Once a week, the students of Bloomington South’s Amateur Radio Club head up to the school’s penthouse and reach out to the world, using a rotor and antenna to boost the clubs callsign of K9SOU
The groups work has paid dividend, with the award of first place in the high school division of the American Radio Relay League School Club Roundup competition — for the third time in a row.
They also won first place overall, beating out college teams including Georgia Tech, Purdue University and Harvard, making them world champions in the School Club Roundup competition. The competition took place Oct. 15-19, and students were limited to a total of 24 hours in that time frame. They received their official notice of victory just a few weeks before the next competition, which takes place over the week of Valentine’s Day.
In the roundup, which challenges amateur radio clubs to communicate with as many call signs as possible, the three current members of South’s amateur radio club made 746 contacts, reaching each U.S. state and 33 countries, including Canada and as far away as Algeria, Bosnia, the Canary Islands, Russia, Namibia, Svalbard and Portugal.
“We try to talk to as many other schools as possible,” said Neil Rapp, the club’s sponsor. “That’s kind of the intent of the contest, is to get school clubs around the world on the air at the same time, so the kids can talk to other kids.” They talked to 44 schools in this year’s competition, but they don’t limit themselves to schools. “We also just try to contact anybody and everybody that’s on the ham radio, and try to cram in as many as we possibly can in that time.”
The student radio club has been around since 1942, when it belonged to Bloomington High School. It’s been going on and off ever since, including a year during World War II when it shut down because the government needed all the radio frequencies, Rapp said. It had been on hiatus for some time before Rapp revived it in 2001. Notable contacts include the International Space Station in 2006 and an expedition on Antarctica’s Peter I Island.
The club has had a few dozen members at a time. This year, after many older members graduated, the club is down to three members: Trevor Cutshall, Zach Kasper and Adam Terry. Certainly the club’s small size hasn’t hurt its world standing, but Rapp would still like to promote interest in the group. Ham radio operation brings into play several fields of science, not to mention geography and foreign language knowledge.
“There’s all kinds of chemistry and physics there with how the radio waves work, how they bounce off the atmosphere, what causes interference on the radio and things like that,” Rapp said.
“There’s a lot of connections to a lot of school subjects. This just reinforces what they’re learning.”