Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Natural Go-Together

Thought for the day:  Scoutmaster- The only way you boys can learn a new skill is to start at the bottom. Scout- But I want to learn how to swim!

[THEME: Amateur radio]

You know how to quiet down an otherwise boisterous Cub Scout? Tell him to say something on amateur radio. HA!

Oh, that isn't always the case, but it's happened often enough to make it funny. (With a little encouragement, even the most mike-shy Scout usually warms up to the task, though.)  Anyway, today I'm gonna tell you a little bit about JAMBOREE ON THE AIR, also known as JOTA.

A jamboree is defined as a joyful, noisy gathering, and when you throw a bunch of Scouts together, that's exactly what you get. JOTA combines the jamboree part with ... amateur radio. The idea is to teach Scouts about radio, and to get them ...

ON the air, as opposed to IN it.

JOTA was held for the first time back in 1957, when a British ham, G3BHK, came up with the brilliant idea. Now, it occurs every year on the third weekend in October, and to give you an idea of how popular this event is, in 2010, more than 700,000 Scouts participated from nearly 6000 amateur radio stations around the world. In addition to Scouts speaking via radio to other Scouts and earth-bound adults, astronauts sometimes get on the air with them, too. In 2010, astronaut Mike Fossum, KF5AQG, participated  from aboard the International Space Station.

Even though many Scout leaders are amateur radio operators, they still rely on the support and assistance of many non-Scouting hams from the community to help teach the kids about electronics and amateur radio, and to help them earn related badges, and even to learn what they need to get their amateur radio licenses.

Nate Maas, Scoutmaster of Troop 308 in San Luis Obispo, California, kindly allowed me the use of the following JOTA  pictures:

About to work on circuit boards.
One of their completed oscillators. 
Learning how to send TV signals via amateur radio.

Alex just talked to a Scout in Idaho!

Mitchell's ready to go fox hunting with his homemade antenna.

One of my favorite JOTA stories is about a Scout from Albany, Georgia. When a reporter covering  JOTA for the local newspaper heard that he'd gotten his amateur radio license a few days earlier, she asked  him what he thought about being a ham. He told her, I don't know yet.  I was only a piece of bacon last week. 

So, bottom line, you could say that hams and Scouts go together like ... bacon and eggs.


  1. I think I shall have to remain that bit of bacon, although I have used a mobile back-pack transmitter whilst doing 'officer-training'.

  2. I really like the pic of the code practice oscillator. Using a door hinge for a key is very very clever!

  3. So that's why Uncle Bert was still involved with the BS when he was in his 70s, and probably where all his equipment was when he died. He'd been an Eagle Scout in the 1910s. Thanks, Susan. Who knew this was going on? Not I.

  4. Yet another great skill for the Boy Scouts to learn. I bet they all have a blast. :)

  5. I hope they are still doing this when the Wee Man gets to Scouts level.

  6. Good idea. Keep those boys busy and out of the woods.

  7. I jealous.. girl scouts did not make radios, what rip off. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  8. Cro- It's never too late for a bit of bacon to aspire to ham-dom.

    Geo- Yeah, isn't that neat? You wouldn't believe some of the unusual things we've had kids use to make code practice oscillators. (AND how much fun the kids have annoying their parents with them.)

    Austan- Could very well be! I hope it makes you feel good to think about the possibility.

    Skippy- They do. They have an absolute blast!

    Delores- I hope they are, too. With as much interest as Scouts have in amateur radio today, I think the program will outlive most of us.

    Mr. C- It'll keep the boys busy, but it ain't gonna keep 'em out of the woods!

  9. Jules- I know what you mean. When I was a den leader and held meetings here at the house, I allowed our daughter (who was a four years younger than the boys) to sit in on some of our meetings. So she did and learned all kinds of neat things along with her brother and the other boys. She could hardly wait to be old enough to join the Brownies, but when she did, they didn't do ANYTHING nearly as fun and exciting as the boys. Talk about disappointing.

  10. How fun for them. What age does my son have to be to enter scouts?

  11. Rena- Thanks for stopping by, and for signing on as a new follower. I'll return the favor asap. Your son can join BSA as a Cub Scouts as early as first grade.

  12. I remember helping out in both Brownies and Cub Scouts for my kids. Yes, Cub Scouts was more fun.

  13. Arleen- If ya think about it, that really wasn't fair, was it? Girls enjoy doing so-called "boy stuff", too, doggone it. Our daughter loved learning and making stuff along with the Cubbies, and joining our field trips. The girls in her troop weren't at all challenged. Hopefully, that has changed, and GSA has as much to offer girls today as BSA does the boys.

  14. Yeah, if Brownies got to do cool stuff like this, I might have wanted to stay in it. I love the bacon comment! Hhahaaha!

  15. That sounds like such a fun thing in which to be involved. I'm thinking of how such an experience would permanently impress the fledgling imaginations of the participants. I actually feel jealous!

  16. I remember the jamborees when I was a Boy Scout. Lots of fun and great camaraderie.

  17. This is amazing. You've really opened my eyes. My hub was a Eagle Scout and had mentioned something about this but I had no idea it was this big.

  18. ... only a piece of bacon last week...

    Why I oughta...



  19. I wish my son got to do this when he was a scout! I just remember them working on model cars. Great line about the bacon! Julie

  20. Carrie- Yeah, our daughter might've stayed in if the Brownies did cool stuff like this, too. Seems like all the girls did was play in the back yard, eat cookies, and sing stupid songs. (At least some of the songs I taught the boys had nifty obnoxious noises in 'em ...)

    Suze- Yeah, I really think it makes an impression on the boys. At least, I hope it does. If nothing else, it plants a seed. And, hey! No need to feel jealous... YOU can get into the hobby just as well as THEY can.

    Stephen- Jamborees are such a cool way for boys to be boys ... and in a healthy, fun way, too.

    Kittie- Very cool that your hubby was an Eagle scout. Says a lot about him.

    Pearl- What can I say? Kids really DO say the darnedest things.

    Julie- Oh, yes. The Pinewood Derby. That's a lot of fun, too. Sorry your boys didn't get to participate in JOTA ... maybe their Scout leader wasn't interested in it.

  21. Good activity for scouts. I bet they love it.


  22. Janie- Yeah, most of them really do love it. Take care.

  23. lol at your method of quieting down a boisterous cub scout ;)

  24. Absolutely, hopefully it has changed. However, the girls are still selling those cookies and the boys are still racing those cars that their dads built.

  25. Lynda- Ve haf our vays. Thanks for stopping by. I do appreciate it.

    Arleen- Yep on the cookies, but when our son's troop was doing the cars, the dads had their own kits, and competed with each other. That allowed the boys more room to "do their own thing" and kept the over-zealous dads from taking the project over instead of simply teaching and guiding the boys. (And I'm not sure who had more fun, the boys, or the men!)

  26. My daughter would have absolutely loved this. She didn't last very long in the Girl Guides :-)

  27. Sarah- You're right; girls would, and DO, love this, too. Too bad the Girl Scouts/Guides aren't more aggressive in bringing this sort of thing to them.