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Global Ham Radio Event Starts Tomorrow
The biggest community outreach and emergency planning event among amateur radio operators is coming this weekend.
Field Day is an educational and disaster preparedness exercise conducted by ham radio fans around the world. And in Honolulu, Field Day 2015 will run from tomorrow morning through Sunday morning at Kualoa Regional Park. It's being jointly organized by the Emergency Amateur Radio Club (of which I am a sporadic member) and the Koolau Amateur Radio Club.
It's the second year the two clubs have joined forces, with the EARC headed north. My first Field Day with the EARC in 2012 was at the University of Hawaii, and they set up at Bellows Air Force Station in 2013.
I won't lie, the core group of amateur radio operators is pretty hard core. They take the disaster preparedness angle of Field Day seriously, camping on site and operating purely on solar or battery power. The clubs will set up large antennas and small antennas and a number of radio rigs. While new hams may walk around with consumer-grade handheld equipment, some of the hardware rolled out for Field Day looks like it could launch a Space Shuttle, or survive a military combat operation or two.
In addition to talking shop and swapping gear, Field Day is also a long-awaited opportunity to make long-distance radio contacts with Field Day camps around the world. Called DXing, you'll find the most furrowed brows among the hams trying to see just how far they can throw and receive a recognizable signal. And yes, for the greatest distances, such a signal is usually in the form of morse code.
But while the piles of equipment and swaying antennas may look intimidating, amateur radio operators also participate in Field Day to be visible and accessible to the general public. Hams are historically a civic-minded lot, and most are more than willing to tell their stories and explain why some of the "classic" technologies they use are no less relevant today than half a century ago.
Which is to say, even if you're not a licensed amateur radio operator, if you're simply interested in the tech and practice, you're welcome to attend Field Day.
My meandering path to becoming a ham began in 2008. When I started planning the first Hawaii Geek Meet, I reached out to fellow dad and avid operator Rich Fewell (KH6DAD) to see if his ham buddies wanted to participate. Fortunately, they did, and amateur radio has been a part of every Geek Meet since. Not only that, I started to seriously consider becoming a ham myself.
When Burt Lum and I realized that we shared an interest in getting licensed, we decided to study together. And we also found a very patient tutor in the form of Ron Hashiro (AH6RH). After studying both in person and with the help of an iOS app, it was at Field Day in 2012 that Burt and I took the Technician test, the first ham radio license class, and passed.
The proctor dared me to also try taking the test for General, the second level up, on the spot. Without any preparation, I failed... by four questions. You bet I eventually got my General license, too. And to celebrate, I paid for a "vanity call sign," switching from the sequentially assigned WH6DZK to the appropriately geeky KH6WEB.
I admit, I'm not an active ham. When I fire up my mobile transceiver, I usually just listen in on the local chatter. But that chatter becomes incredibly compelling when there's a hurricane brewing, or some other natural disaster.
Getting the license was fun, but what mattered was the understanding of the importance of the amateur radio corps that came with it. And I'd recommend it to any geek looking for some civic cred.
EARC/KARC Field Day 2015 starts tomorrow at Kualoa Regional Park with setup beginning at 10 a.m. The crew will then be there until Sunday morning (the park gate is closed from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily). As with all Field Day events, there will be an official license testing session, this year at 11 a.m. on Saturday.