Showing posts with label Radio Merit Badge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Radio Merit Badge. Show all posts

October 12, 2022

Two-Way Radio Communication for Scouts

Radio and scouting are a great combination.  Scouting recognizes the interest of scouts in radio and reflects this in the annual Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) and the Radio Merit BadgeJOTA is the world's largest scouting activity.

Scouting is the ideal time to earn an amateur radio license.  Making your first amateur radio contact with your own call sign as a scout is amazing experience. Making contact with your other scouting friends is even more fun.

Scouts BSA Radio Merit Badge

A two-way radio is also an important piece of communication and safety equipment on backcountry outings where mobile phone coverage is absent.  Scouts can use FRS walkie-talkies to communicate with each other while at camp or hiking with no license required.  Amateur radio licensed scouts can use their own amateur radio two-way radios.  Regardless of the class of equipment, it is important for scouts to learn good radio operating practices.  Here are some helpful guidelines to good operating practices based on the Scout Law.

Good Operating Practices

  • Be prepared - Think about what you are going to say before transmitting.

  • Be trustworthy - Take care of troop radios and return them in the same condition they were issued.

  • Be loyal - Keep your antenna in a vertical position and elevate it to improve signal strength.  If you are in a structure, try moving near an open window or moving outdoors to improve signal strength.

  • Be helpful - Press the push-to-talk button and pause one second before speaking.  There is a short delay before your radio begins transmitting.  Pausing will prevent your message from being cut off.

  • Be courteous - When initiating a transmission, first identify your intended recipient then identify yourself.  This avoids confusion on shared frequencies.  Example: “Jill this is Jane, do you copy?”

  • Be kind - Give the person you are calling time to respond.  Remember, they may have heard your call and are unable to respond immediately.

  • Be thrifty - Use short, clear, and concise messages over the radio to save battery life.  Repeat essential parts of the message to help make sure it is understood.  Keep your radio on and monitor for safety, accountability, and patrol/troop messages.

  • Be clean - Speak across the radio microphone rather than directly into it in order to produce a clear undistorted message.

Scout radio operations also benefit from the use of standardized vocabulary of basic radio terms.  These terms are known as pro-words.

Radio Pro-Words

  • Mayday - Used as a distress call in an emergency situation.  When used, repeat three times: mayday, mayday, mayday.

  • Correction - I made an error in this transmission.  I will continue with the last correct word.

  • Radio check - This means, “What is my signal strength and readability?”  Responses include: “Loud and clear” (or 59), “Weak but readable,” “Weak and distorted,” “Strong and distorted.”

  • Over - I have finished speaking.

  • Say again - Please repeat your last message.

  • Stand-by - This means, I acknowledge your transmission.  Please wait for me to respond.

  • Go-ahead - I am listening and can respond.  Please proceed with your message.

  • I spell - Say this prior to spelling a difficult or ambiguous-sounding word.

  • Read back - Please repeat my entire transmission back to me.

  • Roger - Message received and understood.

  • Affirmative / Negative - Yes / No

  • Out - Our conversation is finished.

The ability of Scouts to communicate using radio under difficult conditions is enhanced by having the ability to spell words using the international phonetic alphabet.  There are times when our spoken words cannot be understood when transmitted over the radio.  This can be caused by a weak signal or high noise levels.  Often, our words can be understood via radio by spelling the words out using the phonetic alphabet.  Knowing how to do this is a critical survival skill for Scouts.

Phonetic Alphabet

A Alpha

E Echo

I India

M Mike

Q Quebec

U Uniform

Y Yankee

B Bravo

F Foxtrot

J Juliet

N November

R Romeo

V Victor

Z Zulu

C Charlie

G Golf

K Kilo

O Oscar

S Sierra

W Whiskey

D Delta

H Hotel

L Lima

P Papa

T Tango

X X-ray

Have fun in the outdoors and be prepared.  Having a radio transceiver and knowing how to use it is an invaluable asset since it provides additional options to communicate in the event of an emergency.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

August 21, 2020

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,


March 22, 2020

So what is a scout to do when sheltering at home?

So what is a scout to do when sheltering at home, with no school, no sports, no scouting activities, ....???

A great use of extra time on your hands is to study to earn your very own FCC Amateur Radio Technician License!!!  Earning your Amateur Radio Technician license allows you to operate radio equipment on the amateur radio bands.

Amateur radio is a really fun and interesting STEM hobby and is a great way to communicate during emergencies when other forms of communication fail (be prepared).  It also prepares you for the largest scouting activity in the world: the annual Jamboree On The Air.  With your technician license you can communicate with people all around the world with basic radio equipment or join in exciting radio contests or communicate using amateur radio satellites or even talk to  astronauts on the international space station.  One of my favorite radio contacts was with a science expedition in Antarctica!

You can study for your Amateur Radio Technician License online from home using  Many people find they are able to prepare with around 20 hours of studying.  My Son Shea (KC2VSR) is an Eagle Scout and earned his license when he was 9 years old.  You can earn your FCC license too!  Once you earn your license it is yours for the rest of your life.

Scouts who earn their amateur radio license are eligible to wear the awesome BSA Amateur Radio Operator strip on their uniform.  Earning your license is also an excellent way to work on your radio merit badge.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

Other related posts:

August 25, 2018

Radio Merit Badge at Camp Lehi

The Radio Merit Badge is earned by approximately 6,500 Boy Scouts in the US each year.  The Radio Merit Badge requirements are demanding and require both classroom learning as well as applied learning in front of a radio.  I really like the design of the merit badge with its hidden Morse code message and lighting bolts.

Radio Merit Badge
I had an opportunity to teach the radio merit badge at a recent Merit Badge Pow Wow at Camp Lehi here in the Bay Area.  My co-instructor for the course was Ray Wentz, W6LPW.

Camp Lehi is a beautiful location in the Santa Cruz mountains

The night before the course the Merit Badge Pow Wow organizer (Jon) and I installed three antennas: a 40 meters home-brew wire dipole, a 20 meters rotatable dipole, and a vhf/uhf antenna.  We setup the radios and class room in the great outdoors under a couple of canopies.  Power was provide a generator.

Rotatable Dipole and VHF/UHF antenna 

Home brew 40 Meters wire dipole between two trees
The 40 Meters wire dipole worked really well for the scouts.  They made contacts with 100W into the North Carolina to the East, Vancouver to the North, San Diego to the South, and Hawaii to the West.  We were using a Kenwood TS-480SAT.  It was a lot of fun to see the scouts make their first radio contacts ever.

Ray tried several times to call on the local repeater using his HT and found no one to talk to.  Fortunately 40 Meters was in good shape and there plenty of hams for the scouts to talk to.

The rotatable dipole was not functioning properly.  I had brought my antenna analyzer and measured SWR exceeding 3.0.  We didn't have time to determine where the failure was occurring in the system.  That will be a job for another day back at the shack.

A big thank you to the patient hams who talked the scouts and helped them log their first contacts.  This event helped create interest in radio.  Several of the scouts mentioned their interest in studying for their own amateur radio licenses.  Support your local scouting organization and radio merit badge, jamboree on the air, and other outstanding programs.

Good DX and 73,