June 22, 2022

Amateur Radio Field Day Is Open to the Public

HAMMING IT UP: Greg Mauro, president of the Delaware Valley Radio Association, examines a newly built antenna at the club’s radio station in West Trenton, where he and other ham radio operators will gather this weekend for the annual national Field Day of the ARRL (American Radio Relay League), making contact with operators from all over the world over 24 hours.

By Anne Levin

Before social media, there was ham radio. As far back as the late 19th century, amateur radio operators from different parts of the world were chatting with each other — by voice. In more recent years, they have built their own networks with radio technology.

This weekend, some 40,000 “hams” from all over the U.S. will test their skills at the annual AARL (American Radio Relay League) Field Day. Among them are the Delaware Valley Radio Association, which is based in West Trenton and counts several Princeton residents among its 120-member ranks.

From 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 25 to 12 p.m. Sunday, June 26, at their clubhouse adjacent to Trenton-Mercer Airport, these amateur radio operators will be setting up portable radio stations on emergency power, and trying to have as many conversations as possible with others around the country. The public is invited.

“We encourage the public to come and take part,” said Greg Mauro, an electrical engineer who serves as president of the club. “It’s a great hobby. We’re hoping to attract more young people, and all are welcome.”

Field Day dates from 1933. The annual gathering has become one of amateur radio’s most popular organizational events. Participants cart their gear outside to see how well they can communicate with each other in the elements, and in less-than-ideal conditions.

“We demonstrate emergency preparedness,” said Mauro. “The idea is to set up a station remotely, without access to commercial power. So we run two stations, pitch tents, and run off a generator. We hang antennas between the trees. It’s all temporary, set up in the wild, so to speak.”

The gear is assembled and tested just prior to the start of Field Day. “It’s a quasi-contest where you try to communicate with as many other stations doing the same thing,” Mauro said. “It’s part contest, part campout, part club gathering, and an instructional event.”

Regulated by the government, amateur radio a hobby that has its basis in the beginning of radio. Operators need to get a license to participate. The emergency preparedness aspect is key. “It supports some agencies like the Red Cross,” said Mauro. “In countries where there isn’t a lot of infrastructure, such as Haiti, it can play a big part when there is a crisis.”

The Delaware Valley Radio Association’s “shack,” as they call the clubhouse, has a fully equipped station with several towers and different kinds of antennas. A large satellite dish bounces signals off the moon. It is among the small percentage of clubs that have a clubhouse and a station. Monthly programs include seminars on how to build circuits and antennas, and operate different communication modes.

“Amateur radio operators are from every walk of life — men and women of all ages, in every corner of the world,” reads a press release about the event. “They share a passion for experimenting and engineering ways to transmit voice, data, and pictures over the air, near and far. They’re creative, resourceful, and ready to improvise, especially in emergencies.”

For more information or to participate, visit w2zq.com.