The Saturday night sky above Lawrence was clear, but it wasn't empty.
The University of Kansas Amateur Radio Club made sure of that by sending ham radio waves back and forth with some of the 35,000 amateur radio operators participating nationwide in Field Day.
The club set up at Learned Hall at Kansas University and participated in the event for 24 consecutive hours beginning Saturday afternoon. Field Day participant and former club president Brian Short said this weekend was the first time radio operators had participated in the exercise from the KU campus in approximately 20 years.
"It's a little bit of practice so we get to use our radios in the way that we would in times of emergency," Short said.
As part of the Field Day activities, ham radio operating stations around the nation attempt to make as many connections as possible with one another during the 24-hour period. Points are allocated to each group for every contact it makes with another station. The stations compete against each other within classes based on power and number of operators.
Despite this weekend being the KU group's first try in two decades, it enjoyed a good turnout. Short said 25 to 30 operators worked shifts Saturday, with 25 more expected Sunday.
"It's been a real challenge with the heat the way it was and with having to put up some antennas on the fly," Short said. "But now that the antennas are in place, it's cooled down a little bit, we've gotten into the groove, it's looking pretty good point-wise."
The radio operators had reason to participate aside from the thrill of competition. They were polishing their skills in case of an emergency.
"Amateur radio is the only radio service that functions when the nations communications backbone fails," Ken Kopp, District Emergency Coordinator for the Northeast Kansas Amateur Radio Emergency Service, said in a release.
At approximately midnight Sunday, the KU group had about 10 people in attendance and Short said he felt good about the team’s performance.
"We wanted to reactivate it to use it as a recruiting tool at KU,” Short said. “We hope to place toward the top of our division, maybe in the top five."