OTTUMWA-Members of the Ottumwa Amateur Radio Club (www.wa0dx.org) will be participating in the national Amateur Radio Field Day exercise, June 24 – 25 at the Octagon Shelter in Greater Ottumwa Park. Since 1933, ham radio operators across North America have established temporary ham radio stations in public locations during Field Day to showcase the science and skill of Amateur Radio. This event is open to the public and all are encouraged to attend from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday June 24th or 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Sunday June 26th.
The Ottumwa Amateur Radio club has members from throughout southeast Iowa including the counties of Davis, Mahaska, Monroe, and Wapello. Monthly meetings are held the second Saturday of each month at 10:00 a.m. in the meeting room at the Ottumwa Public Library. In addition to the Amateur Radio Field Day exercise, members are active with several events each year including running a Special Event Station at the Wapello County 4H Expo, “activating” Turkey Island, National Parks On The Air, administrating the Iowa QSO Party, Winter Field Day, and provide communication for community events such as the Living History Farms Race in Des Moines.
For over 100 years, Amateur Radio — sometimes called ham radio — has allowed people from all walks of life to experiment with electronics and communications techniques, as well as provide a free public service to their communities during a disaster, all without needing a cell phone or the Internet. Field Day demonstrates ham radio’s ability to work reliably under any conditions from almost any location and create an independent communications network. Over 35,000 people from thousands of locations participated in Field Day in 2016.
“It’s easy for anyone to pick up a computer or smartphone, connect to the Internet and communicate, with no knowledge of how the devices function or connect to each other,” said Sean Kutzko of the American Radio Relay League, the national association for Amateur Radio. “But if there’s an interruption of service or you’re out of range of a cell tower, you have no way to communicate. Ham radio functions completely independent of the Internet or cell phone infrastructure, can interface with tablets or smartphones, and can be set up almost anywhere in minutes. That’s the beauty of Amateur Radio during a communications outage.”
“Hams can literally throw a wire in a tree for an antenna, connect it to a battery-powered transmitter and communicate halfway around the world,” Kutzko added. “Hams do this by using a layer of Earth’s atmosphere as a sort of mirror for radio waves. In today’s electronic do-it-yourself (DIY) environment, ham radio remains one of the best ways for people to learn about electronics, physics, meteorology, and numerous other scientific disciplines, and is a huge asset to any community during disasters if the standard communication infrastructure goes down.”
Anyone may become a licensed Amateur Radio operator. There are over 725,000 licensed hams in the United States, as young as 5 and as old as 100. And with clubs such as Ottumwa Amateur Radio Club, it’s easy for anybody to get involved right here in Wapello County.