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RCA Youth Activities: QSO Today Ham Expo

Carole Perry, WB2MGP

In 2008 when I became a Director of RCA (Radio Club of America), I created the Youth Activities program. My committee and I set our goals to encourage, support, and showcase talented young ham radio operators. Up until the canceling of the 2020 Dayton Hamvention due to COVID-19, I had moderated the Youth Forum there for 32 years. Every year I would showcase 7 to 9 young hams who would give terrific presentations about their interests and passions in ham radio. The young presenters would get many networking opportunities from their exposure there. They would then become RCA Young Achievers, availing themselves of many opportunities we offer to support them. Icom and RCA are the main sponsors of this popular forum.

An RCA Young Achiever badge has been created which is adhered to the bookbags as one of the gifts Icom donates to the presenters, along with an ht radio and a personalized Icom jacket. In addition to featuring young hams at my youth forums around the country, I also visit schools and museums in order to introduce the radio/technology program there. Visiting STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) programs is a particular interest of mine; where I demonstrate the value of incorporating a radio curriculum into their program.

I also choose a creative and talented RCA Young Achiever to give a presentation at the annual RCA Technical Symposium. This is a prestigious event with an audience of notables in science and in the wireless industry. It is another amazing networking opportunity for the young people we support and encourage.

The recent QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo provided yet another opportunity to feature our best and brightest, technically creative young hams.

It was an honor to chair and organize the Youth Forum at this historic virtual event. I had 7 of our talented and technically creative young hams who each delivered fabulous presentations and then participated, along with me, in a live ZOOM Q & A session. This session was moderated by Bill Brown, WB8ELK with assistance from Audrey McElroy, KM4BUN one of my young presenters.

In my introduction to the Youth Forum I gave a brief summary of how I taught “Introduction to Amateur Radio” for almost 30 years at a Staten Island, New York middle school to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. I invited the audience members to contact me for tips and advice on how to recruit and retain young people in ham radio, as well as how to convince an administrator to allow the program in a school. I can be reached at

I then introduced each of my speakers with a summary of their talks. The first presenter was Jack McElroy, KM4ZIA, 12 years old, whose topic was “High Flying Kids with High Altitude Balloons.” He demonstrated how to motivate young people into ham radio through demonstrations with the balloons, and explaining about weather and radio. Jack explained about the math, different types of balloons, and other essentials to learn so that kids can enjoy this awesome part of the hobby.

Jack McElroy, KM4ZIA, Audrey McElroy, KM4BUN, Carole Perry, WB2MGP

Frances Bonte, KE8HPA spoke about “Citizen Science: HamSci and the Personal Space Weather Station Project.” She described and displayed the Personal Space Weather Station being developed by HamSci. She explained the cooperation that exists between scientists and amateur radio operators. The involvement of young people in technologies like radio will help to continue the work of citizen scientists.

Frances Bonte, KE8HPA

The Wagner family presented next. Participating in their video was Bernadette, KE8LWO age 14, Agnes, KE8LWP age 10, and Ben, AD8FQ age 12. Their topic was “5 Fun Things for Youth to Do with Ham Radio.” They showed that despite being siblings, they each have very different interests, and that ham radio provides a variety of opportunities and activities for everyone. They all really enjoyed being part of the live Q and A session afterward, too.

The Wagner Family:
Ben Wagner, AD8FQ, Bernadette Wagner, KE8LWO, Agnes Wagner, KE8LWP

Audrey McElroy, KM4BUN is 16 years old and her topic was “Getting Girls Involved in STEM: Specifically, Amateur Radio.” Audrey believes, as I do, that as we move forward in this hi-tech world; that young people, and females especially, will be playing a huge role with their contributions in science and math. The ultimate goal is for a woman to be independent; and ham radio and STEM creates a great pathway for this.

Connor Black, W4IPC is the 2020 winner of a contest I run, which is sponsored by RCA and QCWA, called “The Young Ham Lends a Hand” contest. He won due to his extraordinary efforts in volunteerism. His topic, as my last presenter was “How to Be A Great Contester.” He spoke about how young hams can get involved with contesting, improve their skills, and then how to get into doing remote contesting.

All of my young presenters enjoyed being part of this virtual experience, and were excited to participate in the ZOOM Q & A after the Youth Forum. I was particularly impressed and pleased with the number of inquiries I personally received about recruitment and retention ideas for youth in ham radio. I was contacted by hams around the world with requests for suggestions on how to incorporate a radio program in a school setting. Almost all my young presenters received follow up, complimentary comments as well.

Carole Perry, WB2MGP
RCA Director, Chairperson RCA Youth Activities
QCWA Director, Chairperson QCWA Youth Activities

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