a 24-hour period and a maximum of 24 hours during the 107-hour event. Crews must also take breaks after each shift for a minimum of 10 minutes.
By noon as of Friday, the students had registered nearly 400 contacts in 40 states, four Canadian provinces and six countries, including Germany, Finland and Kosovo.
BHS has had an amateur radio club for three years, said Scott Kindt, a physics and chemistry teacher at the school and sponsor of the radio club’s faculty. Although membership in the club grew each year, Kindt sought new ways to interest even more students in the workings of amateur radio.
Kindt, who does amateur radio himself, found a solution when he met Chris Kochenour, a retired teacher with 32 years of experience as an amateur radio operator. Kochenour moved from Vermont to Loveland last year and during his teaching career coached School Club Roundup students for 17 years, including the group of students who won the high school category of the competition. in 2014.
“I said, ‘I have just enough,'” Kochenour said.
BHS was able to obtain its radio equipment with the help of one of Kindt’s students. The student’s grandfather, an amateur radio operator, had died and left “thousands of dollars” worth of radio equipment to the student, who gave it to Kindt to sell to the school. school can buy more modern equipment with the proceeds from the sale, said Kochenour.
The competition, considered a type of radiosport, offers a division for elementary, middle school, high school, and college students, non-school clubs, and individuals.
Based on the week’s totals and last year’s winning scores, counselors expected the students to rank fifth in the nation when grading was complete.
“We don’t care where they are, we just want a volume (of contacts),” Kochenour said. “The fun is trying to get as many as you can.”
BHS junior Stuart Reckase, an entry-level radio operator licensee, said he originally joined the radio club with Kindt’s encouragement and found amateur radio interesting to learn . He said he liked that the radio was more analog than today’s main communication device, the Internet, and that it allowed users to design and create different configurations.
“There’s so much customization you can have with the gear you use…it’s really interesting to learn,” Reckase said.
David Eckhardt, one of the contest’s licensed volunteers, has been an amateur radio operator for 59 years. Eckhardt said that in addition to amateur radio applications in fields such as astronomy, geography and engineering, radio helps students use technology to interact with others in meaningful ways.
“It’s not texting; it’s actually talking to someone on the other end,” Eckhardt said. “Coming back into the social world…is a real problem in today’s world, with our electronic toys.”
Junior ROTC member and BHS student Gavin Ingalls said he could apply what he learned about radio in his future military career, and he likes the exploratory element of making random radio calls during the roundup.
“I really love that you can talk to people from everywhere,” Ingalls said. “You can explore the world.”
BHS senior Audrey Nankervis was the most prolific radio operator on the BHS team, making around 80 contacts during her Thursday and Friday shifts. Nankervis, who plans to study chemical and biological engineering at Colorado State University in Fort Collins next year, said the secret to his success was simply speed.
“I just spoke really fast,” she said.
Based on this year’s success, students and staff say BHS will most likely participate in the roundup next year.
Final scores for the Winter 2018 Roundup will be available in March.
Julia Rentsch: 970-699-5404, email@example.com