Radio licenses received
Earlier this month, students of PHYS 401: Physics of Ham Radio passed their amateur radio licensing exams, allowing them to independently broadcast on various frequencies.Three exam levels - technician, general and extra - give increasing orders of permitted access to frequencies. Passing the technician test permits broadcasting at 30 MHz and above; passing the general test permits broadcasting on all frequencies; passing the extra test permits the licensed user to use more modes and access additional band lengths. Eight students in PHYS 401 passed the technician level exam, only one student passed the technician and general levels and one student passed the general level, having taken the technician level several years ago.
Bioengineering graduate student Iris Chu said she had not known anything about radio before taking PHYS 401 and was introduced to the class by a friend. She said it was interesting to learn about how physics related to ham radio, and she said Physics and Astronomy Professor Pat Reiff made the material fascinating to learn.
Jones College senior Jim Aman, who passed the general exam, said he took the class because of his previous experiences with ham radio; his grandfather and father were also ham radio operators. He had not intended to go further with ham radio or to renew his license, which he said expires every 10 years, but the class has convinced him to continue using ham radio. He plans on taking the extra level exam before the end of the semester.
"It's hard to find people to talk to, but it's fun if you like to play around with the radio dial," Aman said. "You meet some interesting people, hear some interesting stories. I like it."
According to Aman, during class, the students were able to make contact with people in Minnesota, Idaho and Colorado. They also reached a navy ship in Norfolk, Va., and a Boy Scout troop in California. Reiff said it is possible to talk to people aboard the International Space Station.
Reiff said in addition to contacting people from all over the world and forming networks, ham radio can also be used for community service. Reiff said ham radios are a valuable communication device in times of crisis - people used ham radios to contact each other and aid rescue crews during both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ike, she said, and also after the Columbia shuttle crash.
Masters in Science Teaching graduate student Omar Mendoza, who passed both the technician and general exams, agreed ham radio needs more publicity. He said the lingo and abbreviations were somewhat difficult to learn, but that it is a very easy way to communicate with others. He plans on familiarizing himself more with ham radio by installing a ham radio in his car.
"You can talk to people all over the world for free," Mendoza said. "You just need an antenna and a license."
Wiess College senior Danny Shanaberger, who passed the technician exam, said he would most likely never forget his experiences with ham radio and described ham radio as both a lifelong hobby and an emergency communications medium. He plans on taking the general level exam before the end of the semester.
"It seems outdated, but in a way, it's very useful," Shanaberger said. "It's an untapped source of communication in society.
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