Amateur Radio is rewarding hobby enjoyed by people all over the world. Amateur radio operators or “Hams” enjoy the privilege to experiment with and use a wide range of radio frequencies from hf to Microwaves. With these privileges there are technical and legal responsibilities. All amateur radio operators in the United States must posses a valid FCC licence and operate according to the rules set fourth by the Federal Communication Commission. There are three Amateur radio licence exams Technician, General and Extra each offering increasing privileges but requiring more knowledge. Tests are given by “VE” volunteer examiners which are other hams who have volunteered their time to administer and grade the test on behalf of the FCC.
The Richmond Amateur Radio Club offers classes to assist hams in getting or upgrading their license. We are fortunate here in Richmond to have two active VE teams so there is a testing session almost every month see the Testing Schedule
The entry level for ham radio. Talk around town on a hand-held radio using “repeaters” provided by groups of fellow hams. That’s called “two meters” and “four-forty”. Talk regionally on “six meters” and “ten meters”; when propagation is good you can even get to the Caribbean! The test is 30 questions mostly about operating principles, the FCC rules, and enough technical information to connect the radio, pick the frequencies, and operate. This takes 10 weeks of two-hour classes and, depending on the student’s background, lots of study and sample test taking.
Opens up world-wide communications. Talk around the world on most of the popular “HF bands” with as much antenna and power as you can afford! There’s a lot more to learn about electronics so there’s more technical material than in the Technician class. You have to pass the Technician test before you can take the General exam. The test is 30 questions with the operating principles and the FCC rules that fit international communications. And there’s more technical content. This takes 10 weeks of two-hour classes and, depending on the student’s background, lots of study and sample test taking.
A license that allows the use of all the ham bands, especially those frequencies used in long-distance contests. It also qualifies you to become a license examiner for all levels. It’s pretty technical. You know your electronics and the formulas by the time you pass this test. The exam is 50 questions dominated by technical content. You must have passed the Technician and General exams to take the Extra test. This takes 10 weeks of two-hour classes and, depending on the student’s background, lots of study and sample test taking.
It’s now optional; it’s no longer required to get a General and higher license. Ironically it’s gaining popularity now that it’s optional! There are occasional meetings of the class and weekly code practice sessions on a radio net.
NEC Antenna Modeling:
Occasionally taught were there are enough students and an instructor available, it introduces hams to antenna modeling using one of the free packages available for Windows or OSX. Students bring their laptops to class. Typically it is one or two Saturday mornings at a local library with WiFi service for downloading the modeling software.
Electronics for Hams:
Optional for students in the Extra class and for hams who just want an end-to-end knowledge of electronics as used in communications. It goes from batteries to radio signals leaving the antenna. There are lots of hands-on and demos of electronics theory. Where there are enough students with an interest and a spare instructor is available, it’s taught on 5 to 8 Thursday nights.
D-Star Setup & Operations:
D-Star digital communications is supported in Richmond by the RARC repeater. Through a “gateway” it connects to other repeaters wherever in the world there is a D-Star repeater installed. With all this function it can be a bear to set up. This class aims so make this setup and operation simpler for the ham. It is taught on one or two Saturday mornings as negotiated at registration between the instructor and the students.