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When cell phones, internet and other modern systems of communications are down or overloaded, Amateur Radio can still get the message through. Radio amateurs, often known as “hams”, enjoy radio technology as a hobby and as a vital service that has saved lives when regular communication systems failed. Whether it is the ability to talk to local friends over the radio waves using a hand-held transceiver (HT), communicating digitally with packet radio to exchange personal messages or vital information in an emergency, communicating with other hams anywhere in the world, or engaging in contests with other Radio Amateurs over the airwaves there is always something for everyone.

The IEEE Microwave Theory & Techniques Society (MTT-S) student branch chapter has initiated an Amateur Radio Group at University of Calgary, Canada. The motivation behind this MTT-S student branch chapter is to help aspiring undergraduate students learn about the exciting applications of microwave theory in their early stages of university studies. Events for students to learn, discuss and contribute towards developing novel microwave and RF technologies by means of regular collaborative workshops, distinguished lectures and amateur radio training are being organized.

Amateur radio describes the use of radio frequency spectrum for purposes of non-for-profit exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, private recreation, self-training and emergency communication.

The workshop titled ‘Not Your Grandfather’s Ham Radio’ was instantiated to introduce the amateur radio techniques and their applications. The event is funded by IEEE SIGHT Southern Alberta and Schulich School of engineering. The workshop organized in November 2015 was attended by undergraduate and graduate students as well as professionals including lab technicians and professors who shared their knowledge about Ham Radio.

Description: Amateur radio club at the university of Calgary

Based on the wide interest among students, the MTT-S student branch recognized the need of forming an Amateur Radio Group at University of Calgary, which aims at practicing ham radio. In order to operate amateur radio apparatus, one must obtain a license. Before you can get on the air, you need to be licensed and know the rules to operate legally. For individuals entering the amateur service, or upgrading their license operator class, there are three license classes from lowest to highest—Technician, General and Amateur Extra.

The Technician class license is the entry-level license of choice for newest ham radio operators. To earn the license, one has to pass examination totaling 35 questions on radio theory, regulations and operating practices. The license gives access to all Amateur Radio frequencies above 30 MHz, allowing these licensees the ability to communicate locally and most often within North America. It also allows for some limited privileges on the HF (also called “short wave”) bands used for international communications.

The General class license grants some operating privileges on all Amateur Radio bands and all operating modes. This license opens the door to world-wide communications. Earning this type of license requires passing a 35 question examination. General class licensees must also have passed the Technician written examination.

The Amateur Extra class license conveys all available U.S. Amateur Radio operating privileges on all bands and all modes. Earning this license is more difficult; it requires passing a thorough 50 question examination. Extra class licensees must also have passed all previous license class written examinations.

The licensing requirements were discussed during the event and interested students have been provided with resources to prepare for the exam.

The FCC offers amateur licensees the opportunity to request a specific call sign for a primary station and for a club station. A vanity call sign is a call sign that the radio amateur or club wants assigned to them by the FCC in place of their existing call sign. A call sign is selected by the FCC from a list of call signs requested by the licensee or license trustee. Military recreation stations are not eligible for a vanity call sign.

The student branch is currently working on re-activating the University of Calgary call sign: VE6UOC and setting up the Amateur Radio Group.

On April 28, 2016, an accelerated Ham Radio workshop organized by IEEE SIGHT Southern Alberta Section. Ken Oelke, President Quarter Century Wireless Association introduced practical operations and regulatory aspects such as Radiocommunications Act, affecting who can transmit what on which frequency. Knowledge of these rules is essential to avoid interfering with other radio transmissions and exposing people to unsafe levels of radio energy. It is also essential for the immediate goal of the workshop’s participants, obtaining the basic Amateur Radio Operator Certificate (AROC) (http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/025.nsf/eng/h_00006.html). The AROC is valid for life and allows a person to transmit messages on amateur frequency bands (see http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/h_sf01678.html) throughout Canada.

The free workshops were supported by the University of Calgary student chapters of the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques group and the Special Interest Group in Humanitarian Technology as part of a joint effort to launch a university ham radio club able to provide support in emergency situations.

Alberta has lately witnessed a growing number of costly natural disasters wherein communications not dependent on local telephone and power systems can prove invaluable – the university was housing over a thousand evacuees from the Fort McMurray wildfire around the time of the workshop. UC IEEE Young Professionals leader Tushar Sharma hopes to establish an emergency communication unit of 10–12 AROC holders and thus increase regional preparedness.

For more information, please contact the UC Amateur Radio Club (arc.ucalgary@gmail.com).