Bishop, a 15-year-old student at Walker Valley High School, recently won the Hiram Percy Maxim Award given annually to a licensed radio amateur under the age of 21. Winners and nominees must be current members of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), which is the national association for amateur radio based in Newington, Conn.
To win the award, a nominee must make exemplary contributions to the community of amateur radio. Qualifications must include participation or leadership in organizational events at the local or national levels; technical achievement (such as building a radio or putting up an antenna); operating record (such as disaster drills and contests); recruitment and training of new amateurs and public relations activities (such as creating a ham radio Web page).
In July of 2006, Emily was appointed ARRL Tennessee Assistant Section Manager—YOUTH. In January 2008, she was appointed assistant director—YOUTH Delta Division, which includes Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. Since her first appointment as Assistant Section Manager, Emily has traveled to many hamfest and youth forums with the hope of sparking interest in amateur radio among young people.
The young radio operator has worked with the ARRL in the Youth Lounge of the Dayton Hamvention, which is the largest gathering of amateur radio operators in the world. She’s also conducted activities during the Huntsville, Ala. Hamfest and has traveled as far south as Melbourne, Fla. to conduct a youth forum.
“Amateur radio is a great hobby and one the whole family can enjoy,” she related. “I cherish the friends I’ve made since becoming a ham.”
The annual ham radio award is named after Maxim, co-founder of the ARRL. (Maxim is also noted as the inventor of the ‘Maxim Silencer’ for firearms and the muffler for gasoline engines). Maxim created the ARRL in 1914 when he saw a need to build up an organized group of ‘relay’ stations to pass messages by amateur radio.
According to Mike Bishop, there are three classes of licensed amateur radio operators — technical, general and extra class. Of his own radio beginnings, Bishop notes: “I used to do the CB (citizens’ band) radio in the 1970s. It was something fun to do. It amazes me you can take a radio and wire antenna and talk 2,500 to 10,000 miles away.”
Bishop recalled the time his daughter expressed interest in his penchant for communication. “I was talking on the radio one night,” he recalled, “and she (Emily) came and sat beside me. I was talking to someone in Italy. It was kind of fun to hear foreign accents. (Emily) asked me ‘Can I do that?’
“I said, ‘You gotta have a license.’ We left that day, a Saturday, to purchase her technical study guide. She took the test (including Morse code) four months later and passed it.” Emily was around 8 years old at the time.
“I talk to people and I give presentations on ham radio” Emily noted, adding that she’s done these things since she was 9. Through her radio hobby, she’s able to win scholarships. She won $1,500 along with her Percy Maxim award.
Emily and her dad have both operated radio for the Military Auxiliary Radio System, which is under the auspices of our country’s Homeland Security department. During Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, both were active in the emergency communication process.
“We took turns two hours at a time,” Emily’s dad said. “During Katrina, there was no electricity and no phones.”
But, he added, with just basic equipment, you can communicate by amateur radio.
“You can actually do texting on a ham if you set to keyboard,” he said.
The word “ham radio” is from years back, Bishop explained, when ordinary citizens were trying to communicate through Morse code and radio. Before that, the systems had been used mostly by railroaders. Because of the interference that resulted when regular citizens got involved, some railroad folks would make comments like, “‘There are those ‘hams’ again.’ It stuck.”
As amateur radio operators, Bishop and his daughter cannot accept money for the work they do, instead using the radio for fun and service to others. They see their hobby as a way to give back to the community. They communicate about weather conditions as well as local events like the Christmas parade.
Even when they’re not working, Bishop and his daughter enjoy communicating on the radio.
“I’m on just about everyday,” Bishop remarked. “It’s relaxing and I like to listen.” Emily’s on the radio “when I have time during the week and on weekends.”
Invariably, when she’s at school wearing one of her jackets with a radio logo, people ask about her favorite hobby.
Still, Emily wants to enter the medical field someday and is especially interested in learning to be a midwife. “I love babies,” she said.
People interested in learning more about amateur radio don’t have to spend a lot of money to get started. Bishop, a former Bowater employee, said a lot of money can be spent, but it’s not necessary.
Whether talking to people all over the world or nearby, Bishop believes ham radio is more reliable than just about any kind of communication. “Ham radio will never fail,” he commented. “Cell phones will fail, the Internet will fail ... but as long as you have a battery, a radio and a piece of wire, you can use the ham radio. It runs off of 13.8 VDC (Voltage Direct Current). You can run it off a generator. CBs won’t fail. You just operate under different guidelines.”
“You can even build your own antenna,” Bishop said earlier. “It’s made of steel with copper coating.” He noted that to talk on a certain frequency, you use a certain length of wire.
A frequency, research shows, is the rate at which a vibration occurs that constitutes a wave, either in a material (as in sound waves) or in an electromagnetic field (as in radio waves and light), usually measured per second.
The origin of the word “frequency” is from the mid-16th century, gradually superseding the late middle English “frequence,” originally denoting a gathering of people.
If this dad and daughter are any indication, people can make strong connections through radio and other forms of communication. “We have this hobby in common and it helps us get along,” Emily explained.
“It’s just me and Emily,” her dad added. “Emily helps me.”
“The biggest part of (amateur radio)” Bishop concluded, “is that it’s a way to give back. It teaches you not to look at yourself all the time.”