Most of us start as lone amateur radio, or ham radio, operators. I did. I studied the book, took the test, and earned my Technician license by myself all while not knowing anyone from our community. Afterward, I tried to learn as much as possible on my own because I was excited, but eventually, you have to reach out to others individually or to a group to learn more. There is just too much to learn individually, and we have to be shown how to do something, for example, soldering.
If you just “click” with amateur radio, you wonder how to help it grow. Many of us start as ham radio evangelists, but as the questions from others get harder, and the new wears off, some fall away, and some grow stronger. I hope that I can consider myself one that has grown stronger. If you do also, I want to present some ideas to help grow our hobby.
First, get involved with your local club to start. Build those relationships with others of common interest. You have to start somewhere, and being around other Hams is the way you start and keep your interest. Learn as much as you can. It is fun to learn new things, new skills, or new operating methods. You may even find others that want to help you upgrade your license.
Serve Your Community
Just how does ham radio serve the community? It is just a hobby, a technical hobby, but still a hobby. Amateur radio has uses outside of our own walls. We as ham know about the ways to contribute to the community. Outside of our ham community, many do not know that amateur radio has many, many uses to serve the community. Living in Tornado Alley, one of the huge ways we serve the community is through RACES. RACES is an acronym for Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service, which is an emergency communications tool used by the majority, if not most, of the cities, towns, counties, states, and the US Government. If a city’s communications system goes down due to a tornado or other disaster, we have been called upon time and time again to provide official communications for emergency coordinators everywhere.
My club has a very tight relationship with the City. We are a recognized group by the City as being available to pass disaster information when called on. We provide emergency communications, and the City provides a means for us to have high and far-reaching equipment.
Serve an Event
Many, if not most, events such as bike races, NASCAR races, marathons, etc., have amateur radio operators hidden in the background providing all the communications abilities. These are amazing resources to teach yourself proper operating techniques for those RACES nets that come up. These are also just fun to participate in too.
Join the ARRL
One of the most important organizations in amateur radio is the ARRL. The American Radio Relay League is the largest organization for amateur radio. We occupy some very VERY valuable RF spectrum, and it is always under threat. If this spectrum had a price tag, it could easily be in the billions of dollars. One of the main goals of the ARRL is spectrum defense. They also promote education and so much more.
Serve Your Club
You have joined the club and hopefully, enjoy it. I would encourage you to serve your local club. It is an incredible experience. I have had the pleasure of serving as president of my club here in Hurst, TX. It is a tough job, but a very rewarding one. Finding the strengths of people on your team is difficult, many will step up to help advance the club’s goals. If you do end up as president, be prepared for a lot of work, especially the first six months. You will find your rhythm and the pressure of running the business of the club will become more routine. Making sure you have a vice president that you trust is also a benefit too.
There will be things that you are called to do, so surround yourself with people that are smarter than you, and can rely on to help you accomplish club goals, and you will be fine.
These are just a few ideas I came up with to help with contributing to and growing our hobby. We continue to grow in numbers, but when you are ready to take that role of a contributor and not just be a consumer, find a way to do it. Find your niche and run with it. If you are strong in designing and building antennas, teach a class. I hope you will do it, it will be very rewarding.