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William Byrd ham radio club competes in School Club Roundup  printer friendly  
 
William Byrd ham radio club competes in School Club Roundup
By Debbie Adams
Vinton–Each year students in the ham radio clubs at William Byrd Middle and William Byrd High Schools compete in the national School Club Roundup contest. They attempt to contact as many other schools and individual ham operators as possible in different communities, states, and countries during the weeklong event. Each successful contact earns them points. Both schools usually rank near the top in the competition nationwide.The latest School Club Roundup was held during the week of Oct. 20-24. Students in the WBHS Amateur Radio Club, call sign WB4HS, stopped by the ham radio station on the first floor at the high school throughout the day to take part in the competition.The School Club Roundup is held twice annually in October and February.The school clubs are sponsored by the Roanoke Valley Amateur Radio Club (RVARC) and the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) whose volunteers provide technical instruction to  help students get on the air and operate the radios.The stated mission of the Roanoke Valley Amateur Radio Club is “to provide emergency communications services to the community; to assist other civic organizations; to promote the technical craft of amateur radio through class training and testing; to mentor new amateur operators and members; and to enhance fellowship among radio amateurs.”According to their Facebook page, the organization has been serving the Cities of Roanoke and Salem, the Town of Vinton, and Roanoke County since 1932. In addition to the amateur radio clubs at WBHS and WBMS, the RVARC also supports clubs at Hidden Valley and Franklin County High Schools.
Wally Denison volunteers with the WBHS Amateur Radio Club and assisted them during the national School Club Roundup competition from Oct, 20-24.Wally Denison volunteers with the WBHS Amateur Radio Club and assisted them during the national School Club Roundup competition from Oct, 20-24.
Ham radio equipment is expensive and not within the school budget. Fortunately the schools received assistance from the RVARC in setting up their station with donated equipment and funding grants from the ARRL.Volunteers not only donated and helped install the equipment at no cost to the schools, but helped erect antennas on the roof of both the high school and the middle school.Dr. Richard Turner, principal at WBHS and a ham radio enthusiast, established the ham radio club at the school in 1999. His interest originated with CB radios when he was a youngster. One of his CB friends in high school was a ham radio operator and introduced him to the hobby, which has now benefitted a new generation of students at WBHS and WBMS.Ham radio is used for communications in times of emergency or in disasters where other methods of communication are not available or have been destroyed or disabled. Well-known instances are during the 9/11 crisis and after Hurricane Katrina.Phil Roark, an electrical engineer and member of the RVARC who volunteers his time with student ham operators at the school, explained that because of the significant contribution of ham radio during crises situations, the government allows operators to also use the airwaves as a hobby at other times.Dr. Turner also emphasizes the educational aspects of the ham radio station at WBHS.“Ham radio has many components,” said Turner. “It involves science because it uses the ionosphere layer of the atmosphere for transmissions and sunspots cycles affect it; it involves English communication skills since English is the universal language of ham radio; it involves world geography in talking to people around the globe and figuring out where they live; it involves math when you talk about different frequencies and heights of antennas in meters.”An interest in ham radio often leads students to careers in radio, broadcasting, engineering, the military, and emergency services.Turner says part of the thrill of the hobby is that you never know who you are going to talk with, as there are ham radio operators scattered around the globe. He once made contact with an individual in Australia.The schools have both beam and omni-directional antennas on the roof for broadcasting, one forty foot in height. Beam antennas can be focused to radiate power in one direction depending upon the location the operator is attempting to contact. Omni-directional antennas transmit and receive signals in all directions.Wally Denison, an airline captain and volunteer with the WBHS club, said that currently five students are licensed to operate the system on their own. Others are not licensed and must be supervised.Operators must pass examinations to become licensed. There are three levels of operators—Technician (beginners), General (who are licensed), and Amateur Extra, like Dr. Turner, Roark, and Denison. The “Extra” license is like having a doctorate degree, Denison explained. Each type of license carries a different set of frequency and operating privileges.Denison said the results will be announced for the Oct. 2014 competition in a couple of weeks, but unofficially the WB4HS club accumulated 101,655 points by documenting contacts with 40 states,  two Canadian Provinces,  and 31 countries, including Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, numerous European and Scandinavian countries, and Saudi Arabia.Ham radio is also thriving at the middle school. During the October competition, the club at WBMS, call sign K4WBM, unofficially accumulated 122,976 points by contacting 45 states, 30 countries, and six Canadian provinces during 23.4 hours of operation. Teacher Becky Reed works with the middle school ham radio group.The clubs were allowed a total of 24 hours during the week to make contact with other ham operators around the world to earn those points. Roark has said in the past that several states are difficult to contact because of distance and the number of available ham radio operators in the location: Hawaii, Alaska, Rhode Island, and Wyoming in particular. WB4HS managed to establish communication with both Alaska and Rhode Island this go-around.Denison said the strength of a ham operator’s signal is most often affected by the activity of the sun, especially solar disturbances like solar flares. He kept a close eye on the sun’s activities during the competition online at www.solarham.com.Contacts are entered into the computer as they are made. Communication with other schools and school clubs gains more points than contacts with just individuals, as does reaching more distant operators. WB4HS was able to connect with nine school clubs during the week; K4WBM with 13 clubs and 29 schools.
WBHS student Meagan Webb (left) who is a licensed ham radio operator and Mallory Denison who volunteers with the club, helped the club to make contacts with 40 states and 31 countries during the recent competition. The ham radio club has its facilities on the first floor of WBHS. Denison has her Amateur Extra license, the highest that can be attained. WBHS student Meagan Webb (left) who is a licensed ham radio operator and Mallory Denison who volunteers with the club, helped the club to make contacts with 40 states and 31 countries during the recent competition. The ham radio club has its facilities on the first floor of WBHS. Denison has her Amateur Extra license, the highest that can be attained.
Denison’s daughter, Mallory, is also a licensed ham operator with the rank of Amateur Extra and assisted students in the Oct. competition. Both she and her father administer licensing examinations to aspiring ham radio operators all over the mid-Atlantic region.
News Author: Ron AB4A News Date: Monday November 17 2014 - 05:36PM

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