How to Fix Ham Radio’s Youth Problem

Conventional wisdom holds that young people aren’t interested in ham radio anymore.

I don’t buy it.

I agree that the proliferation of computer technology has given bright young minds another outlet to explore engineering and science. I also know that the technology employed in various aspects of the hobby are state of the art. The communications field is as relevant and as top of mind as it ever has been.

Ham radio just hasn’t figured out how to reconnect with America’s youth.

A Message That Doesn’t Resonate

When we talk to young people about ham radio, what do we say?

We ask what they will do if their cell phone doesn’t work anymore.

We talk about emergency preparedness. Disasters.

In my experience, that message is lost on a generation where everything is accessible anywhere at any time, and self-reliance skills aren’t as developed.

Start in the Classroom

Every day in American classrooms, there are future engineers, technicians, and inventors enrolled in a high school physics class. They study the things ham radio operators study: electricity and circuits. They study the mathematical framework of radio such as ohms law, inductance, and reactance.

Some use oscilloscopes. Others use frequency counters.

When it comes to this aspect of their study, ham radio operators are tremendous resources.  In academic parlance, we’re subject matter experts.  We should get to know and be involved with science teachers.

No, not by setting up a contact with the International Space Station.

We should be part of some scientific experiment.

Perhaps building a loop antenna to receive WSPR signals from all over the world.

Perhaps using a Raspberry Pi as a low-power transmitter.

Maybe get ambitious and build a pico-balloon then track it using APRS for a few weeks.

Or whatever the physics teacher cooks up and wants to try.

When you put the hobby front and center, it sparks the imagination. What better way than help further a young person’s education or career, while introducing someone to the greatest hobby in the world?

Does your club have a connection with the local high school physics teacher?