We are the West Palm Beach Amateur Radio Group www.wpbarc.com (www.facebook.com/WestPalmBeachAmateurRadioGroupInc) and have built and operate a permanent Amateur Radio exhibit at the South Florida Science Museum www.sfsm.org/exhibits in West Palm Beach Florida. Both the Museum and our group are non-profit entities. They have given us the space to use but everything from the carpet on the floor, the paint on the walls, the overhead lighting, the electrical wiring and up has been donated and supplied by our members and limited supporters.
Although there are more FCC licensed Hams in the US (over 700,000) than ever before, we need to get more youngsters interested and excited about wireless communications at an early age. For many this will lead them on a path to science and technology that will spawn a whole new generation of inventions and advancements.
Steve Wozniak, cofounder of Apple Computer (the one who actually designed and built the computers) got his Ham Radio license in the 6th grade.
W3DCL, Dr. Michael S. Brown, 1985 Nobel Prize Winner in Medicine said "An amateur radio operating license obtained at age 13 led to a life-long fascination with science"The first time these youngsters get on the radio and call "CQ" (how hams look for a contact with someone else) and a voice comes back and responds to them is what we call a "Lasting Moment of First Excitement". There is a look of surprise and a glimmer of hope and excitement builds. They begin a conversation with a total stranger somewhere else in the world who wants to talk to them! They exchange their first name and age and where they are. When the voice from the other end tells them they are in New York or Indiana or England or Poland they begin to realize what they are actually doing. Talking around the country and the world "without" wires or cell towers. Their eyes "light up" and their smile broadens.
They have done something for the first time that they did not even know was possible.
Some leave with just that experience as a memory, but many come back again and again and each time it is exciting and they want to know more about how it is done. How do the electrons leave the piece of wire (antenna) and travel around the world? How does the radio change their voice into just electrons in a wire? How does it pick up others and change them into voices? How do you know what is out there and how you can find it? The questions just keep coming and they are on the path to learning for fun.
We want to give this excitement to more youngsters.
Out of the hundreds we see every day, on average, only 1 in 20 gets an actual QSO (2 way communication). This is the part that really gets them hooked on electronics and technology. We need to increase how many of the kids get this experience.And we want to get more interest in them at a young age in these fields.
We also want to build their interest and excitement with some hands-on technology exhibits.
Let them see and touch things and make things happen right in front of them. And at the same time they will learn that science and technology can be fun and they are capable of doing it.
Hams have been the innovators of much of the technology of the last 100 years from radio itself to TV and on to cell phones, Packet communications that led to TCP/IP (and the Internet), the Integrated Circuit, microprocessors that gave us the PC, satellite communications (Hams have 50+ satellites in orbit), space shuttle and space station communications (most Astronauts are Hams), low power long distance communications, off the grid communications, and more.
Most of our members are retirees on fixed incomes but were very active "Hams" when younger and stay active today. Our members ages range from 11 to 95. Most of us grew up in a world that was not "wired" and the excitement of wireless communications led many of us into science and technology careers. We are trying to pass that excitement on to a new generation of youngsters who are growing up in a "wired" world.
We know from past experience (especially in South Florida) that all forms of wired and short range communications (like cell phones) fail. Ham Radio does not fail. Hams have provided the back up for events like 9/11, Katrina, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Floods, Wildfires, etc.
"When all else fails Amateur Radio works"
The ranks of Amateur Radio have included Nobel Prize winning physicists, rock and roll stars, kings, congressmen and senators, network news anchors. academy award winning actors, and mostly just "regular" folks who have a little technical creativity and a desire to explore "what's out there". We do have to pass technical examinations to be given a FCC license. We are not allowed to charge for any of the things we do as Amateurs on the radio (that is what makes us Amateurs) just like college athletes are not supposed to get paid to play. So we do not make a product or a for sale service that is profit making.
What we create are smiles on young faces and inspiration in young minds.
We introduce technology they did not know existed, get them to overcome fears of speaking into a microphone, instill a desire to learn more about electronics and technology, geography, weather, space and more; and for the lucky ones give them a "Lasting Moment of First Excitement".
But our facilities are on the very modest side. We just have pieces of wire as our antenna and our radios are loaned for a few days or a week at a time by club members. Most of these are older less sophisticated units that do not perform as well as more modern equipment. And there are high voltage power lines next to the museum and a high voltage substation and distribution facility just in front of the Museum that causes interference to our signals.
Although we get hundreds of youngsters visiting our exhibit every week, only a handful get to experience that "Lasting Moment of First Excitement" due to our limited facilities.
So we need to get a more modern radio and put up a tower next to the building with an antenna on it that will be high enough to get over the power lijes and substation. We also need to add exhibits that explain how basic radio, electronics and antennas work, the influence of weather on signal propagation and space communications for building the level of excitement. We want to give them more "hands on" with the electronics and technology side of things. We have budgeted $3500 for a current version radio, $10,000 for a tower and antenna system capable of meeting the srict wind codes of South Florida and getting higher than the power station lines, and $2500 for hands-on electronic exhibits. Plus there is about 1600 of fees involved for the fundraising service.
If we get less we will apply it to the items we can get and keep fundraising. If we get more we will increase the number of hands-on exhibits and add more radio equipment. All of the funds raised will be used for this project.
Our club members and Hams from other clubs man the exhibit room 7 days a week. We have volunteers that put in 30-40 hours every week and some that only put in a few hours a month. In total we volunteer close to 1000 hours a month.
With so many retirees we have time to donate, time to teach, and time to inspire.
But we do not have much in the way of capital to contribute to the cause.We do have a burning desire to get these youngsters involved with science and technology at a young age through the magic of Amateur Radio.
We have already put over $10,000 in building what we have with member donations plus we have had a few small corporate sponsors. But to get to the next level we need your help.
Please donate if you can. But if you can not donate please help us get the word out to everyone you klnow.
Like us on Facebook, use the sharing tools here on Indiegogo and get our project noticed by everyone. Visit our club website at www.wpbarc.com and our educational concept site at www.lastingmomentsoffirstexcitement.com and spread the word.