Ham It Up

Case Amature Radio Club, W8EDU, is enjoying a revival

David Kazdan, Ph.D. ’92, (and amateur radio licensee AD8Y) is excited about the recent renaissance of amateur radio. He has been enjoying amateur radio since he was in the fifth grade. His contagious excitement is seen in the members of W8EDU, the Case Amateur Radio Club of Case Western Reserve University.

Unlike their friends at WRUW, who broadcast music for the public, amateur(or ham) radio operators communicate with one another. Amateur operators,who make contacts throughout the world,use certain reserved parts of the radio spectrum for personal communication,recreation and experimentation. An amateur radio license is required to transmit. Amateur radio can be used as a teaching tool, offering a ready-made laboratory for teaching electronics, digital signal processing and electromagnetics.

The club, which is older than CWRU,is the oldest student organization on campus, Kazdan says. Founded at the Case Institute of Technology in the1940s with the call sign W8URD, the club was located in the original Case Club building on Euclid Avenue. In the ’60s,the club moved to the basement of Old Main and relicensed as W8EDU. Theclub and adjacent antenna farm was moved to the roof of the Glennan building during the ’70s and has enjoyed many years of student, alumni, faculty, staff and community use since. Long time member Bob Leskovec (K8DTS) ha sassembled a collection of logs, memo sand old newsletters that document the club’s history.

According to Kazdan, who’s the club’s faculty advisor, every engineering school used to have an amateur radio club.Collegiate amateur radio became less popular when the internet took off in theearly ’90s. By 2010, the club at CWRU wasdown to fewer than 10 student members.

“It was in sleeper mode,” says club president Kristina Collins (KD8OXT), a graduate student in electrical engineering.“Professors and alumni were involved then but not many students.”

Currently, there are about 150 licensed college and university club stations in the United States; about 20 of them are as active as Case Amateur Radio Club.

The club’s popularity has surged during the past two years. With Kazdan’s help (Collins calls Kazdan the poster child of faculty involvement), the club is thriving.W8EDU has a strong contesting presence (yes, there’s competitive radio), an active alumni base and a team that administers regular licensing exams. The club has helped set up the electrical engineering and computer science department’s Dr. Robert E. Collin Radio frequency and Communications Laboratory and supports special topics courses in the department. In addition to recreational and curricular use, W8EDU serves as a research resource for the department.

“We make ourselves available to everyone,” Kazdan says.

Kazdan and Collins also are working radio into the SAGES (seminar approach to general education and scholarship) curriculum, the general undergraduate writing and critical thinking course work program at CWRU. This fall will be the fourth semester the class has been offered.Kazdan believes in using amateur radio for programs such as SAGES, and he says such use is unique in higher education.

“The club’s SAGES involvement reallydistinguishes Case from all other engineeringschools in the country,” Kazdansays, adding that he thinks CWRU is oneof the only schools in the country usingamateur radio in nontechnical education.

Students in electric engineering already use the club for projects.

Rachel Boedicker (AC8XY), the club’s vice president and a junior mathematics major from Medina, Ohio, was introduced to the radio club via the SAGES class.Soon after taking the class, Boedicker joined the club, which is open to faculty,alumni, or anyone else affiliated with the university. Eventually, she would like to work with radio frequency and has been helping publicize the club on campus and boost its membership.Boedicker points to the fact that, while many people view amateur radio as antiquated, its principles can be found in newer technology such as GPS, Wi-Fi,radar, cell phones and satellites.

“Radio can be as high-tech or as low-tech as you want it to be,” she says.

Recently, the club won the collegiate division of the School Club Roundup,a contest for school clubs. Contests are based on making as many contacts as possible, with multipliers offered for certain bands, locations or modulation modes. The American Radio RelayLeague, the national association of amateurs, hosts about 10 major competitions a year.

Another regular competition is ARRL Field Day, which happens during the fourth full weekend of June each year.During the day, amateurs runtemporary, simulated-emergency stations off mains on alternative power, which allows students to work on real-worldproblems. Students must handle the technical aspects of the station – power,antennas and feedlines – as well as handling human factors such as sleep,food, working shifts and community involvement. W8EDU hosts its Field Day party at Squire Valleevue Farm and invites the community to attend. This year,about 40 students and others participated,and the station made about 700 contacts throughout the U.S. and Canada. Club members taught classes, sent simulated emergency messages, prepared people for license examinations, administered the exams and cooked meals. Newcomers and interested passersby were given anopportunity to operate the station.

During this year’s homecoming, the club celebrated the 130th anniversary of the Michelson-Morley experiment by setting up a special-event station on the Case Quad. Albert Michelson and Edward Morley’s 1887 experiment aimed to find the presence and properties of the luminiferous æther, the substance believed, at the time, to fill empty space.The club planed to run the station to highlight the experiment and its impact.Michelson and Morley built a sensitive,mercury-floated interferometer attempting to measure the influence of the æther on the speed of light. W8EDU was on the air to discuss CWRU’swork with the world.For more information about theCase Amateur Radio Club, visit w8edu.wordpress.com.