Ham radio operators show kids their stuff

Lawton_Amateur radio operators are often the eyes and ears for the rest of us when disaster hits. They're better known as "Hams," and students at Park Lane Elementary in Lawton had the opportunity to meet some of them on Tuesday. Local Ham radio operators from Lawton Fort Sill teamed up with Comanche County Emergency Management and 7News Meteorologist Dan Zarrow, to teach kids the basics of amateur radio, and the life saving role a Ham can play.

Amongst Ham radio operators, there are some who report storms, others report emergencies, and even more who just do it for a hobby. The 7News weather team relies on Ham radio operators in a big way when there's severe weather, too.

Kids at Park Lane learned how to talk on the radios, along with the history of morse code, and when it's appropriate to use it. While the students learned "lots of cool stuff" about Ham radio, most importantly, they learned how the operators help in emergency situations. "It's a very important part of what we do to track all those thunderstorms," says Dan Zarrow.

The students learned how emergency management uses Ham radio in disaster situations. Emergency management representative Clint Wagstaff showed the kids where each category of radio is - the bottom is assigned to Ham radio, the top is for police and fire departments. Wagstaff says emergency management uses the radios to make contact during situations such as tornadoes or wildfires - and, the kids even got to try it out for themselves.

A local storm spotter brought his vehicle - equipped with real time radar data - for the students to see. Along with that, the kids learned that since Hams rely on radio waves to communicate, the weather can make it difficult. "'Cause they said the weather has to be a right weather for them to send their signal out," explained on student. But, on a clear day, a Ham operator in Lawton can talk to a Ham nearly anywhere. "They can talk to anybody in the world, like Jamaica and Japan," said another pupil.

Raymond Gill organized the event and is thrilled it took off - from speaking to a single class, to Tuesday's big event. "This is a real fun hobby," he says. "To bring it in to the elementary school - to bring it into any school - is actually a huge accomplishment, especially for the W5KS Club."

It was the groups plan to contact the International Space Station, as it passed over head, as a special treat for the kids. But, since it was an overcast day with storms rolling in, there would have been too much interference.

If you would like more information about the local Ham radio operators, if you would like to have them at your school, visit their web site at www.wx5law.com.