Two US radio amateurs helped to make Youngsters on the Air Month (YOTA Month) a success in Ethiopia. YOTA month takes place each December, and several participating stations obtain permission to use YOTA suffix call signs for the occasion. Ken Claerbout, K4ZW, and Bob Johnson, W9XY, traveled to Addis Ababa to assist the young members of the Ethiopian Amateur Radio Society (EARS) as they’ve transformed ET3AA at Addis Ababa University Institute of Technology into ET3YOTA, making their country available on the air during YOTA Month. A check of spots on DX Summit shows that ET3YOTA mostly has been active on 20 meters SSB, with some operation on 160 and 40 meters.
“The operators use SSB and FT8, although some would like to learn CW,” Claerbout told ARRL. “They all do quite well actually on SSB. Bob, W9XY, worked with them a bit, to give them some pointers, but they have no problem turning on the radio, calling CQ, and facing the masses.”
Several students at the university hold US Amateur Radio licenses because the Ethiopian government has not issued any licenses in some years, Claerbout explained.
In a narrative he shared with The Daily DX, Claerbout said the goal for the week was to spend a lot of time on the air. “It was a chance for us to work with them, to refine operator skills, and jointly work on some station projects,” he said. “This is a very enthusiastic group. They love to get on the air and operate!”
Claerbout, Johnson, and the Ethiopian operators obtained permission to stay at the university for three nights to activate 80 and 160 meters. They erected an inverted L antenna supported with an 18-meter fiberglass pole.
“It is one of the ugliest antennas I’ve ever built but, boy, did it work, far beyond my expectations,” Claerbout said. The antenna’s location above a university building’s metal roof provided an excellent RF ground, but man made noise did turn out to be a major issue — a steady S-9 + 20 dB on 160, and a mere S-9 on 80 meters. Unfortunately, using a noise-cancelling device didn’t help.
“My goal for the 3 nights, along with working as many people as we could, was to see if operating [the] low bands from the club station would be feasible for future visits,” Claerbout said. “I believe the noise can be dealt with to some degree, making future low-band operations a real possibility. On Top Band, many signals were right at the noise. Bob and I both agree that even knocking down the noise an S-unit or two would [open up another layer] of signals.”
Claerbout conceded that FT8 would be “very effective” in this sort of situation, but he said FT8 holds no interest for him. “I like the challenge this situation provides and developing solutions to overcome it, with the young engineers at the club station,” he said.
The ET3YOTA call sign will be used for the rest of December, with operation on SSB and possibly some FT8. Logs are to be uploaded to Logbook of The World.
Claerbout said, “[M]y involvement with the club is one of the coolest things I have done in Amateur Radio. I think W9XY would agree.” He thanks DX Engineering and those who have helped foster the ham community in Ethiopia. “Youth and Amateur Radio in Ethiopia is flourishing,” he concluded.