Amateur Radio and Youth:
Brian Jackson, VE6JBJ
RAC Youth Education Program Coordinator
I am a Middle School Teacher in Airdrie, Alberta, a small city about 15 minutes north of Calgary.
The greatest day in my 30‑year teaching career was in early January 2004. The only problem was that I didn’t know it. The day that Ken Oelke, VE6AFO, told me that I had passed my Basic test and I had been granted my Amateur Radio licence, my Alberta teaching career turned in a direction that has made me a better teacher.
I use radio a great deal in my classroom and love showing kids the wonders of Amateur Radio. I primarily use IRLP (I am also the owner of node 1860) and D-Star. I have radios in my classroom at CW Perry School for both of these. I also have a small ham shack in my garage at home. My hope is to install HF equipment there soon. I hope to hear from you on the air!
Since 2005, I have also been one of the Canadian mentors for the ARISS program, helping coordinate radio contacts between the ISS and schools and youth groups in Canada and around the world.
The presentation will focus on the Youth Education Program as it existed prior to COVID-19 and some of the changes instituted in response to COVID protocols.
I will present a number of new ideas for future YEP initiatives and ask for feedback and ideas for more ways to bring Amateur Radio to youth in our communities.
All presentations are now available for viewing on the new RAC YouTube Channel.
What does Amateur Radio have to offer you?
The purpose of the Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) Youth Education Program is to provide youth and their leaders with an innovative way of learning by introducing them to the wonderful world of Amateur Radio.
The Program provides financial and personal support to Teachers in schools and Leaders in community youth groups in all regions of the country. Teachers who wish to include an element of radio technology in their programs will be eligible for assistance in acquiring the necessary equipment, books and other resources.
“Amateur Radio has been an amazing resource for me in high school, as it presents many real-life applications to the topics presented in my Physics, Electronics, Geography and Computer Science classes. Alongside that, it has opened new opportunities for myself with activities such as High Altitude Balloon (HAB) clubs, tinkering with electronics, worldwide communications and more in this vast hobby.”
– Nikolaus Reichert, VE4NJR
“I’ve been a Physics and Science Teacher for over 30 years. I realized a long time ago that many more of my students went on to become Engineers than Scientists and I felt that I should try to give my students the opportunity to engage in Engineering through a school-based STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) project.
We started a High Altitude Balloon (HAB) club in 2009. It quickly became apparent that Amateur Radio was the key to tracking the balloons and for most of our communications needs. In recent years, the Manitoba Association of Physics Teachers (MAPT) has carried this forward and by June 2017 there were 11 Manitoba schools running HAB clubs. As a result, more and more students and Teachers are becoming certified Amateur Radio operators.
The knowledge and skills learned through Amateur Radio has been extremely important to these STEM projects and the support provided by RAC’s Youth Education Program is very much appreciated.”
– Robert Striemer, VE4SHS
Amateur Radio is a hobby made especially for youth. As a radio operator, you will have the chance to talk to people around the world and even astronauts in space as shown in the above photo.
Through Amateur Radio, you will learn and practise a set of lifelong skills that will help you throughout your future: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) principles that are taught in school, including the basics of electronics and wave propagation.
You will also make many lifelong friends and connections to your community. You will be prepared for, and can contribute during emergencies that arise.
Amateur Radio will provide you with many opportunities in your community.
Teachers and Youth Group Leaders
As a Teacher or a Youth Group Leader, Amateur Radio provides a wide variety of educational opportunities for the youth that you work with. Amateur Radio reinforces those curricular concepts related to electronics and other STEM areas. Radio allows youth a hands-on approach to those concepts through the wide variety of technologies that can be used. Through your work with youth, you will be providing opportunities for youth to understand the theory behind, and have a working understanding of, technologies that they will use to talk around the world. This is exactly the kind of “hands-on, minds-on” learning that our youth are looking for!
Amateur Radio Clubs
For club members, this is an opportunity for you to give back to the hobby that has been so good to you by nurturing a generation who are looking for learning opportunities in electronics and technology. You can use your experience to Elmer/mentor youth in all aspects of the hobby, show them the wide variety of Amateur equipment available today and also see the excited look on their faces when they make contact with someone in another country on the planet or beyond on the International Space Station. Through your work with the youth in your community, you will be creating friendships with the operators of the future and continue to give back to your community in a way that will guarantee our hobby flourishes.
The purpose of the Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) Youth Education Program is to provide youth and their Leaders with an innovative way of learning by introducing them to the wonderful world of Amateur Radio. The Program provides financial and personal support to Teachers in schools and Leaders in community youth groups in all regions of the country. Teachers who wish to include an element of radio technology in their programs will be eligible for assistance in acquiring the necessary equipment, books and other resources.
The ultimate goal of the Program is to:
- encourage young people to look to the sciences and technologies for possible career and personal development
- provide for the revitalization and growth of Amateur Radio with an infusion of young people
- develop an interest in Amateur Radio for all youth
Educators and Leaders around the world, including Canadian astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk, recognize that Amateur Radio is a great way for students and Teachers to reach out and bring the world, and space, into the classroom. Amateur Radio is an innovative way to learn about science and technology, global perspectives and many other subjects across the curriculum.
Getting young people involved with radio will also strengthen the Amateur Radio Service in Canada, where the average of age of Amateurs is increasing. Canada needs young people who are skilled in the areas of communications, science, geography and technology.
To achieve these objectives, RAC initiated the Youth Education Program during the spring of 2003 with a simple yet far reaching mandate: bring the benefits of Amateur Radio to young people. Clearly the most effective way to do this is through our schools and community youth groups.
RAC recognizes that the Program can only be effective if it has the support of Teachers/Leaders. Thus, the primary focus of the Youth Education Program will be to make it attractive for Teachers/Leaders to incorporate radio into curricular and extra-curricular activities. The goal will not be to ask Teachers and Leaders to do something extra, but rather to offer them tools which will help them to do more effectively, through the medium of radio, what they are already doing. Imagine how much more effective a lesson about space would be if it involved actually talking to an astronaut.
How will it be done?
The RAC Youth Education Program will establish a powerful partnership between participating schools, educators and Amateur mentors to bring Amateur Radio to life in classroom and club settings across Canada. This will be done at no cost to the Teacher and school or Leader and club.
RAC will provide the following support to participating schools:
- Financial help to purchase equipment and other resources
- Links to a collection of print, digital and audiovisual material about Amateur Radio from a variety of international sources
- Liaison with local Amateur Radio clubs to provide expertise from the community in acquiring equipment and setting up an Amateur Radio station at the school
- Promotion for the participating school:
- on RAC’s website
- in local and national press
- in provincial and national education publications
- Access to experienced Radio Amateurs across the country
- Advice on other possible financial support for the use of communications technology in the classroom/club
How does a group qualify?
In order to qualify for Phase 1, with the Program goal of having at least one participating school from each of RAC’s seven districts across Canada, the school should have:
- a Teacher or Club Leader, possibly a certified Radio Amateur, who is already using, or would like to start using, radio as a part of the curricular or extra-curricular program
- the support of the school’s administration or Club Leader
- the support of a local Amateur Radio club
Note: The membership of a local Amateur Radio club represents many years of experience which will be invaluable to the school.
The school/club which takes part in the RAC Youth Education Program should be willing to share information about how Amateur Radio is being used in the school or club by promoting it on the RAC Youth Education Program’s website, in the pages of RAC’s magazine The Canadian Amateur magazine and through local Amateur Radio club newsletters.
Note: Any articles in local newspapers or school/club newsletters should first be sent to the Chair of the Youth Education Program for sharing on its website.
How would such a program fit into the curriculum?
Youth who are Elementary, Middle or High School aged can all benefit from the inclusion of radio in their programs. There is no more effective way to establish the concept of the world community than for students to listen to, or actually speak with, people from other countries and cultures. Geography and atlas skills will certainly become a lot more meaningful if it includes real people in other countries. Lessons about frequency and the speed of light become much more relevant if they involve actually building a working antenna. There are direct links between Amateur Radio and the Physics curriculum, as well as Communications Technology and Electronics programs.
The use of Amateur Radio in language classes can range from reading, letter writing and oral communications, to following directions and record keeping. In Mathematics, for example, the use of Amateur Radio can involve measurement, numeration and data management, including time zones, metric prefixes, the calculation of distances, and preparing charts and graphs. In Social Studies, Amateur Radio can be applied to map skills, studying trading partners and examining global issues. Monitoring the voice communications of astronauts in orbit by Amateur Radio during Science class is another way to bring Space Studies alive. Making electrical circuits and studying weather are two other science applications for Amateur Radio in the classroom.
Along with classroom use, Amateur Radio can also be incorporated at the extra-curricular level. What would be a better addition to a Geography club? Many schools offer radio clubs where students not only have an opportunity to operate receiving and transmitting equipment, but also can even work toward earning an Amateur Radio certificate. This is an excellent opportunity for parents to participate in what their children are doing. Perhaps mom or dad would like to obtain their certificate as well?
Many community youth clubs often have areas that can be introduced through Amateur Radio. For instance, local Scout, Cub, Guide and Brownie troops have places where radio can be used to meet badge requirements. Local 4-H clubs have projects that could include radio and/or emergency preparedness. All groups may be interested in special events such as the Jamobree on the Air (JOTA; https://jotajoti.info/) or Thinking Day on the Air (TDOTA; https://www.guides-on-the-air.co.uk/) or may want to be included in local Field Days. They may be interested in lessons/events such as fox hunting or special event stations.
What is the benefit to the youth?
Beyond the obvious benefit of making lessons more relevant and exciting, this Program has the potential to open new doors for young people. An Amateur Radio certificate might well lead students to careers in Science and Technology which are in very high demand in Canada. The communications skills and self-esteem developed through an involvement in Amateur Radio will be invaluable regardless of the career path.
Amateur Radio has a very long history of public service and providing communications at all times – including during times of emergency when all else fails such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and other disasters. People with skills in this area are of great value to their community in times of need. For more information visit: /about-ares/
How does a group apply for the program?
A link to a YEP application form is provided at the top of the page.
Who is the Youth Education Program contact?
For further information about the RAC Youth Education Program, please contact:
Brian Jackson, VE6JBJ
Chair, RAC Youth Education Program
Other Great Ideas
Do you have a great activity or idea that you have used to introduce radio concepts to youth?
Do you have an idea that you would like to see turned into some sort of activity for youth?
Use the form below to submit your idea to the Youth Education Program. These will be shared on this website with Amateur Radio youth, Teachers and Leaders, and clubs across Canada and around the world.
Submit a Youth Activity
Please fill in the following fields
Have the chance to talk to an astronaut onboard the International Space Station
For more information:
Application Forms for a Contact
ARISS Video: Talking to Astronauts with ESA astronaut, Tim Peake KG5BVI- 3 minutes
JOTA- Jamboree on the Air -a Scouting activity