Many people that are not involved in amateur radio may think you just talk on the radio. There is a large amount of fun ham radio activities that you can participate in. Talking on the radio with new, and old friends is just one of them. Many of these have a social aspect with events, meeting, and meals.
Fun Ham Radio Activities
Contests – There is a wealth of ham radio contests, there are large and small ones. They will each have similar requirements like a signal report and exchange. Signal reports are pretty standard, while the exchanges can vary greatly. Some exchanges will be your state. age, county, or a serial number.
Contests usually have specific goals to achieve. These can be working as many stations, counties, states, countries, or prefixes. There are certificates, and even plaques given out to the winners. Many of these contests will have several categories like youth, rookie, senior, and several others offering more chances to win.
Field Day – Field day is a once a year event where a large amount of hams will set up temporary stations and work as many contacts as possible. This event occurs over a Saturday-Sunday time frame and has several classes depending on the amount of stations set up, type of supply power used, and modes.
There are several ways to earn extra points like publicly advertising the event, having an official stop at by, and using higher point earing mades. The ARRL field day rules can be found here. This can also be a training event for emergency management teams.
Special Events – There are many special events that vary greatly, but are always a fun way to participate. Some of these are nascar races, historic events, and current events. I personally worked the largest ball of yarn, and the largest tea cup. To get the most out of special events is to set up and activate one.
POTA, SOTA, and IOTA – Special events and field day can be activation, but I want to talk about POTA, SOTA, and IOTA. Parks on the air(POTA) is an event where hams will go to a park and set up a temporary station. The goal is to work as many chasers as possible. There are two sides to POTA, you have the activator, and the chaser who makes contact with the activator. The exchange will be to park designator, and the chaser’s exchange is their state/country.
The chasers will try to work as many parks as possible. Set up is easy, and the rules can be found here.
SOTA works the same as POTA except with summits/mountains. There is a physical component, because hiking is usually involved. IOTA is also like POTA except you are activating/chasing islands on the air.
YOTA – Youth in the air(YOTA) is a great way to get new generations involved in amateur radio. YOTA usually consists of a groups of youngsters operating a contest. You can find out more about youth on the air here.
DXing – Chasing DX is an activity that many hams like to do. DX simply means a statio that is outside of your country. There are awards and honor rolls for getting the most countries worked.
Off The Air Activities
Some off air activities are also fun and can be social as well. These can be teaching projects to learn more about antennas or electronics. Some of these are:
Building Antennas – Many hams start by building a dipole antenna. A little basic antenna theory, a few hand tools, and a little material is needed. A good antenna analyzer well be necessary for tuning to resonance.
Building Kits/Projects – Building kits will teach you to solder, learn electronics, and instill confidence in your abilities. It is a good way to spend time with family, or friends.
Club Events – A large amount of hams will join a club. These are great for making local friends, and learning more about ham radio. There are also club activities to participate in. You can choose to be a club officer or board member to get more involved. Some of our club members get together for breakfast every Monday morning, and we gather for dinner before the monthly club meeting.
Hamfests – Throughout the year there are hamfests all over the United States and other countries. A hamfest is like a large multi family yard sale, but with hams and radio gear. If you are looking to buy or sell some equipment, the hamfest is the place to go. They also make great places to meet new hams and learn about radio gear you never owned while talking and making friends.
Ham Radio Families
Ham radio can be a large part of families where most or all members get their license. This means ham activities can be family events and a great way to stay involved with your children. It will teach you children responsibility, keep them busy and away from peer pressures that may lead them astray.
Ham radio is often a lifelong pursuit for many, this will build lasting relationships with your children keeping you together well after they leave the nest.
Fun Ham Radio Activities
There are many modes in amateur radio, some of them are more fun the others. There is no doubt you will find one you like most, but will like to do several of them. Here are just a few:
Phone(SSB) – This is usually them one most people start with, because we already know how to talk. Then expanding on this by learning Morse code and digital modes will improve the fun.
Morse Code(CW) – CW is another one of the fun ham radio activities, and it makes it much easier to chase DX. Learning Morse code is an activity in itself. This takes time and commitment, have a training partner will be helpful. A great place to learn is CW Academy.
Digital Modes – High frequency digital modes like FT4 and FT8 have taken a foothold, and bring in many new and younger hams. These are low power modes with the signals being received and processed by a computer.
VHF/UHF Digital Modes – There are several digital on VHF/UHF that will let you talk to the world using voice over internet protocol(VOIP). All you need is a radio and a hotspot and internet, or be able to reach a repeater that has a VOIP mode enables. These modes are good for hams that have antenna restrictions. Any VHF/UHF radio with a digital mode can talk to the hotspot or repeater, and then it is sent over the internet to anywhere in the world.
The most common of these modes are:
- Digital mobile radio(DMR)
- System fusion(C4FM)
Emergency Management – Hams operating as emergency management teams have been around almost as long as ham radio. There are ARES and RACES teams as well a combination of both called AUXCOM. Hams will volunteer their equipment and their time when an emergency arises. We have been activated during, hurricanes, floods, tornados, to provide communications for our county emergency operations center(EOC).
Volunteer Events – Many hams will choose to work events to provide communications, security, or support. Every year members of our volunteer to work the MS150 bike ride as route communicators and other positions. The MS150 is a bike ride that earns money through donations for multiple sclerosis. We provide up to the minute reports of positions, get the riders help if needed, and assist any way we can.
You will find one or more od the fun ham radio activities you like. Get your license, respect the bands and other hams, and have fun.