Amateur Radio in Education

Amateur Radio in Education

Miroslav Skoric (University of Novi Sad, Serbia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-782-9.ch014
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The intention of this chapter is to increase capacities in educators for using computer- and communicationrelated technologies and to help them to acquire systematic knowledge in basic computer networking and communicating with their peers, other teachers, students and their parents. In form of introducing ‘packet-radio’, one of the most popular amateur radio computer-related communication modes, the mission of this chapter is to motivate teachers and students to use the amateur radio hardware and software for designing AMUNETs – the Amateur Radio University computer Networks – within their school buildings and around university campuses. The purpose of this chapter is to involve scholars to the world of amateur data exchange in an easy way by describing simple experiments related to networking simulations in local area networks. The goal of those experiments is to provide enough knowledge and experience with the amateur radio software before starting experimentations with real radio devices.
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The U.S.-based Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) regularly distributes its on-line newsletter ACM TechNews1. During the last 4-5 years, this author collected a worryingly increasing number of TechNews headlines, as follows:

“The number of women in the U.K. IT industry continues to decline”,

“IT-related degrees has [sic] fallen about 50 percent”,

“Australia is currently in the middle of the worst IT shortage in its history”,

“Is Computer Science Dying?”,

“U.S. students are falling behind in science, technology, and engineering”,

“Decreasing numbers of women in IT”,

“The number of computer science graduates in Canada continues to dwindle”,

“Japan is starting to run out of engineers and is facing a declining number of young people entering engineering and technology-related fields”, and so forth.

It is obvious that the world of science and technology is going to face more and more similar stories. According to the titles listed above, it seems that from the beginning of the new millennium, the educational systems in (some of) developed countries keep failing to motivate young generations to choose their professions in information and communication technologies and electrical engineering areas. For that reason, it is an imperative for educators and technology practitioners to search for new ways and methodologies of persuading young pupils and students that technical professions are not reserved for technological 'geeks or computer 'hackers', which is a common prejudice these days. That means it is necessary to include alternative views and methods to show to the youngsters that electrical engineering and computer science are suitable for all, including women and minorities.

Amateur radio can have an important role in efforts to (a) attract more young people to the field of engineering, and (b) create a positive image of information technology in the minds of prospective students. According to Davidoff (1994), we should support the amateur radio in education because it may lead many young people to consider their career in science and engineering. We also share Davidoff's viewpoint that “it's economically advantageous to a modern country to have a significant number of citizens well trained in these [amateur radio] areas.” (Davidoff, 1994, p. 4/17).

The amateur radio is an old fine hobby from the days of inventing Morse alphabet and implementing telegraphy. Since the second half of the 19th century, millions of volunteers learned new skills in communications – while attending the amateur radio courses and successfully passing examinations; getting the first amateur radio licenses and transmitting signals to the spectrum. The electronics industry recognized the incoming ‘flood’ of the new communicating enthusiasts, coming from all over the world and predicted them to become a good market. The radio amateurs are capable to establish unusual radio paths via Moon and artificial satellites, to exchange voice transmissions with crews on the space ships, even to make an urgent search for medicines on the other continents. Today we have many opportunities to purchase sophisticated and computerized amateur radio ‘gadgets’ which include not only traditional but also fascinating brand new communication modes. Besides telegraphy and radiotelephony, there is a variety of computer-related possibilities to explore.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sysop: It is a short name for Systems Operator. That person maintains and runs a BBS. Some sources refer to the sysop as “system administrator”.

Gateway: A gateway is a computer that connects two different communications networks together. The gateway will perform the protocol conversions necessary to go from one network to the other. For example, a gateway could connect a local area network (LAN) of computers to the Internet. An amateur radio BBS might provide a gateway to a school’s LAN or vice versa.

AMUNET: The abbreviation stands for the AMateur radio University computer NETwork, which is the proposed name for a wireless network of an amateur radio BBS at a local university, one or more amateur radio repeaters, and one or more end-user computers in surrounding schools’ computer labs, offices or homes.

BBS: An electronic Bulletin Board System; software that usually operates on a PC with one or more telephone lines, amateur radio stations and Internet connections to provide communication between remote users such as electronic mail, conferences, news, chat, files and databases.

Microwave: Very high frequency radio waves. As the frequency of electromagnetic energy increases, the wavelength decreases. Microwaves have very short wavelengths since they are in the gigahertz (GHz) frequency range. Microwaves can transport more information; thus, they are capable of higher data transfer rates (higher bandwidth). They easily support data transfer at 10 Mbps or greater.

Duplex: Capability of radio stations, including repeaters, to transfer data in two directions simultaneously. That is often referred to as full duplex. When repeaters work in full duplex mode, amateur packet-radio traffic can travel more efficiently.

Repeater: In radio communications, a repeater is a device that amplifies or regenerates the signal in order to extend the distance of the transmission. Repeaters are available for both analog (voice) and digital (data) signals.

Bandwidth: Often used to indicate the data transfer capacity of media. It refers to the range of signaling frequencies that can be passed through the media. The channel bandwidth for standard 1200 bit per second amateur radio traffic on the 2-meter band is 25 kilohertz.

Remote Access: The ability to access a computer from outside a building in which it is housed. Remote access requires communications hardware, software, and actual physical links. Different users can have different access rights (user permissions) associated with their account on a BBS or network(s) the gateway(s) can provide.

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