[CQ-Contest] Aging Ranks

eraub at umr.edu eraub at umr.edu
Thu Jun 3 03:13:31 EDT 1999

The story here is a bit long, but hopefully can provide some insight on 
the younger crowd

Having just ended 6 years with the Radio Club at the Univ of MO-Rolla, 
I've worked hard to get students involved with contesting over the 
years.  My first experiences in amateur radio were with HF, not VHF.  As 
such when I arrived at UMR in 1993, I was shocked by the attitude that 
prevailed at that time.  The club simply meet each week, talked about 
computers, and argued over the control codes for the repeater.  I 
remember the club president at the time saying, "if you have a project or 
activity for the club, then it's up to you to see it through".  Looking 
back I'm a bit surprised that I continued to show up and to work on my 
license in such an apathetic environment.  At the time the club had a  
Mosley CL-33 beam at 100 feet, SB-220 amp, and an Icom 735.  In short, 
the club was far from being a contest super station, but was a good start 
for a beginning contester.  

I believe it was in 1994 that I remembered seeing an announcement for the 
first annual Collegiate Championship.  We were able to scrape together 2 
HF licensed control ops and to work about 12 hours for only 125 Q's or so 
in Nov SS SSB.  NONE of us had ever tried contesting before but it 
sounded interesting. (my previous experience was a washout during a FD 
ravaged by Tornadoes, and Severe storms)  More importantly there was a 
bit more excitement in the club among the younger ops.  The club 
president dropped by ,made 1 or 2 Q's and left a package of cookies 
(Wow).  The sad thing was we didn't submit a score, and as such never 
showed up as a participant in CC.  

In 1995, the club again wanted to participate in  Nov Sweepstakes. We 
made more Q's, but still didn't have enough control ops to run more than 
12 hours.  A couple of us had our Tech + license by then but 10 meters 
was basically useless.  For me personally, that was the final straw . I 
got my Advanced by Jan '96, and a good friend of mine, KB0QQF, got his 
Extra on the same day.

Then the bombshell came

Just about the time interest had really started to rise, people were 
upgrading, and the upper classmen who had allowed the club to "stagnate" 
were graduating, the University tossed the club out of it home of 39 
years. The station moved to a location in the Downtown area of Rolla 
surrounded by powerlines on three sides of the building, and where the 
roof was level with  ground on campus.truly a miserable location.   The 
building was surrounded by other commercial buildings which meant we were 
confined to approx 95 feet on a diagonal.  We "thought" the station would 
only be there for 1.5 years, so the club purchased a G5RV for HF.  We 
could endure 1.5 years with the promise that the club would get a new 
station in the Electrical Engineering building, and that our 68 foot tall 
tower would be moved.  Needless to say that as of 1999, we have the 
tower, we have a beautiful new station with heavy electrical service, but 
still don't have antennas up because of bureaucratic &*#%#* !!! The temp 
station had such poor electrical service, we would have melted the wiring 
in the walls if the SB-220 were to be used.


The amazing thing is in '97, '98, and '99 the club continued to improve 
even with an extremely poor station.  This last year the club came within 
1 section of getting a clean sweep.  The students that had started out in 
1994-95 that had so many problems really did well with only a 16 foot 
tall vertical and 100 watts.  Someday you WILL hear those contesters that 
started out from modest beginnings when they sit behind a LOUD station!!  

The lessons that I've learned in those 6 years are:

1. Contesting is one of the few ways that students will get into HF.  
Young people aren't interested in ragchewing because they aren't 
interested in hearing about someone's medical problems.  DX is fun to 
work on an individual basis, but contesting provides a great opportunity 
to get hams together as a team, compete with others, and enjoy some good 

2. In order to get young people to upgrade, you NEED to show them HF. 
I've had many students say, "I only knew about VHF and repeaters.  I 
didn't ever see anyone operate HF"  Unfortunately with the rise of 
No-code techs this IS a serious problem. 

3. There are not enough Collegiate ARC's.  Many have simply died of 
inactivity caused by No-Code Tech Disease.    Sometimes the University 
bureaucracy ties up the clubs to the point the club officers  just cave 
in under the pressure.  We have found in this case that ALUMNI need to 
backup the club and make sure that the University doesn't just dictate 
how the club will operate.  ARC's unlike other University club's are a 
higher liability ie. Towers (climbing, roof modifications, guying,  etc). 
.A simple letter to the correct individual on a University campus CAN 
work wonders.  Universities LOVE money and get cautious when Alumni are 
unhappy.  The lack of Collegiate ARC's means that on many campuses, 
Engineers / Scientists / Comp Sci's (people pushing the technological 
edges of contesting) aren't finding their way into the hobby.

4. The final advice I gave to the existing President of W0EEE is Push HF, 
Push HF, and Push HF even more.  The people in the club will probably get 
their Tech license and will VERY EASILY get stuck in a rut.   It's sad 
that the current license structure is setup such that you don't get into 
any USEFUL amateur theory until the Advanced Class License.    Tech's 
don't really know ANYTHING about how radios work.  If you want to try 
doing an electronics project so they'll learn, a small QRP rig is 
PERFECT, but they can't operate it until they have upgraded.  As such, 
its easy for a ham to get a license, never learn anything beyond building 
a 2 meter beam, and be HT holders the rest of their lives.  Personally, 
I've always followed the rule that you should try to make hams 
well-rounded.  You NEED good VHF operators in the event of an emergency, 
but much of that  SKILL comes from contesting.  

73 de KI0MI
Eric Raub

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