UPDATE: There are now two versions of this brochure:
- The first version I wrote for my own use at WA2HOM. It has contact information for people that want to know more about our activities at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum
- The second version has space for you to put contact information for your club. Download this version if you want to pass it out at your club events.
So, here’ the text I have so far. As always, comments, questions, compliments, and complaints are welcome!
A Parent’s Guide to Amateur Radio
What is amateur (ham) radio?
Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, is a hobby enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions around the world. They enjoy communicating with one another via two-way radios and experimenting with antennas and electronic circuits.
All kinds of people are amateur radio operators, also known as “hams.” Hams are young, old, men, women, boys, and girls. Kids as young as seven years old have gotten amateur radio licenses, and many hams are active into their 80s.
You never know who you’ll run into on the amateur radio bands: young and old, teachers and students, engineers and scientists, doctors and nurses, mechanics and technicians, kings and entertainers. People from all walks are amateur radio operators.
For example, did you know that most of the astronauts sent up to the International Space Station (ISS) in the last five to ten years have been licensed radio amateurs? They use the amateur radio station on board the ISS to communicate with school groups all over the world as they are flying over.
How do you get into ham radio?
With just a little study, your kids (and you as well!) can learn all they need to know to get a Technician Class license. There are plenty of resources available today to help, including Now You’re Talking, the Technician Class license manual published by the American Radio Relay League.
The Technician Class license is the most popular license for beginners. To get a Technician Class license, you must take a test with 35 multiple-choice questions. The test covers basic regulations, operating practices, and electronics theory. Knowing Morse Code is not required to get this license. Technician Class licensees have all ham radio privileges above 30 MHz, including the very popular 2-meter band.
Many amateur radio operators then choose to upgrade to the General Class license. Amateurs with a General Class license are allowed to operate on shortwave frequencies, which are the frequencies normally used for cross-country and worldwide communication. To get a General Class license, you must pass 5 WPM Morse code test and a 35-question multiple-choice examination. The written exam covers intermediate regulations, operating practices, and electronics theory, with a focus on shortwave applications.
What do kids get out of ham radio?
Being involved in amateur radio is beneficial for kids in many ways. They will, for example, learn about electronics and radio propagation. An interest in amateur radio gives them knowledge that will help them succeed in school and in life. It often kindles an interest in math and science, which can then lead to a career in science or engineering.
In addition to technical skills, kids will also learn social skills. It’s often said that amateur radio is a “contact sport.” In making contacts with other amateur radio operators, your child will make friends with other hams around the country and around the world. This, in turn, will help them learn about other cultures and the world we live in.
Amateur radio also teaches children the value of public service. Part of amateur radio’s reason for being is to provide emergency communications and other public service communications. By taking part in those activities, your child will learn how satisfying public service can be.
How much does it cost?
Basic study materials for passing the FCC test–including a copy of Now You’re Talking and getting your first license–usually cost less than $40. Once you have your first license, most hams find it best to start with simple equipment and grow over time. A handheld VHF FM transceiver can be purchased for between $100 and $150, bring the total cost to get your own first license and radio to less than $200. For less than the cost of a video game system, kids will gain a hobby that will benefit them all through their lives.
If your son or daughter has expressed an interest in amateur radio, we hope you’ll be supportive. You may even want to consider getting a license of your own, so that you can share this experience with your son or daughter. Many parents have done this and made amateur radio a family affair.
For more information:
[[ Here, I plan to put links to the ARRL and other websites, plus a box in which clubs can insert their website's URL and/or phone number. ]]