UCSC ham radio club takes part in annual Field Day exercise June 22-23

Campus hosts amateur radio operators ("hams") on the East Field for public demonstration of emergency communications capabilities

Stephen Petersen operating ham radio

Electrical engineer Stephen Petersen, shown here at last year's Field Day exercises, established UCSC's participation in the national event in 2002 and has mentored students in the UCSC amateur radio club every year since. (Photos courtesy of Suellene Petersen)

antenna crew at East Field

An antenna crew consisting of UCSC students and staff set up a multi-antenna station on the edge of the Lower East Field for last year's Field Day exercises.

Faculty and students from the Baskin School of Engineering will take part in the annual Emergency Communications Field Day, a national exercise for amateur radio operators (often called "hams") on Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23. A Field Day site will be set up on the edge of the Lower East Field on the UCSC campus.

The general public is invited to visit the site on Saturday, June 22, from dawn to dusk, with radio operation beginning at approximately 11 a.m.

This is the 11th year that UCSC has hosted Field Day exercises. The UCSC Amateur Radio Club (ARC), informally known as the "Ham Slugs" since 2002, is soon to be formally recognized as a club compliant with the guidelines of the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The club received a small grant from the ARRL this year to help establish a ground station for use in amateur radio satellite communications.  

"The challenge of communicating with satellite stations is immensely intriguing for an engineer, and designing a ground station that is capable of being used by students to communicate with a satellite is even more enthralling," said engineering student Jason Ragland, current president of the UCSC ARC and president of the UCSC chapter of the Engineering Honor Society, Tau Beta Pi.

The ground station is an FCC compliant amateur radio station designed to communicate with other amateur radio stations via satellite. The UCSC team designed their own software to calculate the orbits of amateur radio satellite stations, track their locations, and control the ground station's antennas to point in the correct direction. The team is hoping to erect an antenna in a location where it will continue to be available for further student experimentation, Ragland said.

Students will participate in this year's Field Day exercise along with FCC-licensed faculty, staff, and outside advisors. Thousands of amateur radio operators around the country will be demonstrating their emergency communications capabilities during this national event. Ham radio operators provide essential communications during wildfires, earthquakes and other emergencies. During Field Day, amateur radio operators set up and establish field communications capabilities as an exercise to prepare for times of natural disasters and emergencies.

For more information about Field Day at UCSC, contact Suellene Petersen at (831) 335-2662 or K6CPA@arrl.org.