Acadiana Amateur Radio Association Ham radio Field Day coming Saturday

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The local club participates in the annual Field Day exercise

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Like everyone else in 2018, Chris Ancelet can get information about anything just by tapping on his cell phone screen. But Ancelet can also reach the world on a radio station and antennae that he has assembled with his own hands.

He contacted 109 countries, including a volcanic island in the Indian Ocean more than 10,000 miles from his home in Acadia Parish. It reached New Jersey using a 10th of a watt, less power than it takes to run a pilot light.

Ancelet finds these exchanges on amateur or “amateur” radio more fulfilling than Google and its iPhone.

“I think ham radio kicks it up a few notches,” said Ancelet, 41. “You have to work to make some of those contacts. It’s amazing what you can do with very little power and a wire antenna in the air.

“There is a lot of scientific data integrated into it. But you can go from hearing nothing to hearing stuff all over the world.

Ancelet and members of the Acadiana Amateur Radio Association participate Saturday in Field Day, an annual event sponsored by the American Radio Relay League. For 24 hours, radio amateurs run their stations outdoors on generators and try to contact as many stations as possible.

The AARA, a Lafayette-based ham club, will operate a Field Day station, beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Steve Webre Farm in Church Point. The site is open to the public.

Besides camping and camaraderie, Field Day allows radio amateurs to sharpen their radio skills that have proven vital in an emergency. When hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods knock out power, cell phones, and the Internet, radio amateurs can still communicate around the world, using minimal equipment.

When Hurricane Maria ravaged electric and telephone services in Puerto Rico last year, amateur radio was the only communication link with the outside world. Ancelet enjoyed this aspect of his radio hobby.

“When a big storm passes through the area, your cell phone won’t work,” Ancelet said. “I don’t need to have the power.

“I can pop the hood off my truck, hook alligator clips to the battery terminals, and I can talk in five minutes. In Puerto Rico, this is the only way they could pass health and wellness traffic via old analog style technology. It just doesn’t fail.

Ancelet is president of the AARA, which meets the first Thursday of each month at the Lafayette Science Museum. The club often organizes courses to help newcomers obtain their licenses.

Ancelet strives to bring younger hams into the hobby.

“I would love for a younger generation to come in and appreciate science, the camaraderie behind it. It’s just fun. There are so many facets.

“If you just want to talk on a portable radio and talk on the repeaters to people within 30 miles, that’s totally possible. If you want to talk to someone halfway around the world with 10 watts of power, that’s also very doable. If you don’t want to talk at all, we have the digital modes where you can basically send text messages.

“There’s a bit for everyone, if people give it a chance.”

Want to go?

What: Field day with the Acadiana Amateur Radio Association

When: Starts 1 p.m., Saturday

Or: Webre Farm, 1529 Beaugh Street, Church Point

Information: w5ddl.org

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