I spent the better part of yesterday with three other club members, Jim Cluett – W1PID, Glen Aldrich – KC1AAI, and Jim Robinton – N1CRZ in a classroom at the Belmont Middle School in central New Hampshire.
We were invited to the school to participate in the STEM day of fun learning. Over twenty regular citizens like us came to the school to enrich the children’s live with all sorts of things ranging from glider planes, amateur radio, speaking Gaelic, operating drones, sitting in a real helicopter and any number of other real-world things that incorporate the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) the kids are being exposed to in the classroom.
I’m the current president of the Central New Hampshire Amateur Radio Club and we were approached by one of the STEM teachers, Ms. Karen Gingrich late last year. She wanted to know if we’d be willing to share our passion for the hobby with the Belmont Middle School students.
The club vice president, Glen Aldrich, loves to do public service events and he immediately decided to take ownership of this opportunity. He visited the school, met with Karen and a fellow teacher Joe Werning. We decided to do three 45-minute presentations, two in the morning and one immediately after lunch.
We arrived about an hour early before the first presentation and set up our equipment. Jim Cluett has the most operating experience and we tried to snare some long-distance (DX) radio signals from the air, but a solar storm must have been in progress.
The ionosphere was in a very cantankerous mood and we only were able to make one wretched contact with K3SEW in Pennsylvania. This happened before the kids came to our first presentation.
We did our best to explain our complex hobby in a language sixth and seventh-graders could both understand so as to maintain their interest. It helps to ask them if they can burp and if they’d like to have recliner chairs instead of hard-plastic chairs!
The four of us did a tag-team approach to teaching with each of us talking about different things and injecting interesting commentary when we could. We discovered the best way to keep the attention of the polite and well-behaved students was to simply answer their excellent questions.
Much to our surprise each of the three groups of students were most interested in Morse code. Just about everyone of them wanted to hear Jim Cluett spell out their names in Morse. This demonstration brought lots of smiles to their faces.
The three sessions seemed like they were only ten minutes long even though 45 minutes had passed. I had a blast and I’m quite sure that Bella, one of the sixth graders in our first session, will become an accomplished operator one day. She asked so many great questions, I lost count!