Two Rivers calling: Ham radio roundup connects students with learning moments | Photos

Sloan King, center, reads off an invitation to talk during the ham radio roundup event at Two Rivers School last week.  - Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo
Sloan King, center, reads off an invitation to talk during the ham radio roundup event at Two Rivers School last week.
— image credit: Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

Monday was dedicated to science, especially physics, math and astronomy. Tuesday brought lessons in geography, history, languages, and patience.

After a slow morning of attempting to contact other ham radio operators, middle-schoolers at Two Rivers School in North Bend enjoyed an afternoon chatting with people all over the world, as part of the annual School Club Roundup.

“All of a sudden the band has come alive!” announced ham radio operator Steven Kangas, who volunteered two days helping the students to get on the air for the twice-yearly roundup.

Sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, the School Club Roundup ran through last week, giving students a chance for hands-on learning in many subject areas. At Two Rivers, students learned about the science of short-wave radio, then ventured outside to build their own “home-brewed Delta Loop” antenna, as Kangas called it, on the first day of the roundup.

Middle school teacher Joe Burgener points out the antenna, anchored on one end to a 50-foot evergreen and to lower trees at two other points, forming a three-way intersection, with a loop of plastic is suspended in the center.

“The whole thing is the antenna,” he said, and it took them most of the day to assemble it. Kangas used an air cannon to shoot a line to the top of the tallest tree. Students used the line to pull progressively heavier cables to the top of the tree, until they found the right weight, then the process was repeated in the lower trees.

Many of the boys in the class thought Monday was the highlight of the roundup, but on Tuesday, most were equally anxious to talk into the microphone on the air.

“We’re encouraging them all to try it, to put their voice out there,” said Burgener, as Kangas’ radio hissed quietly at the center of a circle of students. Nearly all of them did.

“It was cool,” said Sloan King, who had no fear about talking to the world. Throughout the afternoon, she repeated “CQ, CQ, CQ, this is Whiskey Niner Sierra Kilo, a School Roundup station calling, CQ,” into the microphone, until they got a response.

They heard from operators in Chile, Japan, California, Centralia, and Portland. Bob in Los Angeles wanted to hear from them, asking the students about the radio they were on, their antenna, and whether they planned to get their radio licenses. That question prompted nervous giggles all around, probably because they got it a lot.

Mike in Portland asked who might get their licenses, too, but he also made the most of his time with them, handling it like the learning opportunity it was.

First, geography: “I went overseas for the Voice of America, for 20 years,” he said, listing the many countries he’d lived in and the languages he’d gained some skill in, from Greek, Arabic and Thai, to Tagalog and the little-known spoken language of Sri Lanka.

Then politics, as he described his work for the Voice of America. “We called it the official line of the United States, and we broadcast it on shortwave.”

Next was history, as he talked about going to school in a small building, with two grade levels per classroom.

“We have a mixed class of seventh and eighth graders, and we don’t move during the day, either,” student Lily Austin told him.

“We need to have a good grip on math,” Mike told the group. “You’d be amazed at how much of our physical world can be modeled in math.”

For Austin, and for a lot of the other students, the highlight of the day was “talking to that man!”

Volunteer Steven Kangas, standing, explains some ham radio jargon to a group of middle school students at Two Rivers.

Two Rivers students and instructor Steven Kangas use a laptop to look up call signs, finding fellow radio callers around the globe.




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