Preparedness was the theme of the day as over 212 Boy Scouts from three states came together this month for the annual Radio Merit Badge program at Ham-Com 2012 (June 8-9), the state’s largest Amateur Radio convention in Plano, Texas.
Scouts learned new skills and got a close look at the latest Amateur Radio gear during the day-long event at the Plano Convention Center.
This popular Radio Merit Badge program strives to cover all of the badge requirements in a fun and interactive way, and to highlight the importance of Amateur Radio as an emergency preparedness tool. Scouts at this year’s event enjoyed special speakers, class participation activities and actual on-air contacts with radio “hams” around the world.
Citing the need to “plant seeds for the future,” Ham-Com began sponsoring the program a decade ago at their annual Amateur Radio convention by offering free admission and meals to Scouts in uniform. Their goal was to inspire Scouts to pursue Amateur Radio as an avocation, or to perhaps put their newly-learned radio skills to use during times of disaster when normal communications systems are knocked out.
Richard Phillips and James Alderman have been conducting the day-long program at Ham-Com for the past eight years and have seen attendance levels steadily increase. They estimate close to a thousand boys have been through their program so far.
As the Radio Merit Badge program has gained popularity in the Scouting community, Ham-Com’s support has grown also. Now Scouts can take their Amateur Radio license exam at no charge during the event.
Allan Batteiger teaches Amateur Radio license classes in the local community and heads up the exam team for the event. This year two lucky Scouts who passed their license exams were each presented with a special bonus—a brand new ICOM V80 handheld radio and matching antenna courtesy of Ham-Com and Diamond Antenna Corporation.
Event organizers faced a unique, although daunting challenge this year when a computer glitch failed to shut down the online class registration system once all available seats were filled. By the time the error was discovered, almost 600 boys had signed up for the Radio Merit Badge program—three times more than the classroom would seat!
Phillips and Alderman decided to try and accommodate overflow crowds by making this year’s program a “doubleheader”—two Radio Merit Badge programs back-to-back in a single day.
Even with two packed sessions, scores of boys who had pre-registered had to be turned away. But stay tuned! Another Radio Merit Badge class is being planned for later this summer.
(Contributed by Allan R. Batteiger, WB5QNG)