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Radio club finishes in 4th place

Meghan Wons | Friday, August 25, 2006

Though many University students are not in tune with ND1U, the amateur radio club of Notre Dame, a fourth place finish in a national competition might soon help the group reach a larger audience.

ND1U nabbed fourth place of 72 schools in the 20th annual School Club Roundup competition sponsored by the Council for the Advancement of Amateur Radio and the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) in February.

Not bad for a club that two short years ago didn’t exist.

ND1U president Andrew Carter received the good news in the summer, and the results were published in the September edition of “QST,” the official journal of the ARRL.

With a total of five radio operators participating in the contest, ND1U made contact with 42 states, six Canadian provinces, eight countries and 34 schools. The club finished behind Arizona State University, University of California Los Angeles and Louisiana State University.

Carter was excited by the club’s performance and said he is pleased with the progress ND1U has made since he joined during his freshman year at Notre Dame. When Carter first applied, he said Notre Dame’s once active amateur radio club was dormant.

“I knew that if I went to Notre Dame, I wanted to start up the club again,” he said.

After contacting a core group of interested professors and students, Carter went to the Office of Student Activities to apply for official club status and seek funding for the club.

By his sophomore year, Notre Dame’s Amateur Radio Club was in full force.

The club held meetings every month last year and brought in speakers with different interests and areas of expertise in amateur radio operating. The club also held a licensing event last April. Carter said about ten people showed up to take the test that would allow them to operate the radio equipment.

The club currently operates out of Cushing Hall’s engineering learning center and has approximately ten members comprised of faculty, undergraduate and graduate students. There are a large number of electrical engineers in the club, Carter said, but everyone is welcome.

Carter said there are different levels of licensure. The technician’s license, mainly focused on understanding radio-operating safety, is the most basic license and the extra license is the highest. One test requires an understanding of Morse code and the ability to “translate” the dot-dash system at a speed of at least five words per minute.

In the age of cellular phones and instant messenger, why do some people still choose to communicate with amateur radios?

“You can be really technical or social in amateur radio – most are both,” Carter said. “It’s the ultimate social hobby. If you ignore the radio and everything else, it’s purely about talking to people.”

Amateur radio was one of the best ways to pass information along in the days before telephones were standard household items, he said.

“Today amateur radios are an important means of communication in situations such as disaster relief when phone lines and Internet connections are down,” Carter said.

According to the organization’s Web site, the AARL has a longstanding relationship with several prominent national organizations such as the American Red Cross, the National Weather Service and the Civil Air Patrol.

Carter hopes his club will continue to grow through new interest.

“All of the important things [about amateur radio] I’ve learned from other people – that’s how the hobby moves along,” he said.

The School Club Roundup was held to encourage contacts “with and among school radio clubs,” according to an article in the January 2006 edition of “QST.” The contest was judged using a point system. When contacting another school’s club, for example, participants received a higher number of points than when they made contact with individual amateur radio operators. Participants could not operate more than six hours a day and could only count 24 hours of operation to be scored over a one-week period.

Elementary, middle and high schools – as well as universities – were scored in separate categories.