Radio is More Than a Merit Badge!
A look at the 1989 National Scout Jamboree.
By Lary Eichel, K2NA, Boulder, C0 80308
Amateur Radio helped weave the fabric of the Jamboree experience as some 60,000 scouts, leaders and visitors from all 5O states celebrated scouting at the 1989 National Scout Jamboree, August 2-8, 1989, at Fort A. P. Hill, Virginia. The Jamboree was so popular, the sheer number of participants often caused massive traffic snarls that made getting to the site a real problem!
For the hams involved, this was a major event: For more than two years, a group of Radio Scouts planned for the event. (See “Radio Scouting” in August 1989 QST.) The Radio Scouting staff operated Demonstration Station K2BSA, provided Radio Merit Badge and Novice license instruction, and originated more than 2,000 messages.
Space for the temporary repeater network was secured on a 100-foot-high microwave tower, courtesy of the Army. Fortunately, there were no major problems (such as the severe weather in 1985), so the repeaters became a part of the normal activity of the busy Jamboree city.
With the tents ready for equipment, Woodbridge Wireless radio club volunteers delivered the bulk of the radio equipment and antennas. K2BSA staff arranged the station to fit its surroundings: VHF/UHF, satellite, FSTV and packet were all squeezed into one end, with HF positions spread across the back wall. K2BSA at the 1989 National Scout Jamboree was on the air.
Less than 36 hours later, K2BSA had worked all states!
Once in operation, there were few times when the demonstration station was not crowded with scouts and leaders. The packet radio and NTS networks carried many greetings to and from the Jamboree.
Where there are scouts, there must be merit badges, and the 1989 National Jamboree was no exception, Some 14 scouts earned Radio Merit Badges at the Jamboree, and nearly 300 scouts completed at least some of the requirements.
The merit badge area was transformed into a classroom, a test equipment and kitbuilding area, an SWL post, a Morse code practice area and in FSTV/packet terminal. The radio area was in a prime location and the FSTV/packet terminal attracted many passersby. One scout earned his Novice license during the Jamboree even though he had no prior radio experience!
Long lines at pay telephones prompted many scouts to visit K2BSA to send a message home. During the day, scouts lined up to fill in the blanks on the message forms.
Besides the popularity of the message service, scout-operated FSTV and packet radio were the hit of the show. Scouts could exchange greetings and pictures between the Demonstration Tent and the Merit Badge Midway in spite of the din of activity in the station (scouts are not quiet!) When the packet link dropped out, the scouts maintained communications with messages scribbled on paper and held up to the FSTV cameras! The kids are natural communicators.
Radio is an activity for everyone, and the use of radio by the blind is well known. One blind scout made several visits to K2BSA and hopes to join the ranks of licensed hams soon after he returns home. The deaf can participate in radio, too: A deaf Scout Leader spent several hours on AMTOR and packet chatting with newly found ham friends. Radio involves more than just sound, radio is a vehicle for cornmunications, by voice, by computer, by video and through satellites.
Many ham radio manufacturers, local radio clubs, packet radio and NTS operators went all-out to support K2BSA. Their investment in the youth at the Jamboree was well spent. One QSL card noted, “K2BSA was hotter than DX this week!” K2BSA operation at the 1989 National Scout Jamboree added fuel to the growth of youth in Amateur Radio. But as we see it, the challenge is to keep the growth alive. Watch for and support Radio Scouting activities-radio is more than a merit badge!
K2BSA 1989 National Jamboree Box Score
Band QS0s ---- ---- 10 675 15 800 20 1,150 40 1,025 80 180 VHF/UHF 110(excluding packet and repeater) ---------- Total 3,840 QTC: 2000 + messages originated,400+ delivered.
– Reprinted from the March 1990 issue of QST. © 1990 ARRL. All rights reserved.