I recently had the opportunity to do an interview with Mason Hall (KC3HOM) and Merrick Hall (KC3HLW) about their 2nd and 1st place finishes at their school science fair.
Mason is a twelve year old sixth grader who attends Renaissance Academy Charter School with his eleven year old brother Merrick who is in fifth grade. Both of them enjoy playing the violin, and fishing with their father. They received their technician license over the summer and have plans to upgrade to General with their father over the course of this year.
K3LSY: Why did you decide to get your amateur (ham) radio license?
KC3HLW: My dad said HAMs can contact the International Space Station and I wanted to try to talk to the astronauts.
KC3HOM: I watched my dad talking on the radio and thought that was pretty cool.
K3LSY: What project did you do for your school’s science fair?
KC3HOM: My project was to explain why cell phones drop their calls and to help people understand that cell phones are really just radios. We used HAM radios to explain “line-of-sight” and why it is so important for all types of radios. I traveled to different locations with my mother in her car and measured signal strength at different elevations on a topographic map. We also showed the altitude, azimuth, back-azimuth from each location.
KC3HLW: My science fair project was to test which is better during an emergency, HAM radio vs cell phones. My mom drove me around to different locations at different distances from our house. We measured the strength of the HAM radio signal vs. the strength of the signal from a cell phone tower near us. We compared HAM signals using a repeater and without a repeater on UHF and VHF frequencies.
K3LSY: What made you think about using ham radio for your science fair?
KC3HLW: My uncle Joe was trapped at home in Tom’s River, NJ during hurricane Sandy for three days without cell phone service or electricity in his house. He was an engineer for the Department of Defense and if he would have been a HAM radio operator he would have been able to get a message to his family in Pennsylvania that he was OK.
KC3HOM: The same as my brother, (about my Uncle Joe,) but I wanted to understand more about what affects HAM radio signals.
K3LSY: What did you learn during your project?
KC3HOM: I learned what an azimuth and back-azimuth were and how to read a topographic map to find the elevation of a hill or mountain.
KC3HLW: I learned how to use Google Earth to plot the azimuth and back-azimuth and I learned how to convert GPS coordinates to latitude and longitude (degree, minutes and seconds.)
K3LSY: Do you plan on continuing this research?
KC3HOM: Yes, we want to take our experiment to the next level using HF bands. That’s one of the reasons we working on our General license.
KC3HLW: I would learn more about meteor scatter and the effects of solar flares on radio frequencies.
K3LSY: What has been the most interesting thing you have done with ham radio?
KC3HOM: I like checking in on the nets for Montgomery County and Chester County A.R.ES./R.A.C.ES., and going to the meetings with my dad. I also want to talk to the International Space Station, maybe through my school.
KC3HLW: Last summer we tried to contact the International Space Station. We didn’t make contact but we’re going to keep trying.
K3LSY: What excites you most in ham radio?
KC3HOM: I like being able to talk to my dad when he’s on his way home from work. We couldn’t do that on the little radios we used to use when we were younger. I also like talking on Echolink.
KC3HLW: When I check in on the A.R.E.S./R.A.C.E.S nets, the other HAMs are really nice. They seem excited because I’m so young.
K3LSY: Do you see ham radio impacting your career choice later on?
KC3HOM: I would like to become a policeman, so understanding how radios work and how to use them will be very important.
KC3HLW: I think I will always be a HAM. I want to be a scientist and an engineer so being a HAM radio operator will be useful.
Mason (KC3HOM) won second place for sixth-grade individuals, and missed first place by one point because his explanation needed to be less technical. Merrick (KC3HLW) won first place for fifth-grade individuals, and both are working hard to improve their projects for the Chester County Science Fair.
If you have any interesting news involving youth in Amateur Radio, or just want to help out; please contact me (details on the EPA Staff section of this website.)
Kelsey Seymour – K3LSY
ARRL EPA Section Youth Coordinator