Our Ylab Maker Space at the David Dunlap Observatory (currently on COVID hiatus) has successfully trained two groups of Venturer Scouts and leaders for their ham radio licenses. To do this, we developed our own material and strategies. Our groups of Scouts was quite diverse in their abilities and learning disabilities. All got through the test. Leaders listening in without doing additional study were able to pass.
We've polished up the material and created a free on-line training class comprising slides, videos and special practice quizzes with hints and explanations.
With some diligence, a high-school level student could work through this and have their license by the end of the holidays.
Training class is here
, covering how the material works and the strategies we use to help students through the test.
We have a lot more material in the works for beginners who get their licenses. This has been an ongoing topic between John/VE3IPS, Chris/VE3NRT and me. We'll be adding a lot more to the web site.
- For the short term (i.e. during COVID), we're talking about starting a monthly newbie meeting online to help them through different topics
- For the long term, we hope to move this to hands-on monthly meetings in our maker space at the DDO.
Some of the material might upset the apple cart. That's OK. It needs a little shaking up. DX isn't the objective here.
My goal and my reason for doing this is that I think amateur radio and the related skills represent a phenomenal opportunity for STEM education, and far superior to silly robotics classes where they snap together a kit and write 6 lines of code. This is not an exaggeration.
In my mind, this was proven in our Scout meetings, where after we got the kids through the licensing, we started teaching them hands-on skills. These kids have never stripped a wire or used a voltmeter. Some didn't know which way to turn a screwdriver. Kids complimented us with comments about how our instruction was so much better than what they were getting in their physics class. The speed of light and the concept of wavelength are no longer abstract when you relate them it to the calculation of the length of the antenna you are using - or better yet, the one you are making.
YRARC has been extremely supportive of our efforts with the Scouts. We've had equipment donated to the effort. For the last two years, I think our group's annual JOTA events were the best in the country. Other groups just have kids lined up for a 30 second radio conversation. We had them playing games with GMRS radios, learning the phonetic alphabet to pass messages, and trying to out-do each other in Morse code using smartphone apps. Comments at the end of the day when walking through the camp: "You're the cool radio guys!".
This is hopefully just the start of a long trek.
Feedback welcome. Ideas welcome. And volunteers willing to help welcome.