To the moon! (and back again)

So it would seem that my almost seven year-old daughter Jessica is really enjoying Amateur Radio. I just joined a local club, and she’s been attending meetings and events with me. This serves a dual purpose: it eliminates the need for a babysitter, AND it allows me to expose her to my newly rediscovered hobby. This past Monday, she came with me to the West Chester Amateur Radio Association’s August meeting. Knowing that the best defense against a cranky kid is ACTIVITIES, I came loaded for bear. Jessica was carrying a backpack containing a couple of books, a Nintendo DS, gummy worms, the toy from her McDonald’s Happy Meal, and her MP3 player. She was amazingly good, quietly and contentedly sitting there through the entire 90 minute meeting. Afterwards, she wanted to go up to the club hamshack and “play some radio.”

We went upstairs and Mike Braun (KB8ZYE) was kind enough to show her the ropes on working 20M phone. We contacted a Ham in the Honduras, and had a conversation with a gentleman working QRP portable from a Chicago city park. He was very nice, and stayed in the QSO with us long enough for all of the non-licensed folks to have a go at working the radio. When it came for her turn at the mic, Jessica played shy, but afterwards, she was very interested in tuning the radio, or “turning the big knob”, as she put it. She watched intently throughout, asked some really insightful questions, and was clearly taking everything in.

As we were getting ready to leave, we saw Mike Suhur (W8RKO) and Mike Murphy (KA8ABR) hanging around. They asked Jessica and I if we had seen the club’s satellite shack. We hadn’t, so they graciously gave us a tour. Mike & Mike showed us how they work the club’s 7.2 meter (24 ft) satellite dish.  The coolest part of the evening was when they asked Jessica if she wanted to bounce radio signals off the moon.

Of course, she did!  And even if she didn’t, her Daddy did!

Mike^2 showed Jessica how they had aimed the satellite dish at the moon, and let her key up the transmitter.  2.7 seconds later, a distorted echo of her press (just a tone) came back.  Now, this wasn’t good enough for Jessica.  She wanted to know how they knew it was HER radio signal that came back.  They said, “Ok…press the button in a pattern!”  So she did, and her pattern came back.  THAT impressed her…and the look on her face was worth a thousand tantrums.

I was all grins that evening and all the next day, until she told me, as she grinned from ear to ear, “Daddy, Ham Radio is my favorite Geek Hobby!”  I’m not sure…but I think that was meant as a compliment.  At any rate, she still wants to go to the next meeting with me, so I’m going to take it that way!

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