Scouts earn many of their merit badges at summer camp, so getting a Radio Merit Badge program established at your Boy
Scout Council’s camp is also essential.
Of course, the goal to strive for is a permanent ham
shack at the camp and a licensed ham on the staff as a merit badge counselor. But you may have to start small so let’s
slice the problem into manageable parts.
Establishing a Radio Merit Badge counselor at summer camp
If you look carefully at
the requirements, you’ll see that a licensed ham is only needed for the control operator of the on the air contact. And while a long distance HF contact is best for generating excitement, the on
the air contact can be as simple as a two meter conversation across the camp or on the local repeater and meet the requirement.
So the person teaching Radio
Merit Badge at the camp doesn’t have to be a ham. Many camps now have science
and technology programs, so Radio Merit Badge is a natural fit there.
Approach your local council
and ask that they offer Radio Merit Badge at their camp. Work with them and assure
them that the ham community will help them. Show them the instructional materials
here. Offer to help a staff member get their license. If your club can afford it, you might offer to make a contribution to the camp if they do this.
Making the on the air contacts.
Assume that the scouts are
being taught by a staff member who is not a ham. The scouts will need to make
an on the air contact sometime during their week at camp to finish the badge.
So work up a schedule of local hams that will drive to the camp after work to let the kids talk on their mobile or
portable rigs. Most camps only operate for 6-8 weeks in the summer, so a few
hams can easily divide this among them. Encourage all hams attending the camp
as leaders or Scouts to bring their rigs with them as well.
Establishing a camp ham shack
Having a permanent ham station
at the camp establishes a presence and reminds everyone about Radio Merit Badge. It
provides a place for visiting hams to offer the badge or on the air contacts with a minimum of fuss. Here’s what’s needed in order of importance.
1. Location – First you need to identify a location. The
best is a lockable room or building, preferbly right in the busiest part of camp. But
even a corner of a dining hall or lodge used for other purposes is fine to start.
2. Antennas – Even if you
don’t have equipment, having a permanent antenna and feedline allows visiting hams to quickly connect their own rigs
and get on the air. Consider a multiband HF dipole and a 2 meter vertical to
start as antennas that will work without a tuner with any rig. The initial
goal is just getting the Scouts to talk to someone, not win the WPX contest, so think simple to start.
3 Equipment - Once a lockable cabinet or room has been found, ask for donations
of used working equipment. Begin with an HF transceiver, two meter rig, and power
supply. Keep it simple for a visiting ham to quickly understand. Use Anderson Power Poles on your 12VDC connections to ease set up and allow a visiting ham to easily substitute
their own rig if they’re more comfortable with it.
4. Documentation - A station binder
showing how to connect and disconnect everything is essential. Include copies
of the equipment manuals as well.
To help you get a permanent station established, loaner HF equipment is available for your initial year of summer camp . See http://www.scouting.org/jota/station-loan.aspx
for more details