47 Eighth Graders Earn Ham Licenses

Who says kids aren’t into ham radio? I think the key to this program’s success is that the teachers were an integral part of the project. Unfortunately, I did not have this kind of cooperation when I tried doing this at a local middle school. I’ve started working on another local school, though……Dan

47 Eighth Graders Earn Ham Licenses

On June 8, representatives of the Las Virgenes Unified School District (LVUSD), LA County Sheriff’s Department, County Disaster Communications Service (DCS), City of Calabasas, and the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) gathered to congratulate 47 eighth-graders at A.C. Stelle Middle School, who earned their amateur radio license by passing an FCC exam this semester. The exam tested their knowledge of electronics, radio, rules & regulations and safety.

Principal, Mary Sistrunk, and science chairman, Karl Beutel (amateur call KE6MAO), offered students the opportunity to take the exam on campus. Beutel kicked off the project in all six of his science classes with a presentation and demonstrations of radio, including communication with other amateur operators using the schools own radio station.

The station was provided by the American Radio Relay League’s “Big Project” as a way of promoting science education in the schools. Dick Norton (N6AA), ARRL Southwest Division Director, congratulated the students on their achievement and welcomed them to the amateur radio community. AC Stelle was one of only 10 schools to qualify for a station grant this year.

Beutel said, “We nearly tripled the number of students who earned their licenses from the program’s inception last year. This is very likely the largest group of middle school students to ever accomplish this. The students studied on their own time, augmenting their school studies, picking up valuable knowledge of electronics and radio, and completing the daunting task of taking their first `grown-up’ federal exam. What they learned here will help them in high school, college and later in life. They also proved to themselves that they could master a difficult topic on their own.”

Emergency services groups are nurturing this project with hopes that it will provide a source of communications volunteers, a critical resource in case a disaster strikes our area. Reserve Captain, Tom Fakehany (N6FDR), was on hand, representing the LA County Sheriff’s Department and DCS group,. “These students are the next generation of emergency volunteers who will provide communications when all else fails.” Norm Goodkin (K6YXH), DCS member, added, “Our plan is to help organize these new hams into a youth group to provide communications services to the school and community – the City of Calabasas and other groups are excited about having a new resource pool to join their teams.” Next semester, the 47 students plan to start an amateur radio club at Calabasas High School, along with the 17 new hams already there from last year’s project. The club will set up their own radio station to provide emergency communications services to the school and neighboring community.

“When these kids turn 16,” said Goodkin, “they’ll be eligible to join a special Explorer Scout program with the LA County Sheriff’s Department, grooming them for volunteer work with DCS and even professional careers in law enforcement.”

Sandra Smyser, Superintendent of the Las Virgenes Unified School District, was on hand to congratulate the students, faculty and community volunteers who supported this project.

Gary Lysik (KF6BIX), is Chief Financial Officer for the City of Calabasas, and responsible for the Calabasas Emergency Response Program (CERP). He and Debbie Larson (KG6ZRF), Risk Management Analyst for the City and head of the CERP team, set up licensing classes for Calabasas and the surrounding communities; 9 of the ACS students and 13 community volunteer workers passed the FCC exam at the June session. CERP is planniing to use these students as `eyes and ears’ to report into the City, and to get the word out to the public in case of an emergency if normal communications are down. CERP is also encouraging members to get licensed and bring ham radio into the program.

The FCC Amateur Radio licensing program is administered by a cadre of FCC-accredited volunteer examiners – Marty Woll (N6VI), Naomi Goodkin (WB6OHW), Daniel Goodkin (KA6VSS), Murray Kay (WA6USL) and Mari Levenson (KA6PTV) came to the school to administer the exam, coordinated by the Greater Los Angeles Amateur Radio Group Volunteer Exam Coordinator(GLA ARG VEC); R. C. Smith (Smitty, W6RZA), the head of the group, came out to meet these new hams in person.

Next year, A.C. Stelle will offer students an opportunity to operate the school station at noon, using a high-powered radio to let the students talk around the world. Open to 6th graders, this should stimulate even more interest in ham radio and the licensing project.

Beutel expects to continue the project, adding another 40 to 50 more hams to Calabasas High School each year. At that rate, there will be 100s of ham operators at CHS, quite an accomplishment for the students and the groups supporting the project.

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