CVHS students have joined the airwaves of ham radio, an amateur technical hobby supported by the U.S. government. Through the new ham radio class, individuals are aiming to receive a license for broadcasting worldwide.
The challenging six-hour class, hosted by physics teacher Bertram Pinsky, consists of rigorous studying from an intimidating 600-question packet, in which students learn the theory of transmitting, and at the end of which students are given written tests. Passing grades earn licenses and call signs, which are unique combinations of letters and numbers, used as identification tags for individuals legally permitted to transmit on the radio.
“I’d never heard of a call sign, let alone wanted one, [but that was] before I was provided with the opportunity to get one,” commented junior Sophia Barnhart.
Since the early 20th century, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has regulated the provision of licenses, call signs, and exams. Amateur radio, or ham radio, defined as broadcasts by any individual for personal (not monetary) gain, is also considered an emergency system of communication.
Pinsky explained that amateur radio was one of the first social networks, allowing people all over the world to communicate, though, “originally [in the early 1900s], there weren’t very many women.” Ham radio had appealed to Pinsky for a length of time, but only recently met a friend who recommended him to a ham/amateur radio test administrator, convincing Pinsky to introduce the radio class to CVHS this year.
“I hope to get our own station for ham. You don’t need a license for a half-mile broadcast,” said Pinsky. He believes knowing how to broadcast would be useful in the school’s disaster preparedness program. Additional plans include offering some of his students a shot at actually constructing radios, “but they wouldn’t need licenses for that [either].”
As an extra incentive for his own physics students, Pinsky granted extra credit to those who spent their free time to attend, as the class has been held twice so far, both on Saturdays. “It’s just a hook to get them interested in radios,” said Pinsky with a smile.
The exam can also be taken online, but regardless of location, exam fees are $15.
In addition, there are three consecutive license degrees, the Technician Class, General Class, and Amateur Extra Class, each permitting access to broader frequencies of the amateur radio airwaves.
“I can operate with a general license, which lasts for ten years, so I could broadcast during college,” said junior Tara Steward.
The license tests must be taken in order, and each requires a significant amount of studying.
Steward went on to say, “My favorite part was passing the test; I’m glad I don’t have to retake it.”
Amateur radio, and the exam, is for all ages, as Pinsky himself, science teacher Deborah Yager, and Assistant Principal Jason Whiteman all demonstrated by joining the class.
For ham enthusiasts out there, Pinsky’s call sign is KJ6LSU.