Hamfests and the Younger Crowd...

This year has been an exciting year (so far) as hamfests go for me as I had the opportunity to attend the 2019 edition of the Dayton Hamvention! I made the trip from Blaine to Xenia (a little over 3.5 hours) with both of my parents in tow.

We arrived at the gate around 1:30pm and made our way through the EMCOMM vehicles
and proceed to some of the vendor buildings. My first stop was at the Elecraft booth to get a look at the new K4.

What a cool rig! We then wandered through the Kenwood and Yaesu Booth where my
friend & the President of W8MWA, Cory (WA3UVV), was working. After a quick chat (and taking a peek at the FT3DR) we grabbed the always important free Yaesu
Yaesu FTdx101D
hat and moved on to a few other booths.
I made my way to the ARRL's massive section of building 2 to renew my membership, mostly to take advantage of the offer for a free book (Portable Antenna Classics was my choice). After renewing I made my way to the Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative (CARI) booth to see what they had going on, after all I am the VP of a college ham club!
We decided to call it quits on day one and headed back to the hotel to grab a bite to eat.
Day 2 started off with dad and I taking a trip through the Hamvention flea market. I was able to get a pretty good deal on an Icom IC-706mkiig (my first hf rig). We made our way to the R&L booth so I could snag a G5RV. After wandering around through more booths, we made our way to the CARI forum.
CARI Forum @ Hamvention

During the CARI forum a few different topics were discussed ranging from how active university clubs were to the Collegiate Contest. One of my biggest takeaways from the forum was just how different WVU's club is when compared to clubs at other universities. The other clubs mentioned not charging dues and relying entirely on their university's foundation account for the entirety of their funding. At W8CUL we collect dues annually ($20) to provide a source of funding for projects that university funds may not cover. We also get funding from the Outreach office of WVU's Statler College of Engineering. They have a fixed funding amount from the college that is divided between all of the engineering clubs based on the amount of volunteering that the clubs have done. In addition to that in past years the Department of Electrical Engineering has matched the funding from the outreach office. So, it seems that we are pretty well funded, well established club. But I'll digress for now and get back to the topic of hamfests.
Louisa Hamfest

I recently attended the Big Sandy Amateur Radio Club hamfest in Louisa, KY. This is the 3rd year I've attended the event. This year was different than previous years. I went in with a different purpose. In the past I've just gone to the hamfests to try and find a few decent deals on used equipment (I did buy a 6 element 2m Beam), but this year I decided to try and meet the local Hams. After all, if I call out on the local repeater chances are that one of them will answer and it's nice to put a face to the callsign!

I arrived about an hour after the hamfests started and won a door prize right off the bat (Shortwave Receivers Past & Present)!

After wandering around to a few of the tables I had a chat with the ARRL Kentucky Section Steve Morgan, W4NHO. It's always nice to have a chat with some of the ARRL leadership when you can, especially when it is the guy in charge of your state section! After talking with Steve, I found my cousin Virgil, K4CUP, and talked with him for a bit. Then I had a chance to meet one of the "local legends" when it comes to ham radio: Fred Jones, WA4SWF. I'd heard a lot about Fred before meeting him. Fred has been an ASCE, EC, and Assistant Director of the Great Lakes Division among other things. Fred is the kind of guy that is needed in this day and age to help mentor the younger generation.

Speaking of the younger generation, there seems to be a trend that I have noticed within the clubs that I am involved with: there are no young people. In the Great Lakes Division newsletter for June 2019 Vice Director Tom, W8WTD, shared this statement:
"At the ARRL Forum on Saturday, President Rick Roderick, K5UR, asked how many in attendance were under thirty.  The answer—none.  How many under forty?— one!"
 This shows one of the problems that is plaguing the amateur radio community: How can we get the younger generation actively involved? Everyone has their own opinions as to what is causing this trend and how to fix it. Here's my take and I want to make it clear that I'm not complaining these are things that I have observed:

Many of the local clubs are failing to evolve. The younger generation is looking online for pretty much EVERYTHING, and a lot clubs haven't update websites out of the early 2000s (some don't even have websites). They have yet to create social media, which costs nothing and provide a great way to interact with members and share information to the public. This is where these clubs can benefit. It only takes a few minutes to create a Facebook page or Twitter account. These can be invaluable resources for clubs.

Another thing is email lists. Some clubs don't make it easy to find their email list (if they have one). A few of the clubs I'm involved with use Google Groups to provide an email. It's free and is easy to moderate and provides a step up from just sending emails to a long list of recipients. It also makes it easy for non-officers to share information to the club by sending an email to a single address instead of 25 or 30.

Clubs could also benefit by providing some type of program after club meetings focusing on newer technologies like DMR and FT8. Now don't get me wrong older stuff like tube-type radios still have a place in ham radio, but for the majority of the younger generation we like more modern SDR type radios that we can hook to a computer and try out digital modes.

It seems that there is a stigma with the older hams when it comes to digital modes. On many of the Facebook groups, in particular, for Ham Radio some people seem to think that FT8 isn't ham radio because you aren't using CW or SSB. Then on the opposite end of the spectrum there are people who embrace the new technologies.

In order for ham radio to flourish there has to be more people who are willing to embrace these new things and to mentor the younger generation!

I think I'll leave you with that for now!



Popular posts from this blog

May Updates

It's been a while...

New year, New Goals