Calling all ‘Hams’ for a Field Day at Hudson Memorial School

June 29, 2018

 

by Doug Robinson

“CQ, CQ, calling CQ. This is November 1 Fox Delta setting up for field day and looking for a response,” said David Merchant, vice president of the Nashua Area Radio Society, as he spoke into the microphone within the Get on the Air tent. “Your signal is strong here,” came the response from the ham radio operator located in eastern Pennsylvania. “Nice to meet you; my name is Mike. Whom do I have the pleasure of speaking with?” came the response from 500 miles away.

And so it went for 24 hours as the Radio Field Day at Hudson Memorial School offered all those who wished to participate the opportunity to speak with folks from all over the globe. “During this event we will make around 2,500 contacts,” commented Merchant, “with people around the world.

“Field Day is ham radio’s open house. Every June, more than 40,000 hams throughout North America set up temporary transmitting stations in public places to demonstrate ham radio’s science, skill and service to our communities and our nation. It combines public service, emergency preparedness, community outreach, and technical skills all in a single event. Field Day has been an annual event since 1933 and remains the most popular event in ham radio,” according to arrl.org.

“The fundamental reason we do this event is to prepare amateur radio operators for emergency situations,” commented Fred Kemmerer, president of the Nashua Area Radio Society.

According to the rules of the event, organizers are allowed only 24 hours to set up their event, 24 hours to operate the event, and then they must break down the event immediately after.

“The objective is to work as many stations as possible on any and all amateur bands (excluding the 60-, 30-, 17-, and 12-meter bands) and to learn to operate in abnormal situations in less than optimal conditions,” writes arrl.org.

The ARRL Field Day featured the construction of more than a dozen short wave radio stations. These stations were supported and operated by computers located in an equal amount of pup tents that dotted the school’s athletic field. The various antennas, one standing 60 feet high, were designed to communicate either with digital messages, Morse code, and by voice command. In addition, another antenna was constructed to communicate with satellites currently circling the globe. Satellites from Japan, Saudi Arabia, China, and the United States could be easily seen on the laptop screen as they each circled the earth in space. While the focus of the AARL Field Day was to establish communication within the North America continents, these satellite connections afforded the ham operators the opportunity to communicate internationally with Australia, New Zealand and other areas.

The weekend was also a culmination of the lessons taught at Hudson Memorial School by the Nashua Radio Society. Hudson Memorial School Mathematics Department Chair Dan Pooler explained that “Hudson Memorial students were invited to attend the event as a wrap up to their high-altitude balloon lessons.”

Earlier in the month, the students and the Nashua Area Radio Society launched a high-altitude balloon and were able to track the balloon’s 2.5-hour flight via amateur radio. At an altitude of approximately 120,000 feet, the student could continue to track the balloon by connection to the onboard battery powered transmitter. At that height, the balloon would “burst and the parachute on the flight platform (will) bring the HAB-3 (balloon) back to the ground” writes the Nashua Radio Area Society.

During the first of November, the Nashua Area Radio Society will continue its educational partnership with the students of Memorial School as the students have been invited to speak personally, by direct radio link, with the astronauts of the International Space Station for a question-and-answer session. “We are very fortunate and excited to be able to speak with the astronauts, as only 11 to 13 schools in the United States are offered this chance,” stated Kemmerer.

Amateur or ham radio is a hobby enjoyed by several hundred thousand people in the United States and by more than a million people worldwide. What does ‘ham’ stand for anyway? It is sometimes claimed that HAM came from the first letter from the last names of three radio pioneers: Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, Edwin Armstrong, and Guglielmo Marconi. However, this cannot be the source of the term as Armstrong was an unknown college student when the term first appeared.