For 24 straight hours, Reid Crowe sat in a stuffy room on the third floor of Learned Hall on Kansas University’s campus and talked to people all across the country.
Crowe, a recent KU graduate, was one of about 15 amateur radio operators who participated in the national Field Day competition at the KU station during the weekend. The operators, known more commonly as hams, attempted to contact as many other amateur operators in the United States as they could in the 24-hour timeframe. The hams also simulated a disaster situation, running everything with a power generator.
Ken Kopp, district emergency coordinator for Northeast Kansas Amateur Radio Emergency Service, said amateur radio was the only radio service that would function when other means of national communication failed.
“Field Day is our chance to practice our disaster communications readiness under those types of difficult situations,” Kopp said.
Crowe has operated radios during emergency weather events, but was drawn to the hobby by stories of hams talking to people all over the world. Crowe has talked with other hams in places such as Antarctica, South Korea, Ethiopia and Kyrgyzstan. As proof of contact with other stations around the world, Crowe collects the information cards the stations send him.
“I think it’s a great hobby because you can put as much or as little into it as you want and still get a lot out of it,” Crowe said. “There’s a place in the hobby for just about everybody.”
Crowe turned knobs and pressed buttons Sunday morning, scanning the radio frequencies for other users. His efforts were rewarded when he successfully found an operator in Alabama and recorded contact No. 564 for the University of Kansas Amateur Radio Club.
While the club’s participation numbers were down for this year’s event, Crowe said ham radio operators have been making a comeback nationally. More than 33,000 hams across the country participated in last year’s Field Day competition, a record number for the annual event. Crowe said he hoped the record would be broken this year.
“A lot of people argue that amateur radio is old and dying,” Crowe said. “But in this month alone we’re already at the number of new hams in the U.S. that we were at the end of the year last year. It seems to be making a resurgence.”
Crowe said the results of the competition take about six months to compile and verify.