Lessons from APRS and JAMBOREE on the AIR:
Our 3 day "jamboree" had 600 WEBLOS scouts and 400 parents who came
through our stations in 18 groups of about 35 kids each plus parents. We
actually had TWO of the 30 minute time slots. One was for the 3 HF
stations doing classic JOTA. The other site was about 100 feet away and
was called "TECHNOLOGY". Both sites were VERY popular.
I did the TECHNOLOGY site where we had ATV, APRS, GPS, SATS, FRS, CPO's,
Flashing lights and CB. The ATV and APRS were in a large tent so you
could see the 4 color Laptops all showing APRS. Outside we had about 20
feet of tables with an assortment of CPO's, FRS, CB and handheld SATellite
stations. The idea was to let them send morse code from this table to
another long table 100 feet away with CPO, Flashing light, Mirrors, etc.
But with the large groups, it just became too hard. So we devolved into a
sit-down lecture/demo about all the neat toys. But we noticed that not
only the kids, but also the parents sat with RAPT ATTENTION when we talked
about FRS as a "license-free" entry into HAM radio. On average, less than
1-in-40 had heard of FRS. The few that had, had no idea what a SQUELCH
was, how "QUIET TONES" work, nor that antenna POLARITY and HEIGHT makes a
So we ended up spending 75% of our time with a VERY good introduction to
everyone about FRS:
1) How to use a radio. (Sharing the channel, courtesy, call procedures)
2) What a SQUELCH is so that they understand what the MONItor button is
3) What QUIET TONES are and how they PREVENT you from communicating
with others. That they are NOT PRIVACY tones and you must use the
MONITOR button first to be sure the channel is clear.
4) What antenna height gain means (double your height and double range).
5) How CHANNEL-1 TONE-0 (off) is the only way to go into the woods if
you want to be able to find/talk to others
6) How polarity must match for good signals...
What WE realized is that HAM radio wants to talk to anyone/everyone. FRS,
however, is designed to FILTER-OUT EVERYONE ELSE so you only talk to your
"family". But for SCOUTING, CAMPING, WILDERNESS COMMUNICATIONS, you do
not want to be EXCLUSIVE... That was our mission.... (Ch-1 tone 0)
The night before, we had heard a few kids using FRS Ch1 tone 0. And a few
of them just clowning around. The night after, we heard triple the number
of scouts on Ch1 tone 0, and THIS time, we actually heard them making
"contacts" with others. IE, they would try to rendesvous to have an
eyeball. I think we had an effect and hooked a new generation on
"radio"... The PARENTS all wanted to know where to get them, and were
amazed that the cost is under $29 to $39 each.
Of course... then we told them about the advantages of HAM radio...
But the idea that they could get a radio NOW, and start using it NOW, and
talk to ANYONE now was a real eye-opener to them.
So, I feel this "INTRODUCTION TO 2-WAY RADIO" is a MUST-DO COURSE for all
scouts or any other "outdoors" types of groups. It is in our own best
interest to educate the public about how radios work, and how to get the
most out of them, and how to be courteous on the air. It MUST BE TAUGHT.
It does not come naturally.... (just look at CB or 75m phone)...
HAM radio clubs can really provide a service by going out to these
organizations and offering to give a 1 hour program on "RADIO". Bring
along a handful of FRS radios and let the kids work with them after the
talk. THey will really get excited about radio and sooner or later, you
will pick up a new ham out of it. You will certainly improve the
exposure of your club to the community!
de WB4APR, Bob