It takes a lot of courage and skill to teach a rowdy bunch of teenage boys. But, that’s just what Boy Scout and Amateur Radio enthusiast Cameron Gardner did last summer at Treasure Mountain Scout Camp. Although he had never taught it before, Cameron founded the Radio Merit Badge classes at the camp so he could share his passion for radio with his fellow Scouts.
Cameron got his start in ham radio with his whole family. His mother, Amanda Gardner, has been an amateur radio (also known as ham radio) operator for 20+ years, and her family followed in her footsteps. Now, five of her children are ham operators at the highest level.
Last summer was Cameron’s first summer teaching ham radio. Although he was nervous to teach his peers and had never enjoyed leadership positions before, Cameron bravely took this opportunity upon himself. He quickly became excited because he had a chance to share his passion with all of his fellow Scouts.
“I love the technical part of ham radio, just figuring it all out and seeing how far you can reach, so I was excited to share that with everyone at camp,” Cameron said.
As the only one with experience in ham radio, it was up to him to bring this fun and unique Merit Badge opportunity to Treasure Mountain Scout Camp. Not only was it Cameron’s first time teaching the Radio Merit Badge, it was also the Idaho-based Scout Camp’s first year having the Radio Merit Badge available. Because of this, Cameron had to come up with lessons all on his own. Talk about a big responsibility!
Amanda Gardner said about her son’s experience:
“Last summer was his first time teaching the Radio Merit Badge at camp. Before that he didn’t have much interest or structure at camp, so doing the ham merit badge allowed him to really take leadership over something. They had never taught ham [at Treasure Mountain Scout Camp] before so he had to come up with lesson plans and teach his fellow staff members as well. He really showed a lot of leadership in getting that set up.”
Although it was a lot to take on, this responsibility helped Cameron come out of his shell and step into a new role as a leader. It also helped him get more involved in camp and Scouting in general. Scouting has the great opportunity to help boys in this way because it provides so many individualized skills and talents they can work on, in order to make Scouting fun and personal. This was definitely the case for Cameron.
Now, Cameron helps run local emergency communications in his town and is part of a local ham club. He is also looking forward to Jamboree on the Air, a Scouting event that connects Scouts across the whole world through the radio.
What is Jamboree on the Air?
Jamboree on the Air, or JOTA, is the largest Scouting event in the world. It is held annually the third full weekend in October. This year, it will be held October 19th, 20th, and 21st. JOTA uses amateur radio to link Scouts and hams around the world, around the nation, and in your own community. JOTI, or Jamboree on the Internet is similar, except hosted on the internet.
Scouts of any age can participate, from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts and Venturers, including girls. Once at the ham radio station, the communication typically involves talking on a microphone and listening on the station speakers. However, many forms of specialized communication may also be taking place, such as video communication, digital communication (much like sending a message on your smartphone but transmitted by radio), or communication through a satellite relay or an earth-based relay (called a repeater). The exchanges include such information as name, location (called QTH in ham speak), Scout rank, age, and hobbies. The stations you’ll be communicating with can be across town, across the country, or even around the world! The World Scout Bureau reported that the 2016 JOTA had nearly 1.3 million Scout participants from more than 30,000 locations, and reached 156 countries.
In addition to being incredibly fun, JOTA and JOTI count toward Scouting requirements:
- For Tigers, this meets requirements for the elective adventure Family Stories.
- For Webelos, it counts toward the Arrow of Light adventure Building a Better World.
- Boy Scouts can check off a requirement for the Citizenship in the World merit badge and the Radio merit badge.
- All Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, Venturers and adult leaders can count the event toward the requirements for the International Spirit Award.
How to Participate
To participate, contact your local Scout council and see what may already be planned in your area. You can also contact a local ham radio operator or a local amateur radio club. You can find a searchable database of clubs at www.arrl.org/find-a-club
If you can not find any planned activities, you can either work with your council or local ham clubs to get something set up or arrange to visit a local radio operator’s ham shack at a scheduled time to participate in JOTA.
So, check out Jamboree on the Air or Jamboree on the Internet this year and make connections, complete requirements, and try something new!
For more information, visit the Boy Scouts of America’s JOTA page HERE.