Youth essays enlighten us on how amateur radio can evolve in the age of the internet

Intrepid-DX GroupThe Intrepid-DX Group is a not-for-profit corporation organized to conduct scientific and educational projects related to amateur radio, including DXing and the introduction and promotion of amateur radio in developing countries. This year, ARDC helped fund their Youth “Dream Rig” Essay Contest. The contest was open to all U.S. licensed radio amateurs age 19 or younger.

Contestants were asked to submit a two-page essay answering the question, “How can amateur radio evolve to remain relevant in the age of the Internet?” First prize was an Icom IC-7300 HF/50 MHz transceiver; second and third prizes were a Yaesu FT- 65 VHF/UHF Dual-Band FM Handheld Transceiver.

Below are the winning essays. Congratulations to the three winners. They offer some advice we all might take to heart.

First Place: Silas Davis, W3SED

At nine years old, I was first exposed to Ham Radio at the home of a family friend. Little did I know that “Mr. Brian” was an Amateur Extra License Ham Radio Technician, an Elmer and fluent in CW for over five decades. Buttons, lights, gadgets, cords plugged everywhere and the ability to communicate to people in so many places and areas around the world was very exciting. Asking questions brought to light more about the intriguing programs, applications, and ability to communicate even if one does not have phone connection or internet access. Every visit to N3IQ’s home with my family, our visits would be peppered with more questions, and new exciting information I was eager to learn. After taking a few classes and much mentoring from N3IQ, and other experts I was able at age nine to successfully pass my Technician Ham Radio License. Now age 10, I am working hard studying and preparing to take my General Ham Radio License Test. This essay desires to state why Ham Radio will continue to remain relevant in the age of the internet because first it inspires and creates community, second it can help those in danger, emergency, or conflict, and finally it is fun!

Ham radio is relevant in the age of internet because it inspires and creates community. When you are on the air, interesting friendships often spring up as the weather, different people’s equipment, interesting events, discussing what new ideas one can learn during transmitting, and many other interesting topics of conversation occur. As months turn to years, deep and long-lasting friendships are built and continue to inspire one another. Because it takes work and discipline to be able to attain a License, Ham Radio draws a vastly diverse demographic and community that is unique from any other type of activity. Ham radio both inspires and creates community!

Ham radio is also relevant in the age of internet because it can help those in danger, emergency or conflict. One of the unique and distinguishing factors of Ham Radio is that you can use it without phone or internet connection. In the first world, this is often seen as a fun hobby, but in the third world or in natural disaster this can be used as a vital tool of communication. Ham Radio has been known to be used in critical ways and times all over the world in war, natural disasters, tornados, hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, and many more times of danger, crisis or challenge. This is undeniable resource for fellow man and country. Ham Radio does and will remain relevant in the age of internet because it helps those in danger emergency or conflict.

Finally, Ham Radio is relevant in the age of internet because it is fun. Ham radio has lots of very fun elements including contests, scholarships, and worldwide field day. One of the popular contests Ham Radio Technicians enjoy doing is competing how many contacts you can make in a time frame, or region of the world. Another fun contest that is popular amongst Technicians is activating rare grids. Rare grids involve new frequencies that would normally not work in typical weather or atmospheric pressure. It can be exciting to be involved with new rare grids. While I have not received any of these myself yet, I have heard that those who are diligent and hard working in the Ham Radio community have a chance to apply for scholarships for further learning and academic degrees that can be useful for equipping them for being a good and productive citizens. This is a special resource for young Ham Radio Technicians! Ham radio is also fun because of worldwide field day. During worldwide field day almost every HAM Technician is on the air creating amazing opportunities to make contacts and deepen knowledge and community. It also can be fun for a young person like myself because you get permission to stay up into the early hours of the morning! Ham Radio is fun!

This essay desired to state why Ham Radio will continue to remain relevant in the age of the internet. I believe it will remain relevant because first it inspires and creates community, second it can help those in danger, emergency, or conflict, and finally it is fun!

Second place: Olivia Lee, KD2UYX

Ham Radio is a hobby I never expected I would appreciate but now I do immensely. Before joining my school’s radio club the only time I heard about it was when the tv show Stranger Things mentioned it in an episode. In my freshman year of high school, I wanted to join a new club after school and I noticed a sign for amateur radio club in the hallway. I decided that it looked interesting and that I would try it out. After going to the first meeting I realized there was much more meaning to be found in it than I previously thought. I got to connect with people from other countries, learn about the science behind it, and get more people involved at my school. Ham Radio is a unique hobby that deserves to continue but it is getting less popular because people do not see a need for it in the age of the internet. People wonder what the point of using it is if they communicate so easily with more modern technology. Ham Radio can evolve to stay relevant in a multitude of ways. People involved can use the internet to raise awareness about ham radio, and people can realize why sometimes ham radio is better than the internet.

Ham Radio helps to implement unity and community within the world that is not always available with the internet. Even though it seems like the whole world is connected through the internet this is mostly an illusion. There is much division in the world because of social media and many people do not want to listen to different opinions. The internet amplifies extreme views and hatred through posting and sharing in a never-ending loop. This is where Ham Radio could come in. A huge aspect of Ham Radio is making contacts with people and trying to find unique ones from other states and countries. You can talk directly to people from other countries and hear what they have to say. You can find out what their culture is like and what they are like as a person. This allows for a much better understanding of people who are different from you and you can share your own perspective as well. Furthermore, even though the people you talk to are different from you there is the common ground of being a member of the Ham Radio community. Ham Radio has an instant connection to people all over the world like the internet without the negative repercussions. With this being said the internet can still be used to raise awareness of Ham Radio.

Most teenagers nowadays know about TikTok and are excited to try all of the latest trends. If Ham Radio had more of an internet presence I think that more young people would want to get involved. Say there was a Ham Radio TikTok account that made Ham Radio look cool and trending. The account could show videos of people talking to other states or countries. If it was popular on social media people might be more inclined to join it in school or even start their own club because they see the benefits of it. On social media, there could also be explanation videos about the technology in a bite-sized, accessible way. This would help people be more open to the sometimes difficult technology of it. Once they get down the basics they can move on to more advanced topics through books and ham radio websites.

I think it is extremely important that Ham Radio continues for generations. It is a hobby that provides a sense of community, skills, friendships, and learning opportunities. Ham Radio may not be able to compete with the internet’s technology and communication but I think if people find ways to integrate and use the internet to its advantage instead, people will see its own uniqueness and it can stay relevant in the age of the internet.

Third place: Isaac Schmidt, K6IAS

HI, I’m Isaac, K6IAS I have been fascinated by radio communication my whole life but the only way that I had heard of it was in the form of FRS radios and never really knew anything about how they worked or what made 1 radio transmit farther than another. During a trip this last summer I was exposed to off roading for the first time. Upon arriving home, I dug deeper into off roading and I heard a guy mention how he used ham radio to communicate with his off roading friends and that it could transmit a lot farther than the CB radio that was more commonly used. Me having never herd of CB radio or ham radio I chose to dig deeper into the one that he said was better and I was hooked. I went on to study for my technician license and took the test and got my license a week later. Looking back, I wish that I had dug deeper into radio communication or that someone had told me about it at an earlier age, and that’s what I think needs to change about amateur radio to keep it relevant in the age of the internet. We need more young people so that the hobby can stay around for the future generations to enjoy.

I am fortunate to be at a wonderful engineering high school that has an awesome radio club, and that has been fun for me and has done a great job of introducing so many people to this fun hobby. These clubs are an awesome opportunity, and they are fun to. It is an awesome time to hang out with your friends and get to know new people while talking about radio. I always look forwards to Wednesday morning when we meet, and it is often the highlight of my week. Its just a shame that there aren’t more of these clubs in more high schools and middle schools. I think that a great step to getting more people interested in ham radio is to have it as accessible as possible to people, and what better place to have it then school.

Another problem is even if you are fortunate enough to learn about ham radio and get you license it can be a quite expensive hobby to get into especially for a high schooler with a tight budget, and that can drive someone away from the hobby when they find out that they need an expensive radio to get on the air. For that reason, I think that a all in 1 affordable starter kit for ham radio would be an awesome thing. Something not like a handheld but something that could get out there. Something that could spark someone’s interest in the magic of how a radio wave that is basically just another color of light that we can’t see can bounce of the atmosphere allowing them to contact people far away. Now I know that this wouldn’t be the best radio, but it doesn’t have to be. It just needs to be something accessible, something purely to get someone hooked on amateur radio that can lead to deeper interests later in life. A devise like this would also do a great job competing with the internet. With the internet being such a large thing, it is quite cheep and that makes it more accessible but who knows maybe a nice cheap radio would do good competing against the internet

Another thing that would be great for getting new young hams would be more opportunities to get on the air. Now this could come in the form of someone with a radio set up in the park just showing it to people, or someone at an event like a camp out or something just with a lot of people that can talk to people about how it works and let them experience it for themselves. I’ve had my general license for a few weeks now, but I haven’t been able to get on the hf bands due to not being able to afford an expensive radio. I think that more frequent opportunities to get on the air would do a wonderful job of helping new hams to stay interested in the hobby. And that is what would do a good job of keeping ham radio relevant for future generations to enjoy.

As a new ham myself I know that it can be quite scary to get on the air. In a lot of the nets that I have listened in on everyone seems to know what to do and there isn’t much instruction to what to do if you don’t know. I think that more nets that are focused on giving new hams a safe space to get on the air and talk to people like themselves would be awesome. I think that this would be great for getting those that are new to the hobby more comfortable with it and keeping them around.

Another way that we can make ham radio more accessible to new hams and people who aren’t yet hams is just making the information about the hobby more apparent. A lot of the things that I have learned about radio have come from me digging around on the internet and coming across them. and even once you do come across them these resources can be confusing and hard to look at. So, I think that putting more time and effort into the recourses that we put out about ham radio would go a long way for teaching new people about it. Just a lot of information that is in 1 spot on a well-designed website that gets the idea across without being too wordy.

In the end I think that the only way for ham radio to stay relevant in the age of the internet is to get more young people interested in the hobby. And I know that my response seems awfully like last year’s question, but I truly believe that the best way to keep ham radio around is to get more young people interested in it. Because Afterall the young people of today will be running the world in 50 years and we need them to keep this wonderful hobby going for future generations to enjoy.