ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Everyone interested in amateur radio, wireless technology and STEM fields is encouraged to visit this year’s HamJam. Hosted annually by the North Fulton Amateur Radio League, HamJam is an opportunity to learn more about ham radio and hear from some of the biggest names in the field.
And as their slogan says, “It’s all about the youth.”
While admission is free, all proceeds from donations or the raffle will go directly to youth scholarships and educational outreach programs. Some of the benefiting groups and activities include the Girl Scout Super STEM Expo, Atlanta Maker Faire exhibit and American Radio Relay League Teachers Institute on Wireless Technology.
The raffle will have more than 30 prizes, worth over $9,000 total, including software, equipment, gift certificates and magazine subscriptions.
“It’s a great hobby,” said North Fulton Amateur Radio League spokesman John Kludt. “It’s a real and fun way to get into the world of electronics and communication… I’ve been in it for 55 years, and there’s always something new to learn, something different, and a great way to augment the STEM curriculum.”
Interest in STEM studies has only been growing in recent years. According to Kludt, there are more amateur radio operators now in the United States than at any time before.
In Georgia alone, there are over 20,000 licensed operators. North Fulton houses close to 1,000.
Ham radio operators regularly help out in community events, like parades and races. Because such events often cover great stretches of land, police and health services cannot cover the entire route. Ham radio, however, can cover the gaps and alert the necessary people if someone gets hurt, needs help or just wants to ride back to the starting line.
The operators can also prove invaluable assistance to police, such as with the Citizens Auxiliary Patrol Service in Alpharetta, or during natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Irma.
“Basically, technology like cell phones look simple, but as these recent storms have demonstrated, there’s a huge amount of infrastructure behind them,” Kludt said. “If any of that infrastructure is destroyed, that cell phone becomes a nice paper weight.”
When all traditional forms of communication are damaged, ham radio can still connect with hospitals, police, fire stations and other first responders.
“The American Radio Relay League just finished such an operation with 50 radio amateur operators in Puerto Rico,” Kludt said. “One of the things the amateur radio was able to provide was communication in support of other agencies, such as the Red Cross, in remote parts of the island.”
Four guests from across the nation will speak at this year’s HamJam: Ward Silver, Bob Schmieder, Dan Henderson and Daniel Davis. There will also be opportunities for people who have been studying to get a license to test for one.
Doors for HamJam 2017 will open at 8 a.m. at Mill Springs Academy, 13660 New Providence Road, Alpharetta. It will conclude at 1 p.m. with the raffle drawings.
For information about HamJam 2017 and the speakers, visit hamjam.info.