JOTA Activity Notes
- I am planning a JOTA event for this year, and have been making some
notes of my ideas. They are still preliminary, and I do not expect to
be able to implement all the ideas. I am presenting them here in the
hope that I will receive some more good suggestions. Perhaps these
notes can develop into a document on how to run a JOTA event. Pleas
give me your comments.
JOTA Activity Notes
Family Radio Service for Logistics
Ask each patrol to bring at least one FRS radio. Patrols will receive
all their instructions over the air. A sheet of printed instructions
will be sent to each patrol before they arrive at camp. These
instructions will include a description of how each channel is to be
used and basic radio etiquette.
Set up a Net Control at camp headquarters. Channel one will be used
for net activities. This is different from the normal practice of using
channel one for the calling frequency. This is to insure that patrols
with one channel radios will be able to communicate with net control.
If possible, use a GMRS station with a high antenna for Net Control.
Remember that all users of this station must have a GMRS license.
Channel two will be the designated calling channel.
Channels 3-14 will be open for a free-for-all. This should demonstrate
the advantages of having a net control.
On Air Activities
Common to all Modes
Each station should have at least two operators at all times. One can
operate the radio while the other answers questions. Maps should be
located at each station to plot contacts.
This should be the centerpiece of a JOTA event. Enough stations should
be set up to allow patrol size groups to have at least a half-hour of
operating time - one hour is preferred. If possible, patrols should
have a second chance at the station at a different time of day.
Every effort should be made to make the experience at the station
exciting. It is important that the participants actually make contacts
rather than just listen to static. To facilitate this the best
possible station should be assembled. Amplifiers and good antennas
should be used.
CW (Morse Code)
CW presents two big difficulties. One, most participants do not know
code. (It is not much fun to listen to a conversation in a language you
do not understand.) Two, youth that have cell phones and pager are
unlikely to see any use for CW.
To address the first problem a translator is needed. One operator can
actually run the station. A second operator can sit at a computer and
transcribe the conversation. A second screen can be set up so the
participants can see the transcription in real time.
To show the usefulness of CW a very small QRP transceiver should be
used. The QRP rig is like a cell-phone that works in the backcountry.
If other Scout groups are within the range of the equipment available,
operations similar to those conducted on HF SSB are a good idea.
If JOTA activities are planned at both a Boy Scout and a Girl Scout
camp that are near each other communications between the two camps
could be particularly popular. Schedule the groups at each site so
that boys and girls of similar ages are trying to contact each other.
Show how HTs and Family Radios Service can be used in normal scouting
activities. Explain the difference between an amateur HT, FRS, and
GRMS radios. Explain when to use a radio instead of a cell phone.
Demonstrate the difference in effective range for the different types
of radios. HOW CAN THIS BE DONE?
Set up a station at a shopping mall. Friends, family, and the general
public can contact the scouts out at the camp. If someone at the mall
wants to contact a scout that is not at the station designated to keep
in contact with the mall a message can be relayed on the camps FRS net.
A link between local Boy Scout and Girl Scout camps should be extremely
popular. Send pictures to the station in the Shopping Mall.
RTTY, PSK31, etc.
Make it obvious that these modes are not part of the Internet. Use a
battery-powered station located well away from any wiring.
Radio Direction Finding
If the resources are available a full fox hunt would be a great event.
A less demanding approach is to have two or three direction finding
stations spread out around the site. Scouts can visit the stations as
they move between the various venues. Bearings are taken at each
Direction Finding Station and plotted on a map. After visiting two
stations they can locate the transmitter.
Care must be taken when selecting the frequency to use for this
activity considering all the other radio activity taking place in the
Since the satellites are only available for a predictable but short
time it is difficult to have a venue were scouts go to work the
satellites. Instead it may be best to have amateurs prepared to listen
to the satellites with HTs. Just before a satellite pass an
announcement can be made on the camp net. Anyone near a satellite ready
amateur can listen for the satellite as it passes.
Merit Badge Instruction
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- Jeff Burns wrote...
> I am planning a JOTA event for this year, and have been making someWow Jeff, you've got lots of good ideas. But even
> notes of my ideas. They are still preliminary, and I do not expect to
> be able to implement all the ideas. . .
a small set of activities will be a challenge
because most boys have absolutely no idea of
what ham radio really is. You will need to spend
LOTS of time bringing them up to speed about what's
going on with any single activity.
Here's a way to introduce CW: First, forget about really
getting the boys on the air with CW. But you certainly
can get boys excited about the code. This will be
brand new to almost all of them. The code is not
even mentioned in current editions of the scout
I have learned that boys are so jaded by technology
advanced communications that something that is dead
simple and low-tech can have a dramatic appeal.
Last fall, at the Knox Trail Council Camporee, which
had an "Old Time Scouting Skills" theme, I set up a
station where boys could come by and learn about
Morse Code. I had lots of WORKING, HANDS-ON stuff:
keys, antique telegraph sounders, simple code practice
oscillators, a scout "telegraph set" from the 1950's,
and a pair of Aldus WW2 vintage signal lamps.
For radio, I had a VERY-qrp one-transistor transmitter,
and a HF transceiver (used as a receiver).
The point I wanted to deliver was that you can communicate
over a wide variety of simple media when the
communications protocol is extremely simple, like
I can't tell you what a look of amazement came over the
boys faces when they keyed up a breadboard transmitter
consisting of about 5 parts and a couple AA cells, and
heard it at a distance.
At another Scouting event, I set up a $20 Ten-Tec regen
SW receiver that my son and I built, with a wire antenna
thrown over a tree. Again, there was a sense of wonder
at what a tiny pile of parts can do; a sense of wonder
that a FM HT cannot deliver. I'll never forget one
Mom who asked me, after hearing the BBC on my little
radio, "Wow! you can get all those internet radio
stations without being on the internet!"
Finally, to provide a competitive activity, I set up
a box on a picnic table in the woods, containing
a CD player repeating a SHORT, SLOW CW message
indefinitely. I think the message was,
"a scout is courteous ... a scout is reverent ...
a scout likes pizza". The boys took a sheet with the
code on it (copied from a 1944 handbook) worked to
decode the message, and handed the paper in. Apart from
one 13-yr old Ham, only a few boys worked it out.
But there was tremendous interest in this.
Anyway, good luck, I'm looking forward to reading other
responses to your ideas.
-- Gary KD1TE
- Jeff et. al.,
My comments are below...I've snipped away some of the message, too. It's
kinda long, but worthwhile.
> JOTA Activity NotesThis would be an excellent idea, however, some units may not have FRS
> Family Radio Service for Logistics
> Ask each patrol to bring at least one FRS radio. Patrols will receive
> all their instructions over the air. A sheet of printed instructions
> will be sent to each patrol before they arrive at camp. These
> instructions will include a description of how each channel is to be
> used and basic radio etiquette.
radios. But this is a great idea to "train" the guys and gals how to
operate not be mike-shy when the time comes to operate the REAL radios
>I agree. This is the mode in which everyone will relate to the easiest
> HF SSB
> This should be the centerpiece of a JOTA event. Enough stations should
> be set up to allow patrol size groups to have at least a half-hour of
> operating time - one hour is preferred. If possible, patrols should
> have a second chance at the station at a different time of day.
> Every effort should be made to make the experience at the station
> exciting. It is important that the participants actually make contacts
> rather than just listen to static. To facilitate this the best
> possible station should be assembled. Amplifiers and good antennas
> should be used.
and know whats going on. Hearing someone even a state away is enough to
capture the interest of the youth.
>However, in my experience, while the youth are listening to SSB action,
> CW (Morse Code)
> CW presents two big difficulties. One, most participants do not know
> code. (It is not much fun to listen to a conversation in a language you
> do not understand.) Two, youth that have cell phones and pager are
> unlikely to see any use for CW.
they will become fascinated with the sound of all those dits and dahs,
regardless if they don't know CW. Hae some practice keys, and let them try
to operate each other via them at their own speed. Also, back when the
Signaling merit badge was around (I wish I would have gotten it before it
went away!), have them send Morse code messages back and forth using a
neckerchief tied to a pole (instructions are in an older Handbook). It's
not really radio-related, but it is something to keep them occupied.
> Show how HTs and Family Radios Service can be used in normal scoutingThis is a plus for not only the youth, but for any adult leaders. Tell
> activities. Explain the difference between an amateur HT, FRS, and
> GRMS radios. Explain when to use a radio instead of a cell phone.
them just why they should be interested in Amateur Radio. For starters, it
is fun. But also, what if they need to airlift someone out of the woods
while on a backpacker and their slick trendy-looking Nokia cell phone
doesn't have service out there? They can use Amateur Radio to plan things
at the last minute between cars on the way to campouts. They can get the
Radio merit badge. They can help their community in times of need, such as
what the hams are doing to assist the floods in the Dakotas right now.
> Demonstrate the difference in effective range for the different typesEasy. Get a CB (handheld) or a FRS radio on an active channel and spend
> of radios. HOW CAN THIS BE DONE?
some time contacting someone as far away as possible. Then turn around and
spend NO TIME getting ahold of someone just as far away (if not, further) on
a local repeater or linked repeater system. Try a mobile CB and try
contacting someone far again, then use a rig on 10 meters (only 3 MHz above
the CB band) and work the world! If conditions are favorable...
> APRSWhy not? APRS is a neat tool, and we had it running at the last JOTA.
We showed some saved maps from when I helped put trackers on 6 hot air
balloons and 15 gas-balloons at the last International Balloon Fiesta. The
tracks of them leading all the way from New Mexico to the Atlantic ocean
> Radio Direction FindingT-Hunting is one heck of an activity to have at JOTA. I'm staffing at
> If the resources are available a full fox hunt would be a great event.
> A less demanding approach is to have two or three direction finding
> stations spread out around the site. Scouts can visit the stations as
> they move between the various venues. Bearings are taken at each
> Direction Finding Station and plotted on a map. After visiting two
> stations they can locate the transmitter.
> Care must be taken when selecting the frequency to use for this
> activity considering all the other radio activity taking place in the
K2BSA during the upcomig National Jamboree, and you can bet I'll be bringing
my DFing gear to show off. The Scouts just eat it up and love it. Just
hide 2 or 3 transmitters (very low power...plus some attenuation inline with
the transmitter if they are nearby) and walk them through it! Be sure to
have the correct gear, too. Go to http://home.att.net/~wb8wfk/ which is my
local T-Hunting group, and you will find a page with T-Hunting projects.
The active attenuator is easy to build and is the best one I've used. Also,
there is a link to build a 2 meter T-Hunting beam made out of PVC and
tape-measure material! Cheap, and just as good as any beam you can buy.
Build some of these, and off you go! Map and compass is also involved, and
it is something the Scouts should know, or outta know. It compliments
T-Hunting well. As for the frequency, use 146.565 MHz for at least one of
the transmitters. This is the nationally recognized T-hunting frequency.
Hide another on 145.565 and perhaps another on 147.565 (if they don't fall
on any repeater inputs or outputs). Email me if you have any other
> SatelliteUO-14 and AO-27 take around 15-20 minutes per good pass, and can easily
> Since the satellites are only available for a predictable but short
> time it is difficult to have a venue were scouts go to work the
> satellites. Instead it may be best to have amateurs prepared to listen
> to the satellites with HTs. Just before a satellite pass an
> announcement can be made on the camp net. Anyone near a satellite ready
> amateur can listen for the satellite as it passes.
be worked with a hand-held dual-band beam, and a dual-band HT running only 2
watts. Not bad! And it impresses the heck out of the youth. Get some
prediction software, and you are ready to rumble.
> Merit Badge InstructionAgain, why not? I think that almost 4/5 of the requirements can be
taken care of at an event like JOTA. But, as all adult scout leaders should
do, make sure the youth KNOW the material (being able to memorize it in 15
minutes and regurgitating it back to get the blue card signed should not be
allowed in my opinion). But be sure each of the presentations (as well as
the rest of JOTA) is exciting and woth-while to the youth. Program is key
to everything. Be Prepared!
To all the members of this list: Start planning your JOTA 2001
activities NOW. Nothing is worst than a JOTA event that is not organized or
exciting. The idea is to impress the youth and their adults, and hope that
they will join our ranks as Amateurs. Why? How many youth do you hear on
the air when you tune across 2-meters or HF? Not many. Perhaps none. Is
this alarming? You bet it is, especially since the average age of hams is
up in the 50s and 60s -- and is rising. The youth are the future of our
hobby. And our hobby depends on Hams like you to insure its survival by
promoting it to the young ones. JOTA is one of the tools used in doing this
promotion, which is why we should make it one of the best youth-oriented