Here’s my column for October………..Dan
He was amazed at the lack of any amateur radio content. He wrote,
“The Maker Faire was unbelievable. Incredible stuff. Pedal powered carnival rides, robots, computer drive routers, kits. Outside of a table with a Vectronics kit, and a license manual, and a QRP book, the only radio stuff was from a pirate radio group.”
I’m kind of amazed at this as well. It just goes to show how disconnected amateur radio is getting from the mainstream. These are exactly the kind of people we want to get interested in amateur radio, yet there was no one there representing us.
Ham radio needs to be at these events and get plugged into the “maker community.” The Faire has not yet released attendance figures for this particular Faire, but more than 65,000 people attended the Faire held in May 2008. Dayton, with its attendance of about 20,000, looks anemic by comparison.
I blogged about this back in May. One of the things I suggested then is moving Dayton to some place like Austin. Seriously, if you were a new, young ham, where would you rather go, Dayton, OH or Austin, TX? Let’s be real here.
And can there be a worse place for an event than Hara Arena? The parking lot, where they hold the flea market looks like a mine field, and it usually rains, making the flea market a wet, unpleasant experience. Is it any wonder that fewer and fewer vendors choose to haul stuff out there? Some of us older hams might fondly reminisce about the bargain we found while traipsing around wearing a trash-bag poncho, but a story like that is not going to resonate with new hams.
Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to badmouth the Dayton Amateur Radio Association or the Hamvention. I actually think that they do a great job, all things considered. I’m just pointing out that if ham radio wants to again be part of the mainstream, we have to get with the program. Unfortunately, that program probably won’t be at the Hara Arena.
Ham radio has got to figure out how to latch onto the Maker phenomenon. At the very least, the ARRL should have a booth at the next one, and in addition to all the books and t-shirts, they need to come up with some kind of demo or display to attract makers into ham radio. I don’t know what exactly, but I’m willing to start talking about it.
This phenomenon might also be a boon for clubs who hold hamfests. Just as the computer craze turned ham swaps into ham and computer swaps in the 80s, perhaps ham clubs could turn their hamfests into a combination hamfest and Maker Faire in their communities.
As I said earlier, Makers are exactly the kind of people we want in ham radio. Let’s go out and get them.
When Dan’s not pontificating about ham radio, you’ll find him working CW on 40m, teaching ham classes, or running for the ARRL Board of Directors. Read more by going to www.kb6nu.com. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.