ANGOLA – Although the COVID-19 pandemic limited student travel to Trine University this year, members of the university’s amateur radio club have still been able to establish worldwide contact with their radios.
Since its rebirth last year thanks to the generosity of Bill Becher, a radio engineering graduate from Tri-State College in 1950, and his wife, Helen, members of the club have communicated with amateur radio enthusiasts, known as name of hams, as far as Europe and South America, as well as people across the United States.
Educational advisor Kevin Woolverton said there were around 15 students in the club in fields such as electrical engineering, computer engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, information technology and math. He and the club members hope he will continue to grow as he gets more equipment, especially from non-technical program members who may benefit from an interest in amateur radio.
Club secretary Marc Tuholski, an electrical engineering graduate, said most of the activities are aimed at helping new members become licensed radio operators and build new equipment to access more radio frequencies.
Last semester, the club completed the installation of its long distance shortwave radio communication station inside Fawick Hall and built an antenna on the roof of the building. This semester, the club continued to build antennas, including portable versions used by members to participate in a fox hunt, an event where radio amateurs attempt to locate a transmitter placed in a location people can find in Fort Wayne.
The club also organizes a weekly Net, an opportunity for members and radio amateurs in the region to chat via the radio.
“We are all very excited about these events and plan to continue to be more involved, such as satellite communication or returning signals to the moon,” said club president Tim Mayer, a mechanical engineering graduate.
Bechers offers a new start
Trine University hadn’t proposed a ham radio organization for some time when Bill and Helen Becher donated all of their equipment and provided financial support to re-establish the club.
“Without them it would not have been possible to start and continue,” said Woolverton.
Bill’s love for radio dates back to his childhood in the late 1930s, when he and a friend used flashlights to send Morse code messages between their homes. Later, a friend suggested that they build a spark gap transmitter from a drawing given to him by one of his teachers. Although they completed it, it was never connected to an antenna, as spark gap transmitters had been banned due to the interference they caused with home radios.
Bill continued to study, attended the government-required Morse code course, and built many radio theory projects, until amateur radio was banned during WWII and radio components were nearly impossible. to find and buy. He continued to read and study radio theory and enrolled in Tri-State College, where he was a member of the Radio Club and performed with radios and war surplus plays.
He said he chose Tri-State because he believed it was the only school that offered radio engineering.
“All the other schools I knew of only advertised electrical engineering programs,” he said. “I didn’t know they taught the same subjects, the only difference being that Tri-State had a few radio lessons on their schedule.”
He said the education he received at Tri-State was excellent, preparing him for a career that included successful industrial and academic research, teaching positions at schools such as the University of Michigan and the university administration in several universities. At the University of Michigan, he revitalized a fallen amateur radio club.
Although he didn’t use his radio education professionally after graduating from Tri-State, Bill’s love for radio never waned. After retiring in the early 1990s, he and Helen studied and obtained their ham licenses and continued the hobby until two years ago, when the retirement community they moved into two years ago. years did not allow the necessary antennas to continue.
However, the Chelsea, Michigan retirement community he and Helen moved into a year and a half ago would not allow them to set up the antennas necessary to continue. Bill has remained connected to Trine University since graduating, serving on the Industrial Advisory Board for Electrical and Computer Engineering, so the couple donated their equipment to the university.
The Michigan Amateur Radio Club suggested that he and Helen help out with Trine’s club.
“Amateur radio is a good thing to have at school,” he said. “It gives you a lot of hands-on experience and you come out of school running and with a training that goes beyond reading books and doing lab experiments.”
Building communication, electronics skills
Woolverton said the main goal of the reborn club is for members to learn and practice amateur radio skills, both how to communicate with others and to make sure the equipment is functioning optimally.
Mayer, whose grandfather was an amateur radio operator, said he had always had an interest in radio but became addicted once he joined Trine’s club.
“The amateur radio community is wonderful to get involved in,” he said. “Anyone you meet live or in person is always happy to share their hobby with a younger generation, and share tips and stories on how they set up their stations or built antennas. “
Tuholski said club members gain confidence by learning to build transmitters and speaking on the air.
“I really enjoyed the process of learning radio transmission and communication,” he said. “Watching myself and other club members go from being unsure of how to speak on air to now where we frequently use the radio just to talk has been great. “
Besides presenting members with a fun, lifelong hobby, Mayer said, amateur radio offers an edge during job interviews.
“Several members mentioned that they were a licensed ham operator during an interview and found out that the person they were interviewing with was also a licensed hobbyist,” said the Mechanical Engineering major. “In terms of CV boosters, I think it shows a real interest in electronics, beyond what you might learn in the classroom.”
Woolverton also notes that ham radio is essential in emergency situations.
“In disasters, when communication is interrupted, amateur radio operators are often used as lines of communication and to provide support,” he said.
Materials, donations welcome
The club currently has enough portable radios, operating at five watts and covering the VHF and UHF frequency bands, for each member to check out one for the semester. It also has high-frequency radios, one of which is a software-defined radio connected to the antenna on the roof that allows the club to send and receive signals over long distances.
Becher noted that Hams are constantly buying new equipment as technology updates, and Trine’s club is a good destination for older equipment.
“You buy these things all the time like a ham and then the other thing becomes something you don’t need anymore,” he said, noting that college clubs can either reuse the equipment or the sell at an amateur radio event.
Anyone wishing to support the Trine Amateur Radio Club with monetary or equipment donations can contact Woolverton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“As we expand our arsenal of equipment, we can begin to participate in more and more amateur radio activities,” said Mayer, the club president.