[AARA] Lafayette Science Museum Ham Class Article

Herman Campbell Kn5grk at lusfiber.net
Fri Dec 25 10:03:26 CST 2015

  Lafayette class helps HAM radio enthusiasts learn about hobby, prepare
  for licensing

by nick fontenot | Special to The Advocate   -   reprinted from the 
Acadiana advocate  -  Dec. 24, 2015; 1:31 p.m.

Amateur radio — more commonly known as ham radio— has been around since 
1908. In Lafayette, ham radio enthusiasts
say, the hobby is growing in popularity, despite the array of ever more 
sophisticated communication tools available in the
21st century.

A group of Lafayette-area residents has been attending a free class at 
the Lafayette Science Museum to learn more about
amateur radio and how they can be part of a network that can provide a 
vital communications link during emergencies.

“Even though we have cellphones and all this infrastructure, when all 
that goes down, amateur radio is still here,” said Mark
Saltzman, president of the local Amateur Radio Club.

“We’ve made contingencies that if we lose the grid, we can still 
communicate with the ham radio,” he said. “We have a lot of
people who are interested in the emergency communication aspect and 
communication in general. We have people from all
walks of life getting involved.”

What separates ham radio from citizens band, or CB, radio is the amount 
of power used and the regulations. Ham radios can
go as high as 1500 watts. The class at the Lafayette Science Museum is 
giving the more than 20 attendees the knowledge to
pass a test required to obtain a license.

“We have a much higher power cap with amateur radio,” Saltzman said. 
“The biggest hang-up to get started is actually studying
for the license and having to take the test. This class is to help those 
people who are interested in the hobby to give them a
subject matter description and put the material in layman’s terms to 
help better understand before taking the test.”

Paul McCasland, who serves as the Lafayette Science Museum’s technician 
and has been a ham radio operator for 30 years,
said the museum took the class over from the Children’s Museum and said 
interest has been strong.

“We wanted to give back to the community a little bit,” McCasland said. 
“I had been out of the hobby for a few years and decided
to get back involved by holding this class. The Children’s Museum had 
been teaching the classes, and we decided to take over
and provide the venue.”

Nick Pugh, a self-proclaimed “lifelong ham,” was involved with teaching 
the Children’s Museum classes but said the Science Museum
is a more appropriate environment for growing the hobby.

“They’re a little young over there, so this tends to be a little older 
crowd,” said Pugh, 75. “The amateur community is growing, and
it’s our job to get the next generation involved.”

Abbi Wilson is part of that next generation of ham operators. The 
18-year-old freshman at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
said she got involved with amateur radio in sixth grade and fell in love 
with it.

“We got involved through a class at Paul Breaux Middle School as an 
opportunity to use it for a final grade for a tech class,” Wilson
said. “I liked it and stuck with it. I consider myself a very social 
person, and I love the social aspect to it, as well as the science part.
It makes for an interesting topic when people ask what we’re doing or 
about the equipment. It gives a chance to explain to other
people about the hobby.”

Saltzman said the Internet is full of resources for amateur radio 
operators and getting started can cost as little as $35. Saltzman
said the local Amateur Radio Club has about 30 to 40 hard-core members, 
but he said that represents only a small number of
operators in Acadiana.

“We have regulars, and we are recruiting all the time,” Saltzman said. 
“Not that the purpose of this class is to recruit, but this
provides them the opportunity to get their license.”

He said the local Amateur Radio Club assists anyone who wants to 

“It’s not your grandpa’s hobby, but you can certainly still use your 
grandpa’s radio,” Saltzman said. “The hobby is ever evolving.
You might find the niche you started in on and take a different journey 
once you get involved. Once you think they’ve learned it
all, they invent something else.”


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