A new feature of ARRL EXPO at Dayton Hamvention®, May 20-22, 2016, will be “Discover the HF Experience“ — an exhibit and initiative for new operators and those inexperienced with ham radio on HF (also called shortwave). Similar HF operating positions will be available, along with mentoring on how to make an HF contact. Anyone interested can book a 30-minute session, one to a guest, and no license is required. Experienced operators will be on hand to help.
“Our priority is non-hams, new hams, or those who have not experienced HF operation,” said Gerry Hull, W1VE, who established the Discover the HF Experience program with Cary Rubenfeld, VE4EA. Inaugural Discover sessions in early April in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Framingham, Massachusetts, each attracted about 50 attendees. “More were long-time hams who spent more time on VHF than HF,” Hull said. “Some had given up HF long ago and gone to VHF.” But, Hull said most of the visitors at both locations were hams who already operate HF, but wanted a refresher.
The initial sessions combined hands-on operating with talks on various aspects of Amateur Radio, and HF operating in particular. Hull said topics covered in supplementary talks at the Massachusetts session included radios, antennas, and where to find help and information. Due to time constraints, Dayton’s Discover will offer just the HF operation component, and the program has been adjusted appropriately. Hull said a team “with great Elmers” will be at ARRL EXPO for all 3 days of Hamvention.
Also for newcomers attending Hamvention, the League will sponsor the first-ever ARRL Youth Rally on Saturday, May 21, open to youth and young adults from 11 to 26. Register by May 1. The Youth Rally will feature a full program of hands-on ham radio activities, discovery, sharing, and fun!
A Work in Progress
Hull recounted that at the Massachusetts Discover session visitors wanted to listen to the talks and didn’t have time to get on the air — although those who did liked it very much. “In working with the ‘students’ at the stations, it was readily apparent that a Technician license does not prepare anyone for HF operation,” Hull added. “So we learned to explain more.”
Some operating techniques covered were pretty basic fare for HF veterans but essential for newcomers to that part of the Amateur Radio spectrum — including how to call CQ, how to respond to callers, and provide a signal report. “They did not understand the QSO sequence and other aspects,” Hull said. “They were pretty green about HF — more so than I had anticipated.” Hull allowed that many, if not most, newcomers study for their Technician ticket by looking at the question pool and answers and probably not learning very much about hands-on ham radio.
“My goal, and that of everyone associated with this idea, is to get people excited about HF,” he said. “For new hams and wannabe hams, you have to get them excited before they want to do the work associated with getting a license, especially a General.” Talks will be limited to 10 minutes each at future sessions, covering “just the basics to wet their whistle,” he said. “Operating a station needs to be a mandatory step, not voluntary.”
Hull had approached ARRL EXPO Manager Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, to propose bringing “Discover the HF Experience” to ARRL EXPO. “The exhibit ties in well with ARRL’s recently adopted Strategic Plan and our goal to encourage members to get involved, get active, and get on the air,” Inderbitzen said.
Hull said plans are in place to offer a “Discover the HF Experience” at the ARRL New England Division Convention later this year.