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Stanford 'hams' take part in preparedness drill

STANFORD -- The Stanford University Amateur Radio Club, W6YX, unplugged and took to the great outdoors on Saturday and Sunday, June 22 and 23, as part of a national emergency-skills drill, "Field Day."

In the exercise, amateur radio operators, or "hams," across the United States and Canada set up temporary transmitting stations away from commercial power sources. The idea is to keep emergency skills sharp, since in the event of a major disaster, such as the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, hams may offer the only means of communication in many areas.

The yearly event is sponsored by the American Radio Relay League and also involves the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, which provides training and structure for coordinated response by hams during emergencies. Many members of W6YX also belong to the service.

The Field Day winners are the members of the club that makes the most contacts with other Field Day installations. Results of the competition, which attracted about 1,700 clubs with a total of 28,000 individuals, will not be available until later this summer.

This year, W6YX set up several transmitting stations in the foothills. Large beam antennas were mounted on top of abandoned telephone poles, and radios were located in a Volkswagen camper and on tables. All communications were carried out using battery power to simulate power-outage conditions.

W6YX members made almost 1,000 contacts over the weekend, said participant Edward Plumer, a graduate student in electrical engineering. They used a variety of operating modes including voice, Morse code and "packet" radio, which sends computer data via radio waves. Several club members also used OSCAR-13 (Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio), which was launched by the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation.

Besides providing emergency communications, Plumer said, hams routinely assist the public by providing communications for such events as marathons and parades. Most of the time, however, they enjoy their hobby by making contact with other hams just for fun. Using the club's radio station, W6YX members have made contact with hams in all 50 states and several hundred countries.

For more information about amateur radio and the Stanford club, call (415) 328-6462 or send electronic mail to w6yx@csli.stanford.edu.



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