Had a great time this past Saturday, October 20, attending the Jamboree on the Air event at the National Scouting Museum. Arrived just before noon to see about 50 Scouts working HF, VHF, UHF, satellite, and fox-hunting. Around 1 PM roughly 125 additional Scouts and parents arrived to be a part of history with an amateur radio contact with the International Space Station.

Around 1:15 everyone piled into the orientation theatre at the Museum where we could see a slide about Sunita Williams, the commander of the ISS, along with a live map of where the ISS was superimposed on a map of the world. Also shown was the footprint of the ISS two-meter amateur radio transceiver’s coverage. At almost precisely 1:37 PM, Sunita made contact with a ham radio operator in Perth, Australia and that audio was linked to the museum by a teleconference bridge. Twelve Scouts, who had been selected from an essay contest, stepped up to the microphone one-by-one and asked a question. Then Sunita would respond with her answer. Usually these contacts last about 9 to 10 minutes as the ISS disappears over the horizon from the ground station. However, on Saturday the Perth station made a hand-off to an amateur radio station in Brisbane. This allowed us to stay on the air with the ISS for about 15 minutes. For us technology geeks, that was a particularly pleasing twist to the contact. The event also made the local news on NBC-5 and FOX-4.

The rest of the day was spent taking in the other activities. This included the snap circuits table, where Scouts could put together electronic circuits. It also included the Morse Code table where Scouts were practicing Morse Code and learning about the Morse Code Interpreter Strip. Spent a fair bit of time at the PSK station discussing broadcast engineering with the fellow that was running the station. Handed out a lot of patches along with a couple of challenge coins.

I’ll note that as of early Friday evening 348 stations had registered their JOTA operation in the USA with an estimated 31,000+ Scouts in attendance. This coming week we’ll be sending links to all those stations asking that they complete a report on their operation. By mid-November we should have a good handle on how many Scouts were introduced to the technology, fun, and magic of amateur radio through Jamboree on the Air. More adventures in ham radio!

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Jim-K5ND

Freelance writer and active Scouting volunteer. Retired publishing and communication executive who writes for fun and to finance his hobby, amateur radio.

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