“Amateur radio offers something different and unique. And there is always something new to learn”
In today’s digital age, if everything goes down, the Cambridge Amateur Radio Club (CARC) can still communicate.
Whether it’s a hobby or a public service, CARC provides a unique experience while communicating with other radio groups around the world. Always on standby and ready to help, amateur radio operators, known as “hams”, talk to people around the world, enter contests and make connections.
They can also use their skills to provide communications during emergencies and disasters.
“If a disaster strikes somewhere in the world, for example in Haiti, we have specific frequencies that we can listen to and we can really help community members if they try to reach their loved ones,” Scott Mitchell said. , coach of the club. and past president of the Cambridge Amateur Radio Club (CARC).
“We can call them on the radio and make sure they are okay. We don’t get many such requests, but we have ways to bypass traditional phone lines that may have been cut. »
As a hobby, amateur radio offers people of all ages the opportunity to learn, practice, and develop radio technology that will allow them to communicate with other “hobbyists” around the world.
Mitchell has been a member of the club for six years.
“We’ve made some changes to the club, to bring it into the 2020s,” Mitchell said.
The Cambridge Amateur Radio Club, established in 1964, is one of the oldest in the region.
Learning and teaching are an important part of CRAC. Members learn about different operating systems, radios and antennas and often take or teach courses. The group meets regularly and older members, says Mitchell, are always willing to share their experience with the new “hams”.
“Right now, there are 25 members. They are between 15 and 85 years old. We have a lot of young people who are interested in it now. Some might think about college later, and that involves them in the electronics and the physical part of it,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell says much of what is learned centers around STEM: science, technology, engineering and math.
“On the science side, you will learn about radio waves, frequencies, how they are transmitted and how you make long distance contact. For the tech part, you have the radios, but you can also do voice and digital modes like slow-scan TV and pull in footage from the International Space Station,” Mitchell said.
“For the engineering part, it’s about learning about antennas, how to build them, operate them, and how high they need to be. For math, it’s not so much in the basic class, but when you go to the advanced class, there’s a lot of math involved. Some have compared it to a first-year college physics course.
The Cambridge Amateur Radio Club, a non-profit organization, uses radio waves for local communications and long distance communications. Frequencies are assigned by Innovation Science Economic Development Canada.
“They are our governing body and distribute the licenses. To get a license, you start with a basic course, you write your test, and then you can take a morse code course or an advanced course, or do both, to get your full license,” Mitchell said.
“We use different modes, long distance local distance and everything else. We’re sending images over the airwaves, doing digital communications, any mode of communication we have, we’ll do it.
Whether offering a workshop or answering a call for help, CRAC is always eager to share its skills with the community.
“The local scout group contacted us last year to tell us that they were having a ‘Scouts on the air day’. We were able to connect with them on a local frequency and helped them track the International Space Station because that was something they were really interested in,” Mitchell said.
Once a year, radio clubs around the world enter a Field Day contest to see how well a radio club can operate off the grid.
“This year, Field Day will take place in Valens in June. We disconnect for two days, and we try to establish as many contacts as possible. It’s a global event and we try to make as many contacts as possible. It’s not so much a disaster simulation as it’s a matter of being prepared, so that if something does happen we know we can still communicate and make sure our equipment is working properly,” Mitchell said.
During COVID-19, the club had to switch from in-person meetings to Zoom meetings.
“We have organized training courses on Zoom. It was a bit tricky as we had never done it before, but overall it worked for us. We still managed to get people fired, which was great,” Mitchell said.
Amateur radio hasn’t always been part of Mitchell’s life.
“At work, my manager at the time was an amateur radio operator. I thought that was too cool! And that’s how I started,” Mitchell said.
“I went from local frequencies to international frequencies. I also do a lot of slow-scan television, which sends images over the airwaves. I received them from as far away as Portugal and Brazil.
Today, Mitchell enjoys working with digital modes.
“There’s a certain mode where you send your call sign to a particular part of the world. The farthest I’ve heard in a 12-second transmission is Japan,” Mitchell said.
CRAC is always ready to welcome new members.
“We look forward to offering another basic course in the fall. Amateur radio offers something different and unique. And there’s always something new to learn,” Mitchell said.
“If you’re someone who likes to talk to people, there’s always someone on the other end who will talk. If you’re someone who just wants to send photos, you can use your keyboard. Simply connect a radio to your computer and go. What is good is that there is something for everyone. »