Urgent Matters

RCA's big heart could use more financial support

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The Radio Club of America, which will conduct its annual technical symposium and awards banquet next week in Orlando, could use financial support from the industry to fund scholarships and other efforts to help young innovators realize their potential.

Next week, the Radio Club of America will hold its annual technical symposium and awards banquet in Orlando on Nov. 23. It’s a terrific event, one that I look forward to attending every year. If you haven’t already made plans to attend this year’s event, I urge you to do so—I guarantee that you will enjoy the experience. There’s still time, as the RCA is taking reservations through next Monday. (Click here for more information.)

After last year’s event, I wrote about Erin King, the RCA’s 2012 Young Achiever award-winner, who offered a presentation during the technical symposium on a project she put together as an incoming freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she is studying electrical engineering and computer science. King launched a high-altitude balloon into near space that was outfitted with a Go Pro camera that captured HD images of Earth, images that were then transmitted back to King’s base station by radios that were part of the payload.

To paraphrase radio and television legend Art Linkletter, kids do the darndest things, don’t they? I got such a kick out of King and her presentation that I’m eagerly awaiting the presentation scheduled for this year’s symposium that will be delivered by two New Jersey high-school amateur radio operators—Devlin Murray and Chris Blackwood—entitled “Combining robotics, amateur radio and public-safety emergency services.”

Murray and Blackwood were discovered by Carole Perry, who heads up the RCA’s youth activities. She had been invited to visit Warren Hills High School in Warren County, N.J., to give advice to members of the school’s radio club; a friend of hers is a club advisor.

When I spoke to Perry a few days ago, she gushed about Murray and Blackwood, which is understandable, because Perry pretty much gushes about everything, especially when it concerns young people embracing amateur radio.

“People asked me how I was going to top Erin King,” Perry said. “Well, I think these two young [people] are going to blow you away.”

Perry was so impressed by what she saw when she visited the high school, she decided to sponsor Murray’s and Blackwood’s participation in this year’s Dayton Hamvention, one of the nation’s premier gatherings of amateur-radio enthusiasts that is conducted annually in Dayton, Ohio, and has been organized since 1952 by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association. These sponsorships, which are paid by the RCA, are doled out several times each year to lucky recipients; Perry told me that the typical stipend, which covers the recipients’ travel expenses, is about $1,000.

“When I saw what they did there, I decided to invite them to come to the technical symposium,” Perry said.

As it turned out, Perry’s wasn’t the only set of eyes that Murray and Blackwood captured in Dayton. A week later, Perry received a call from a patent attorney, who also happened to catch their act.

“He asked for their contact information, because he thought what they are doing is patentable,” Perry said. “The last I heard, they were working with them. How neat is that?”

Perry went on to tell me about her recent travels—she’s been at six events in the past 2-1/2 months, most recently the ARRL Midwest Convention in Lebanon, Mo., near Kansas City, which was held last week.

“We need to keep the youth activities going,” she said.

I asked Perry what she needed to do that, and she didn’t hesitate with her answer: “Money.” At a thousand bucks a clip, sponsoring young geniuses like Murray and Blackwood tends to deplete the coffers quickly. But the youth activities are not the only outreach that the RCA does. There’s also the college scholarship program that is overseen by John Dettra. That program makes it a little easier for awardees to get the education they need to fulfill their potential and, in some cases, meet their destinies.

Next week during the banquet, there will be an opportunity for those in attendance to make a financial contribution to either or both of these worthy programs. I hope attendees will do so, generously. I also hope those reading this column but unable to attend the banquet will reach out to the RCA directly. I’m sure they’ll be happy to take your call.

Should Murray and Blackwood be fortunate to win a patent and make oodles of money from whatever it is they’re doing, it will have been the RCA that put them on the path to their destinies.

I think you would agree with me that such a thing would be, indeed, pretty neat.

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Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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