ARRL Public Relations Committee Chairman Scott Westerman, W9WSW, believes collegiate Amateur Radio clubs need to blow away the dust and cobwebs and modernize, in order to attract new members. He urges college and university ham radio clubs to seek common technological ground with younger generations, in order to attract new Amateur Radio licensees.
“We really need to be thinking in terms of…state-of-the-art technology, because that’s what ‘the kids’ are looking for nowadays,” Westerman told ARRL Marketing Manager Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, during a brief interview at the 2017 Orlando HamCation 10-12 February 2017, which hosted this year’s ARRL Southeastern Division Convention. “The big challenge is how to get them away from their cellphones.”
Westerman, a Michigan State University (MSU) alumnus and executive director of the MSU Alumni Association, recalled his own student days, when MSU Amateur Radio Club (MSUARC) station W8SH had a Collins S-Line for a station. Founded in 1919, the MSUARC is one of the oldest collegiate ham clubs in the US.
Collegiate clubs need to tap into students’ interest in “parallel” technological realms, such as the Maker Movement or those already experimenting with electronics, Westerman said. “At one time or another, we were all in that parallel universe, and there was something that brought us to ham radio,” he offered.
Westerman said the MSU club has come up with a program to get students on HF via a remote base. “So, you can get into our state-of-the-art shack, you can check out a control head, a Kenwood TS-480, take it back to your dorm, plug it into the Wi-Fi network, and work the world!”