In the opportunity of a lifetime, Chestermere Lake Middle School students are suddenly able to speak to their peers in classrooms all over the world and even as far away as the International Space Station. All this, thanks to generous donations of radio equipment, antennas and technical support from a local amateur radio group.
Pioneered by teacher Brian Jackson, who volunteers at the station at the Aero Space Museum, the Chestermere Amateur Radio Program was given wings after Jackson inquired about a national program he heard about at the museum. "I started to see where this would fit into school programs. Tom Kelly, the educational director there, told me about the Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) Youth Education program where local amateurs donate equipment for school groups," says Jackson. "In September of 2003 we applied and were successful. I wrote my basic license exam in January and we have been able to transmit ever since."
More than $1,500 worth of equipment was donated to the school, including a dual band transceiver, UHF scanner, an HF transceiver and a two-metre dual band antenna from RAC. Ken Oelke from the Quarter Century Wireless Association also donated countless hours of technical support getting the program off the ground.
Since then, the excited voices of students at Chestermere Lake Middle School have sped across the airwaves using the information super highway to tickle the eardrums of those living as far away as Tasmania. "Students had the opportunity to research the island of Tasmania -- home of the Tasmanian Devil. The kids were quite excited about talking to someone who was a whole day ahead of them in Canada," says Jackson. "There were lots of questions about kangaroos, Tasmanian Devils and what life was like with no snow and warm temperatures."
Although it is mostly Grade 6 students taking advantage of the program, it's open to the entire school and plans are currently underway to connect Grade 7 students to amateur radio operators in Japan because they are studying the country in Social Studies class.
"This program encourages kids to more fully understand the global community, by asking real-time questions," says Jackson. "It is intended to establish links between our classrooms and those of similar students around the world, further leading to our own understanding of teens around the world." Plans are also underway to connect the students to the International Space Station. An application has been filed to contact the astronauts and Jackson is awaiting a reply. "It takes a great deal of equipment and organization to host a broadcast like this," says Jackson. "In the meantime, we are able to monitor the ISS passively and are able to call the astronauts for a chance-transmission as they pass overhead. If they happen to be near the radio and hear our signal, they may respond."
Jackson says he would like to see a station like this in every school across the Rocky View School Division and every student to become licensed amateurs as well. "This program is just the start of a wonderful chance for teachers, parents, community group leaders and anyone else interested in communicating with those around the world," says Jackson.
Grade 6 Science teacher Brian Jackson, VE6JBJ operating school station
When Wild Rose Chapter 151 membership made a decision to promote amateur radio to various youth groups, they decided to vigorously approach local schools to help advance the new Radio Amateurs of Canada Youth Education Program. To this end Wild Rose Chapter 151 executive spoke with school teacher Brian Jackson of Chestermere Lake Middle School to discuss the possibility of his school putting in an application to Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) for possible acceptance to the Program.
The RAC Youth Education Committee reviewed Mr. Jackson's application and gave their unanimous approval on September 19, 2003, to accept Chestermere Lake Middle School to the RAC Youth Education Program.
As they say - the rest is history and the school is now arranging for the set-up of antennas on the roof and equipment installation in the classroom. Brian is busy working on a curriculum to integrate amateur radio into his grade 6 classroom.
As work is in progress Amateur radio operators, along with a local Club, have already stepped up to the challenge by donating equipment for the station. To date the following equipment has been committed.
||Kenwood TS940S HF Transceiver
||All Band HF Dipole with Feedline
||Dual Bander VHF/UHF Transceiver
||(3) Ten Foot Tower Sections
A LETTER of recognition and thanks from Chestermere Lake Middle School to one of the donors of amateur radio equipment.
Stay tuned for further updates and pictures as the station comes together.
Mr. Jackson has now created his own Homepage which has a link to the Chesteremere Lake Middle School website. Take a personal tour here - "Brian's Homepage" - to find out more about amateur radio in his classroom.
PS - Below is a snippet of how Brian's grade 6 class views the excitement of amateur radio in action!
December 18, 2003
I just wanted to say thanks again for all of the work you did to make yesterday so awesome. It was the highlight of my year so far to see the look on their faces when you were talking about them and indirectly to them. It was so absolutley amazing to see the excitement- it gives me an extra push to get my own license after the holidays.
I have 6 kids so far on the list for Kids Day - I hope to have a few more names soon.
Again, many thanks!
A special effort was put toward Kid's Day this year. In particular the Calgary Aero Space Museum was the main venue for this event using a Yaesu FT 990 HF radio into a Cushcraft A3S Tri-Bander.
Grade 6 Science teacher with one of his students
At Calgary Aero Space Museum
Dr. Robert Thirsk Aero Space Communications Center