JSC Student Interns @ JSC Shack

A record breaking 14 JSC Student Interns converged at the shack to attend the JSCARC sponsored “Soldering 101” training exercise.  This effort was coordinated by Curtis KI5RHQ, who is the Spring Semester Ham Radio Committee chair.  Whatever he did to promote this event, sure worked, and we attracted a large representation of students across Safety and Mission Assurance, Engineering, Procurement, Space Science divisions.

The success for this turnout was largely due to holding it on a Flex Friday as well as the timing near the end of the tour, where students are actively trying to “work in” last minute new activities before returning back to school. 

We kicked off the event with an Introduction to Ham radio powerpoint presentation given on the large screen monitor in the shack, followed by a “Soldering 101” presentation.  The group was split into 2 groups such that the soldering group in the Scuba Room could rotate with the group making 20m QSOs in the shack .

Many many thanks to Jeff AB4ME, Kelvin K5KGH (from our sister CLARC club), and the shy guy Jerry N5FWB.  Jeff and Kelvin managed the soldering event in the Scuba Room, while Jerry managed the on-the-air exercise in the shack. 

For the soldering activity, we’ve been using a packaged LED blinking light kit that I purchased in bulk from ebay several years ago.  It’s a simple 12 component through hole construction that has served well for teaching soldering.  Jeff and Kelvin reported that all of them got their PCB kit successfully working.  Besides a few solder reworks, miswires, and component lead issues, everyone one seemed excited and happy with their first soldering experience.  It should be noted that Jeff and Kelvin are extremely patient and encouraging instructors, and anchoring this cramped venue for over 2 hours was not unnoticed.

We exploited Jerry N5FWB, who arguably is one of the most friendly and gregarious ham radio operator in Southwest Texas!  Jerry graciously agreed to operate the Flexradio setup and manipulate unsuspecting hams during a QSO to help host unscripted conversations with our student interns.  Unfortunately, propagation was uncommonly poor, so we did not make any DX contacts, but we worked Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas- an odd skip pattern favoring the southern heartland.  One of the student interns, Liz, was hoping to work her homeland of Puerto Rico.  Jerry couldn’t find a KP4 station, but he did make a QSO with a US ham who was originally from Puerto Rico!  Upon this discovery, both the student and the ham contact began an excited and high spirited conversation in fluent spanish.  That was a lot of fun!

Jerry’s ability to instruct students on-the-fly while managing the interactions was awesome.  Patience and radio savvy is required to keep conversations going while also assessing band conditions and the willingness of the hams on the other end.  Many thanks to Jerry for helping play this role for the event.

John AB5SS, popped into the event carrying a show-n-tell box of his successful Pico Sat beacons, similar to the ones that recently circumnavigated the world (twice).  A few students were particularly engaged in this aspect of ham radio, and had the rare opportunity to speak with a ballooning expert regarding many “how to do” aspect of setup and operations.

All the while, our might student intern ham radio committee leader, Curtis, masterfully coordinated the students’ progress, took photos, and kept everyone engaged until the end.

Overall our event lasted about 3 hours.  A good showing for the club and hopefully leaving an impression on the talented student interns at JSC.


Introduction to Ham Radio (2022):  https://www.w5rrr.org/introduction-to-ham-radio/   (note:  Licensing now costs $35 for FCC application plus $15 for Exam Session Fee)

Soldering 101: Soldering 101 orientation





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