Schenectady County

Kids get a kick out of ham radio day at Schenectady Museum

Nicholas McPherson of Glenville seemed right at home behind the microphone.
Spencer Moon, 8, of Latham, right, watches as Schenectady Museum Amateur Radio Association (SMARA) member Gerald Murray waits for a gap in conversation so that Moon may hop onto the frequency and say hello to other kids via the amateur radio at the Schene
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Spencer Moon, 8, of Latham, right, watches as Schenectady Museum Amateur Radio Association (SMARA) member Gerald Murray waits for a gap in conversation so that Moon may hop onto the frequency and say hello to other kids via the amateur radio at the Schene

Categories: News, Schenectady County

Nicholas McPherson of Glenville seemed right at home behind the microphone.

“My name is Nicholas and I am six years old and my favorite color is purple and blue and I am in kindergarten,” he said into the Schenectady Museum Amateur Radio Association ham radio.

After a period of static, Nicholas made contact with a 15-year-old from Bombay, N.Y., who said his favorite color was blue and his town has gotten 3 feet of snow.

This airwaves connection was all part of the association’s “Ham Radio Kids Day” on Sunday. Radio association trustee Tony Pazzola said the organization has been participating in the nationwide event, where kids try to communicate with other kids through the radio, for at least a dozen years.

He said about 50 children stopped by to see the radio exhibit. The children seemed to pick it up pretty easily and enjoy the experience.

“Kids get to talk to other kids,” he said.

Nicholas said he enjoyed the experience. “I liked hearing all the people from all different states and countries,” he said.

His father, Gary McPherson, said he has been a ham radio enthusiast since he was a kid and wanted to take his son to see the radio.

“I figured I’d give him a little exposure,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to get him away from this thing.”

McPherson said, nowadays, ham radio seems easier because people can use a computer to look up the “handles” — the identities — of the people with whom they are talking.

Jerry Murray, also a member of the Schenectady Amateur Radio Association, said they do the kids’ days twice a year in January and June.

“Some are shy and some you can’t get their hands off the [microphone],” he said.

Murray said on Sunday the radio enthusiasts were able to contact people from Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, California and even Ontario, Canada. He said the next time they hold the event, he would like to get a map of North America and track all the locations.

Pazzola said the number of ham radio enthusiasts experienced a downturn in the 1990s.

However, he said he believes there has been a surge in interest since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Cellphones did not work in those situations.

“Ham radio is the primary method of communication,” he said.

He estimates that about 800,000 people in the U.S. are ham radio operators now. Also, children are getting more interested because they hear reports of other students across the country using them to talk to the astronauts on the space shuttle at the International Space Station.

Eleven-year-old James Carola, a 6th-grader from Mechanicville, said he happened to be at the museum and heard others talking about the ham radio set-up downstairs. He had to see it for himself.

“It’s fun. You get to talk to other people,” he said.

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