Pete, Remi, Felipe, etc.
I also think this?is a great thread, and?I'll quickly share?my
experience in the last 12-months trying to get my own?kids interested
My background is pretty typical:? first licensed in 1974 at age 12;
discovered contesting through Field Day when I was 15; had a 'popgun'
station in my house, but never operated from any big stations.?? I have
been mostly inactive since then, with the exception of a few years as
XE1/NV1P from Mexico in 1991-93.? ?I think I even owned the 'XE' CW
Sprint record back then.?? Then family obligations took over,
and my radios went back into storage.?? So I've?been an 'active'
contester for only?5-6 years out of the last 35.
'Fast forward' to 2008:? now I have?4 sons aged 15, 13, 10 and 3.? So
last year?I decided to?do a small 'experiment' to see if?I could get?the
oldest three?interested in radio contesting.?? I figured it was a WIN-WIN
proposition:? either A) they learn to love contesting and we create our
own family Multi-Op team, or B) they say 'No Thanks', but still get their
licenses and learn something about electronics and radio propagation, and
we have some fun together.
So here's what we've done in 10-months since October 2008:
-?completed?the Boy Scout Radio Merit Badge at the?4U1ITU station in Geneva
- bought an old?Icom-735 and strung up a few dipoles
-?helped them study for their licenses using K3DIO's?slides and QRZ.com
- set up a tent in our backyard for 'Field Day' 2009
- drove to Munich?(DARC) and Friedrichshafen 2009 to take exams
So far, the results have been encouraging:??my 15-year old?got his General
ticket (K3PAL),?and my?10-year old?got his Technician (KB3SPI).?? My
13-year old?has shown the most promise:? he got his General (K3ODY),?learned
CW last December, and?he'll?fly?to Bulgaria with me next month?to?join W2UP?
and others representing the USA at the?World HST?Championships.
But ...?overall they have shown?VERY LITTLE?interest in HF contesting itself.
Quite frankly, they think it's a bit?odd that Dad likes to spend weekends
talking to the same guys over and over (on different bands/modes) for 10
seconds each.?? Here's a?typical conversation about it:
Me:???? ??I get to talk to my friends all over the world, and I recognize
????????? their callsigns!
Kids:??? ?But I can?email, IM or text?my friends anytime I want.
Me:?????? It's fun to compete in a radio contest!?
Kids:??? ?I?already compete online on?Runescape?and Halo - why would I
????????? need a radio?
Me:????? ?Morse Code is cool!
Kids:??? ?Dad, don't you know Morse?Code is a dead language?
Me:?????? Hey - anyone want to listen to the CD-ROM from 'DX-ing On the
??????????Edge' and learn about the history of 160 Meters?
Kids: :?? You must be joking.???Let's go play ping-pong, Dad.
You get the idea ...
My conclusions from this 'teenage radio experiment' so far?are:
1.?? Video gaming?is a serious challenge.?? In our family we generally ban
video games, yet?despite this,?my sons?have all become?expert gamers by
using their friends equipment.???Kids get a huge competitive thrill and
immediate gratification from?video games, it's hard for ham radio to
compete.?? This is a global?problem (Europe and US) in my opinion.
2.?? 'Family Elmers':?? I spent a?LOT?of time in the last 6 months helping
the boys?learn enough Amateur theory so they could pass their tests.??
This was?only possible?since we all live in the same house, using?10-mins
of spare time here,?60-mins there, etc.?? I?doubt I would have had the same
level of?success teaching a class outside my own family.
3.?? Over-Programming:?? Kids have much busier schedules now versus 30
years ago, and this 'crowds out' Amateur Radio time.?? Example:??my kids
have?tennis lessons, French, Karate, regular homework, etc.???Also they
have Boy Scouts,?which takes a full 3-4 years?to get to Eagle Scout.??
To be frank, I?consider radio contesting a 'lower priority' for my sons
compared to team sports and Boy Scouts, both of which build important
social and life skills for teenagers.?? If they want to be Boy Scouts,
they have to do it?NOW.???Now that they have their Amateur licences, they
can?'play radio'?for the rest of their?life.
4.?? The 'Coolness Factor':? Teenagers need to feel what they are doing
is 'cool' or they'll bail out.?? Somehow?my current station with our
little Icom-735 and dipoles?doesn't cut it, expecially with no sunspots.??
Perhaps they will attend a college with a big HF station and start playing
around.?? Or perhaps when we get back to Washington, DC?in 2010 they can
'guest op' at some bigger stations or attend a well-run Field Day like
W3AO.? That?might qualify as 'cool'?enough to?hold their interest.
5.?? Contest Clubs:?? Kids want to hang out with other kids.?? I?think the
concept of WWYC is terrific, since it puts young contesters in touch with
each other.?? But I am curious what the average age of WWYC kids are?? I
would guess 19-20??? That would make sense, since the skill level required
in serious contesting is easier for older kids to acquire.
6.?? Boy Scouts:?? If there's one piece of advice I would give, it's this:?
"CALL UP YOUR LOCAL SCOUTMASTER AND VOLUNTEER TO BE A RADIO MERIT BADGE
COUNSELOR !!!"?? The Scoutmaster will really appreciate it, and any adult
over age 18 can be a Merit Badge Counselor.?? You just need to enjoy kids,
know the topic you are teaching, and be enthusiastic!?? Running a Radio
Merit Badge class only takes about 6 hours in a single afternoon, and
there are lots of?free?materials?available the internet, like at:
7.???A Final Story:???I have a friend who is?a Boy Scout Leader in Texas,
and?his Troop has a 80% Eagle Scout completion rate.?? If you don't know,
that's?AMAZING, considering only 2% of all kids?nationwide who start in
Boy Scouts ever get?their Eagle award.?? I asked him how they did it, and?
his answer was (with a?heavy dose of Texas Twang):? "We run our kids from
Tenderfoot to Eagle in 3 years, from 10-13 years old.?? We?get?'em before
the 'fumes?kick in."?? "FUMES?"? I asked??? The reply:? "Yeah, PER-fumes
and CAR-fumes!"??i.e. girls and cars, both of which are apparently the keys
to teenage social?acceptance?for male teenagers in Texas.???
I think that story also applies to amateur radio.?? If you don't spark a
kid's interest by 12-13, you might have to wait until he's 62.
As for?Pete N4ZR's original question, "Why are EUR Contesters Younger":
1.?? I am not sure it's actually true - I would like to see?K1AR's data first.
2.?? WWYC is based in Europe,?its?important for young contesters to meet
???? in person, and?Europe is about?the size of Texas.?? In the U.S. any
???? 'young contesters' we have are spread out all over.?? I think youth
???? 'comraderie' matters a lot.
3.?? I think 'early 20's' or 'Retirement'?may be?better?times in life for
???? radio contesting than the teenage years.?? (Maybe we should target the
???? retirement communities in addition to the Boy Scout troops?)
4.?? We could probably do a better job in the U.S. of identifying young
???? contesting talent, and making sure those kids get access to the top
5.?? FINAL NOTE TO?CONTEST DIRECTORS:?? How about adding?a 'Under 18'?
???? category?to as many contests as possible??? Then it would be really
???? easy?to spot the young contesting talent in the box scores,?then
???? invite them to?the next multi-op effort.?? I wouldn't worry about
???? 'Category Creep' in this case - just do it, and in 5-10 years we might
?????see the payoff.? Can't hurt to try, anyway.
Well, that's my 2-cents.??? See you in the next contest ...
Ken Low, KE3X
CQ-Contest mailing list