In early May, members of the Council Rock High School South Amateur Radio Club will go otherworldly for the third time in eight years by making contact with astronauts on the International Space Station via a Ham Radio hook-up.
Club members warmed up for the momentous occasion on a recent afternoon at the Northampton school by talking with fellow students and amateur radio enthusiasts from outside Pennsylvania. With the aid of adult technical advisors from various local amateur radio organizations, the CR South club members made radio contact with fellow students from Canada, Michigan, Tennessee and other places.
“It’s a good way for them to get some mic time and practice for the big event,” said Council Rock South Astronomy, Meteorology and Biology teacher Gerald Fetter, faculty advisor for the school’s Amateur Radio Club.
The May event is part of the ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) program which promotes learning opportunities as part of CR South’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiatives, according to a press release written and distributed by CRS freshman and radio club Co-President Taylor Arnosky.
Talking with astronauts in outer space again will mark a continuation of a landmark achievement by the CR South radio club members, Fetter noted.
“As far as I know, I think we’re the only school in the world that has done it more than once,” he said. “The ARISS program only selects a handful of schools around the world to do this, so we’re fortunate.
“I give all the credit to the students for pulling this off. The reason we’ve been able to do it more than once is the way they carried it out the first two times. I think we’re kind of a model on how it should be done, and that’s a credit to our students.”
The Arnosky release stated that ARISS is a joint venture by NASA, the Center for Advancement of Science in Space, the American Radio Relay League and the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation to facilitate communication via amateur radio between astronauts aboard the ISS and schools and communities around the world. The CR South radio club co-president, who has taken the lead on marketing the May event, is counting the days until the club brings outer space into the auditorium at CRS for the third time.
“I am so excited,” Arnosky said. “I am so pumped for this event. It’s been a lot of fun getting on the air and practicing.”
Council Rock South senior and radio club Co-President Matthew Floyd was equally enthusiastic. His older sister Laura Floyd started the Amateur Radio Club at the school.
“It’s a once in a lifetime experience, unless you’re us,” Matthew said of talking to astronauts on the ISS. “It’s really awesome to be teaching high schoolers about radio, and bringing the hobby to life and more focused toward all the people. I think it’s really important to bring this hobby down to high school and to future generations.”
The outside adult technical advisors Irwin Darack, Andy Vavra, William Ballantine, Michael Shanblatt and Joe Horanzy have been an invaluable part of the entire process and continue to be, said Fetter and the students. Darack, Vavra and Ballantine helped out at the recent prep session.
“The technical advisors are working with the students to teach them all the skills necessary to build a Ham radio station at the school,” noted Arnosky in her press release. “Under the guidance of the technical advisors, the students are learning how to assemble and operate the station, including making all the interconnecting cables, soldering connections and programming the software that will track the ISS as it passes overhead.
“The advisors are also working with the students and teachers at CRS to prepare for the Federal Communications Commission Technician Class license examination which will enable them to independently operate the equipment without supervision once licensed.”
The date of the May contact with the space station will be announced in late April, the release added.