Friday, July 30, 2010

The Spirit of Ham Radio? Robotics? Really?

The ARRL has an article ( ) about how 'the Spirit of HAM Radio' is alive in the robotics arena. While I understand the excitement to see youth involved in technology in general,the robotics arena is not the radio arena. More directly, the amateur radio hobby is NOT about robotics.

Please understand: I am not against ROBOTICS (or any technical field, for that matter). I, however, do not equate ROBOTICS with RADIO. In my opinion, the technical aspect of amateur radio should be exciting all on its own accord. We don't need to add non-radio technology to the radio hobby, just to attract new energetic participants. Can't radio attract the young, without resorting to tactics like adding robotics (or, biology, for instance)?

Let's examine some of what the radio hobby offers in terms of technical experimentation and discovery: satellite communications; digital communications; micro-circuitry; DSP; and so much more. Do you realize how cutting edge the radio sciences are? The technological skills and knowledge gained as a true amateur radio scientist translates directly over into the commercial as well as academic radio communications arena. Cell phone technology, for instance, benefits greatly from minds that can fathom the next innovation in micro-circuitry, theoretical radio propagation (VHF and up), and so forth.

We should not deviate into so many off-focus areas as educators. We need to focus on radio communications, and so inspire a new generation of highly-skilled, passionate radio communications technologists. Inspire innovation in our own domain.

I see a benefit in cross-exposure, definitely. However, should radio clubs begin to incorporate non-radio technology in club activities, in order to "inspire" participants?

Would it be conceivable that we would introduce other radio services into amateur club activities, like CB, FRS, and such? Should we include any number of non-radio technologies?

I've had experiences in the past where a school radio club that existed under the 4-H umbrella ended up being more about after-school homework and general sciences, rather than about amateur radio. A lot of energy was wasted because that club's efforts resulted in zero new radio amateurs. But, in other school clubs, where radio was the focal point, radio amateurs were born.

Again, I see a benefit in cross-exposure with other groups. I also see integration of some technologies into a radio activity, as a necessary adjunct to the radio communications and technology focus (for instance, solar energy). However, regarding club activities, I feel cautious in shifting the focus to other sciences and technologies because it can derail the growth and development of amateur radio.

In the case of the article that caused me to wonder about all of this, it would appear that the goal of integrating *any* technology, radio or otherwise, is to grow new technologists. Developing and inspiring new radio engineers and communicators is not highlighted as an end result. I'm not saying that the efforts made by those involved are negative (I'd say that they are admirable and excitingly encouraging). I'm saying that we should see the same amount of resources and energy devoted to a pure radio-centric pursuit.

These are, to be sure, my opinions. What are your's?