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Today, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), begins their annual field day. Field day was initially designed as a way to allow Amateur Radio Operators (hams) to practice operations under less than ideal conditions for emergency preparedness.

Today, with the availability of technology such as generators, solar panels, etc., the exercise is less about emergency communications, and more of a contest and learning opportunity.

I will be spending a large portion of my day at the W5UMS Field Day, here in Oxford, MS. I will use a portion of my day to operate (talk to people around the world), and another portion to learn to build some things I am not so familiar with.

One such item I will be building with my daughter is a “Tape Measure Yagi”. This is a directional antenna that allows one to focus their radio signal in a single direction. I want to build one so I can show my students how at school, and my daughter will learn to solder, practice measuring, and so forth in the process as well.

Additionally, I will teach my daughter to operate the radio herself. She is studying for her Technician Class license, and this will help keep her motivated. I am currently an Amateur Extra operator (K5ATA) and Cyndi is a Technician (KD5YGK). We hope to have several kids come by so we can teach them a little “old school tech”.

The term “Old School Tech” is actually a bit of a misnomer. Radios have progressed over time, and now fully interface with computers. We have full digital modes where hams can operate and type messages using radio waves. These have the added advantage over voice communications in that they require less output power to travel great distances.

Each year, I try to get at least a few kids licensed. This is a way for students to have real world interaction with some rather complicated math, electrical theory, and communications skills. Not to mention, kids really enjoy getting to connect with others around the world.

If you have a few spare minutes today, visit the website arrl.org and look for a field day operation near you. You never know, you might just learn something new.