Woodward, Okla. —
Area amateur radio operators will be putting their radio skills to the test this weekend as part of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Field Day.
And the public is invited to come participate and learn more about the important communication roles that ham radio play in our society.
According to the league's website, ARRL.org, the Field Day is a contest where amateur radio operators across the country seek "to work as many stations as possible on any and all amateur bands ... and to learn to operate in abnormal situations in less than optimal conditions."
This year the Tri-State Amateur Radio Group, which is the local group of ham radio enthusiasts, will hold its Field Day operations in conjunction with the Star-Creek Astronomical Society at the Selman Observatory located northwest of Mooreland.
Jay Kruckenberg, member of the Tri-State Amateur Radio Group, said the reason the 2 organizations are working together is that several members of the ham radio group are also astronomy enthusiasts as well.
It is through these people who are members of both groups that Kruckenberg said the Tri-State ham radio group was able to get access to the Selman Observatory for the Field Day.
While the goal of the contest is to "try to make as many contacts as you can all over in a 24-hour period," Kruckenberg said the Tri-State group also sees the field day as "an exercise in emergency communication methods."
Many people might not realize it, but ham radio operators can play an important role during disaster situations, he said.
"All the storm spotting in Northwest Oklahoma is done through ham radio, and during disasters we help take non-emergency traffic off the emergency bands by helping to relay messages such as the 'Red Cross needs 17 cots over here' or 'they need more vehicles over there.' And if those emergency communication systems were ever knocked out, we could possibly be a backup," Kruckenberg said. "So there's a lot of things we do for the public that they don't really know."
He said the Field Day helps the radio operators train for those situations because "It helps train us how to use our radios even when conditions are bad."
"Like the radio bands might be busy or there's a lot of static so it's hard to hear," Kruckenberg said. "This teaches us how to operate our equipment so that we can work around those problems, in case we are ever in a real emergency situation and need to make contact with someone. It is also a good test for us to take our equipment out of our home and take it out to some other site and know how to hook it all up and be able to use it in the field, like if we ever had to go out to a disaster site."
That's why Kruckenberg said the group is especially excited about being able to operate out of the Selman Observatory this year, because it is a new location for the group.
"We like to do it a place that is unfamiliar to us so we get used to setting up and using our equipment in different environments," he said.
In addition to testing the equipment in a different location, the Field Day also gives the ham radio operators the opportunity to test out different methods of radio communication.
"We have many, many ways to communicate, from utilizing satellites to digital communication, so we try to play with those different methods as we make our contacts," Kruckenberg said.
The Field Day is also a great opportunity for the group to promote public awareness of and interest in ham radio operation, he said.
That is why Tri-State Amateur Radio Group has opened the event to the public.
"People are welcome to come out and we'll put them on the radio and have them talk," Kruckenberg said.
They can also learn more about ham radio operation and how they can get started themselves, if they are interested, he said.
Set up for the Field Day event will begin around 10 a.m. this Saturday at the Selman Observatory, with the actual contest starting at 1 p.m.
Kruckenberg said the public is welcome to come anytime during the event, and suggested they can even make a day of it, with a visit to the nearby Alabaster Caverns (just 7 miles away) and even perhaps bring their own telescope to take a look at the stars later in the evening.
The large observatory scope will not be available for viewing, but he said people are more than welcome to bring personal scopes.
"If they want to bring a telescope and set it up, there's a lot of area for it, and it's dark out there," he said.
There's also plenty of room to set up antennas for those bringing radio stations to participate in the radio event, he said.
A meal will be provided for those who stay at the event through the evening, Kruckenberg said.
"That way if they come in the late afternoon and want to stay through the evening, they wouldn't have to drive back into town for dinner," he said.
For those wishing to attend, Kruckenberg said the easiest way to travel to the Selman site is to head north out of Mooreland on Highway 50. Then about a mile past the turnoff for Alabaster Caverns, turn west and follow the road for 5 to 6 miles until you see the observatory.
For those ham radio operators who may get lost on their way, Kruckenberg said "we will be monitoring the 146.625 - 103.5 / 444.875 + 103.5 linked repeater system and the 444.275 + D repeater throughout the event for anyone needing directions or information about the event." Kruckenberg's radio call sign is K5GUD.
For those without radios wanting to learn more, you can contact him by phone at (580) 216-4190.