Amateur Radio Operator

14 May 2020

Becoming an Amateur Radio Operator

The year 2020 has proven to be a challenging year for the world and is a time where everything is evolving rapidly. Many have lost their jobs due to the stay-at-home orders during this pandemic. Not only work has been affected — education and many other sectors as well. Amateur Radio found itself in a position for change and recently both the FCC and W5YI agreed to start doing remote testing.

It is no secret to those that know me that I’ve always wanted to be a HAM. When I was 6 years old or so, I remember the sounds in my living room from my father’s Galaxy DX-2517 and the different voices (sometimes in what seemed like a weird robot tone) that came out of it. I remember when my father put up the tower outside the house and the vertical antenna that sat on top of it. I was amazed by the contraption and how it made the radio box receive.

Fast forward to 2020. I went to visit my mother with my son in March and the day I came back was when the whole United States was put under lockdown orders. I was very bored as I had an extra two weeks due to the Minnesota Department of Health guidelines so I decided to look into getting licensed once more. I had looked into it earlier but even though there were talks nothing had been implemented yet. In my searching I came across a post from HamStudy and a link to their newly released tool for VEs to proctor the exams — “score!” I thought.

After some reading and many hours of studying, I signed up for the waiting list for the exams proctored by Todd Smith (N7TMS) from RexbugHams. I was anxious. I didn’t know what to expect. After a short while I received an email that I could sign up for a session and was given instructions to follow, so I went and signed up as instructed and awaited for my date and time. The night before I reviewed their requirements once more and then chose my area and set it up to be acceptable.

When it was time, I received a message from Todd and was logged in to the Zoom lobby. After some technical snafus, and a bit of waiting for the last session to finish up, I was brought into a Zoom meeting where I was introduced to the VEs that would be witnessing the exam session today. Formalities like identification, scanning of the area I chose to take the test in, and going through what I was there for (test for the Technician exam) Todd got my computer logged in to the test and we started. Every VE team is different, but in this case I had a web cam pointed towards me showing my desk, keyboard, and as much of my background as it would see. There was a second device, my phone, that was muted and set up to watch myself from a further point and could see myself, my desk, and surrounding areas. This assures that I am having no assistance with the exam. Honestly, taking the exam was the least of my worries.

Exam was done! Now came the time to get my results. Todd pulled up the results and PASS showed on my screen! They all agreed and attested that the exam was conducted true to the requirements and was told that due to the influx of exams they were operating slow. They were seeing an average of a week before a callsign was issued and they’d let me know when it was issued. I digitally signed the CSCE and I was told they would do the same from their end, that I would receive my CSCE copy via email shortly after the conference ended, and congratulations in getting my ticket. At this point I still couldn’t believe I did it.

I received the digital copies of the paperwork and today, May 14th, 2020, I received my callsign — KF0ACN. The local club actually saw my name pop up before I even noticed, and then later that morning an email from Todd followed with the callsign and congratulations.

In summary: this being somewhat experimental and with different teams having different rules, it still went fairly smoothly. The process itself was nearly as painless as getting the exam proctored physically. Thank you to Todd Smith (N7TMS), Michael Odom (KJ7FX), and Gary Aiman (K7GWA) for proctoring the test!

Next time, we'll talk about "Forget about how it HAS to be built... build it the way you want it and have fun."