Radio Scouting: Earning the Radio Merit Badge at Summer Camp


The Radio Merit Badge was earned by 5,205 Scouts in the US in 2018 representing a 10.9% drop from the year prior.  We hams need to make sure we step up our support of scouting and act as counselors for the radio merit badge.  The Radio Merit Badge requirements are demanding and require both classroom learning as well as applied learning in front of a radio.  The radio merit badge looks great on a scout uniform sash with its wonderfully designed Morse code message and lighting bolts.


Scouts BSA Radio Merit Badge

I had the privilege to teach the radio merit badge with my daughter's Scouts BSA troop while at summer camp in the Sierras in Northern California in 2020.  We had a small group of scouts and parents which provided the scouts with more radio operating time and more time for discussion and questions about radio.  This made the merit badge class sessions more fun and engaging.

The scouts had a blast learning hands-on on how to setup the entire wilderness radio station including:
  1. Generator
  2. Power supply
  3. Kenwood TS-480SAT (HF+6m transceiver)
  4. Yeasu FT-8800 (2m / 70 cm FM transceiver)
  5. Kenwood TH-F6A (triband FM HT)
  6. External speaker
  7. 40 Meters home brew wire dipole
  8. 20 Meters rotatable dipole
  9. VHF/UHF antenna
Emergency communication rotatable dipole and VHF/UHF antenna packed up in its storage bag


The scouts made numerous contacts on 40 Meters, 20 Meters, 2 Meters, and 70 Centimeters.  We also tuned up and down on the shortwave broadcast bands and listened in on various programs from around the world.  This was an eye opening experience for the scouts who had never heard shortwave broadcasting nor made amateur radio contacts before.

Kenwood TS-480SAT Transceiver
Kenwood TS-480SAT Transceiver

The rotatable dipole worked like a champ having been serviced in the work prior to camp.  While on the workshop bench before camp, it was discovered that one of the elements had developed a break due to corrosion.  The repair was straightforward requiring a quick cleaning of the corrosion, resoldering, and shrink-wrapping.  The rotatable dipole helped demonstrate the directional nature of dipole antennas to the scouts.

Emergency communications rotatable dipole with VHF/UHF Antenna on top setup at summer camp 


One of our scouts, Sadie, earned her FCC Amateur Radio Technician license (KN6JYE) just prior to arriving in camp.  She had a blast using her license for the first time on VHF/UHF simplex calls, calls over area repeaters, and checking into various area nets including a fun 2m simplex net.  By the way, Sadie and her troop are running a popcorn fundraiser to help keep their scout program going.  Please stop by Sadie's Trails End popcorn storefront to make a purchase and support scouting and her troop.

Sadie, KN6JYE making contacts at elevation 3187m on top of Mount Lassen, California

The scouts were amazed and excited to experience the thrill of DX communication for the first time.  We made contacts on 40 Meters to other states and countries including Hawaii and New Zealand.  DX is alive and well even at the bottom of the solar sunspot cycle.

Amateur Radio Operator scout uniform strip

A big THANK YOU to the patient hams who talked with the scouts and helped them log their very first amateur radio contacts.  These hams helped the scouts to successfully earn their radio merit badges and we couldn't have done it without them.  It is the hands-on learning and radio operations that is the most inspiring and engaging aspect of the radio merit badge.  Several of the scouts expressed their enthusiastic interest in earning their own amateur radio licenses.  Please support scouting, radio merit badge activities, the annual Scout Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) special event, and youth learning the ropes on the air.  The next generation needs our support and encouragement just as much as we all did when we were their age.  Remember, it is youth who are the future of the amateur radio.

Good DX and 73,

NJ2X



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