Capital Region Scouts joined with members of the East Greenbush Amateur Radio Association on Saturday to participate in the 62nd annual JamboreeOn the Air, the largest Scouting event in the world. Known as JOTA, Scouts teamed up with local “ham” radio operators to talk by shortwave to other Scouts across the nation and around the world, earning a merit badge in the process.
According to the World Scout Bureau, the Jamboree has attracted participation by over 1.5 million Scouts from more than 160 countries. The event was attended by some 15 local Scouts from the Arrow of Light Pack 2257 and was held at the East Greenbush Masonic Temple.
“There is a big emphasis today on STEM education -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – and Amateur Radio encompasses all four,” said Bryan Jackson, who helped organize the event on behalf of the radio club. “Saturday’s Jamboree gave each Scout the opportunity to see how Amateur Radio operates, along with the chance to go on the air and talk with other Amateur stations across the country.”
Each Scout logged the contacts they made, helping them to earn a "Build a Better World" merit badge. Their logs included contacts with stations in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Western New York. In addition, Scouts reported listening to stations in West Virginia and as far away as Germany. As part of the Jamboree, the local Scouts were assigned the call sign K2BSA/2 for the day to identify their station on the air.
Jamboree on the Air began in 1957 as a way to foster Scout-to-Scout conversations across town, as well as around the world. The goal is to allow Scouts to recognize geographical and cultural differences while also exposing them to the radio technology that makes it all happen.
“Scouting and Amateur Radio actually have a long history of growing together, with the first Amateur Radio merit badge being awarded in 1918” said Assistant Cubmaster Danielle Schaff. “This year’s Jamboree was the first time most of our Scouts had the chance to experience the thrill of using shortwave radio to communicate over thousands of miles. And, several have now expressed an interest in getting their Amateur Radio license.”
Each Scout who participated in Saturday’s event was given a tote bag with information on how Amateur Radio works and how to become a licensed operator. In addition, the East Greenbush Amateur Radio Association offered each Scout and their family a free one-year club membership to help further their interest in “ham” radio. The Scouts will receive their merit badges during their next Pack meeting on Friday.
“There is no age limit on getting an Amateur Radio license, and kids as young as five have passed their FCC license exam,” said Jackson, whose own call sign is W2RBJ. “Our club looks forward to helping these youngsters learn more about ham radio, and the technology that makes it work. Best of all, they’ve already learned that Amateur Radio truly brings the world together.”