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  • ARRL Youth Contesting Project to Turn Survey Results into Recommendations

    From ARRL de WD1CKS@VERT/WLARB to QST on Wed Apr 12 15:25:52 2017

    The survey results are in, and the ARRL "Youth in Amateur Radiosport Survey" project now is attempting to develop practical recommendations drawn from what it gleaned from some 1,350 survey responses. A subcommittee of the ARRL Contest Advisory Committee (CAC), the youth contesting project was charged with coming up with ways to interest young radio amateurs in Amateur Radio contesting. The survey showed that younger radio amateurs and even prospective hams are interested in radiosport, some enthusiastic about the competitive aspect and others seeing it more as a means to an end. The subcommittee hopes to leverage that general interest into specific youth radiosport initiatives, as has already been done in Europe. The 2016 survey drew responses from 226 individuals age 25 or younger - 188 of them licensed.

    "We defined youth as being in three age categories," said George Wagner, K5KG, the past CAC chair, who developed and heavily promoted the survey. "Thirteen and younger, which is mostly the elementary school age, then 14 to 18, the high school age, and then 19 to 25, being college or beyond high school and working age." The survey was open to all, including non-hams, and, as it turned out, the great majority of respondents were older than 25 - some much older.

    "We opened it to every individual, whether licensed or not and regardless of age, because we wanted a broad spectrum of answers," Wagner said, in explaining why the survey was not confined to younger participants. About 95% of those taking part in the survey were male. Of the 25-and-younger respondents, about 86% have been licensed fewer than 5 years. Youthful respondents mainly held Technician and General licenses.

    The survey showed that a lot of things compete for younger radio amateurs' interest, although some are related - including electronics, which topped the list, and Maker and DIY activities. Music also rated significantly. In terms of Amateur Radio, younger radio amateurs indicated a strong preference for HF phone, although they also showed significant interest in digital modes (53%) and more than a little in CW (31%).

    Among other things, younger hams said radiosport interests them because it provides a way to understand and improve their stations' performance. Others said they like the thrill of making contacts at high rates, or view it as a way to work DX, study and learn more about propagation, operate competitively, and earn award certificates and plaques. Some said contesting helps to prepare them for handling the higher volume of traffic they might encounter in supporting emergency or disaster communication.

    Under consideration are new contest types designed for beginners and newcomers - perhaps by restructuring existing beginner events - and HF competitions that offer better opportunities for Technicians to participate. Other potential proposals include a "youth overlay" sub-category for major contests, contest exchanges that are more meaningful than a quick signal report, embracing new technology, and tying in radiosport with social media.

    Time seemed to be a significant factor for some survey respondents, who indicated they'd like to see contest results more quickly and felt that on-the-air competitions could be shorter - or perhaps spread out over a longer period, with operation limited to a few hours each day. Real-time online logging was another suggestion, as was a periodic Youth Roundup.

    What did not interest the survey respondents about radiosport included such factors as a preference for ragchewing, cost, difficulty, and, topping the list, just not having learned to operate in a contest, which, Wagner said, opens a lot of opportunities to involve contesting among youth.

    International Amateur Radio Union Region 1 (IARU-R1[1]) this week announced plans to continue its Youth Contesting Program[2] in 2017, where young operators are invited to take part in a contest from Top Gun stations to learn operating procedures. This involves some cross-pollination of youthful radio amateurs visiting stations in other countries to engage in contests. Region 1 includes Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Northern Asia.


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