KJHK radio is not the only campus radio station.Tucked in acorner of Learned Hall, the KU Amateur Radio Club has a long-standing history with KU. Since it was formed in 1952, KU students have used the radios in the room, known as HAM radios, to communicate with and compete against people from across the globe.
For most competitions, the goal is to contact as many people from a given area state or world wide as possible. Long-distance contact is known as DXing, which is possible thanks to two large antennae on the roof of Learned.
“Using this equipment, I’ve talked to people in France, Italy, Chile and Great Britain,” said Michael Shook, a senior from Peoria, Ill., in the Amateur Radio Club. “I really like DXing and talking to someone from tens of thousands of miles away.”
Right now, there are a few upcoming amateur radio competitions, including one focused on contacting people from Kansas. Another competition, known as Field Day, takes place during the summer, where over 35,000 HAM radio operators from the United States and Canada participate in a variety of contests.
Last year the club took home a first place medal from the Kansas QSO Party competition, a competition that is based on the number of conversations a station can havein 24 hours. This year, the club hopes for another win.
Right now the club has seven members, but the flexibility of the club allows members to be as active as they want: “You can go in and use the radios, or participate in competitions whenever you want,” said club president Riley Dunn, a senior from Overland Park. “In order to use the radios you have to take a test, but it’s really just for anybody who’s interested in radios.”
Competitions aren’t the only use for HAM radios. Sometimes club members will sit inside the radio room while doing their homework, and talk to people who are on at the same time.
“You can just have general conversations. People do it on their way home from work, or spend time at night talking to people,” Shook said.
HAM radio is a niche hobby. There are only 732,102 licensed HAM radio operators in all of the United States.
While most radios have fallen out of use, HAM radios still have a few practical applications today. The radios were originally used for storm chasing, before the rise of the cell phone.
“People who tracked storms used to either find a land-line to contact the National Weather Service, or carry HAM radios with them,” Shook said. “With cell phones and the internet and stuff, it’s not as necessary as it used to be. It’s still useful for emergency communications, like with the tornado last Tuesday. When cell phone towers are wiped out and there are no communications, HAM radio operators go in and set up protocol.”
The club at the University began after the Kaw river flood in 1951, and it gave itself the club call sign, W0AHW. A call sign is what HAM radio operators use to identify themselves when contacting other HAM Radio users. Eventually, the club shortened its call sign to its current name, KOKU.
Source: www.kansan.com - Elise Reuter