The Bridge - Issue 2, 2019 - 7

Feature

Amateur Radio and Careers in Electrical
and Computer Engineering
Ward Silver (NØAX)

I stumbled on to amateur radio by finding a QST magazine (http://www.arrl.org/qst) in the library
sometime in 1966. A few years of collecting old electronic parts later, I was tutored on the Morse code by a
high-school friend and became WNØGQP in early 1972, later NØAX which is the call sign I hold today. Thus,
I launched on an electrical engineering career through the University of Missouri - Rolla (now the Missouri
University of Science and Technology) where I discovered both the campus Radio Club (WØEEE) and the
campus FM station (KMNR).
After college, I worked as a field and product development engineer in
several fields through 2001, then switched to teaching and writing. Today I am
a Contributing Editor for the ARRL in charge of the ARRL Handbook [1] and
several other widely read publications. At each stage of my professional career,
the experiences I gained in amateur radio have been invaluable. This article
explains why.

The ARRL Handbook. Cover image
used with permission of ARRL..

As newly graduated engineers quickly find out, the real world is a whole lot more
complex than the homework and laboratory projects in school. Those first few
years are crucial in getting up to speed and learning not just the technology, but
the profession. Any extra background or experience gives you an edge - so where
do you get it? That's where "ham radio" (amateur radio) comes in.

Fear of Knobs

Understanding Radio Frequencies

In working with new engineers and teaching electrical
and computer engineering laboratories, it's quickly
apparent who has some practical experience by the
way they handle equipment and materials.
An electronics hobbyist, ham or not, has little
hesitancy at the workbench. They lost their fear
of knobs long ago! Instrumentation, radios, power
supplies, cables, connectors - all are tools in their
toolboxes to be applied to the problem at hand. In
operating a ham radio station, there are a myriad
of adjustments and configurations with which to
experiment, getting nearly real-time feedback over
the air. Experimenters can build, test and use their
creations every day. The soldering iron, compiler or
drill press stays active and in use!

It's one thing to have a good understanding of
the many equations that describe communication
processes and signals. It's quite another to have a
visceral grasp of the physical phenomenon those
equations represent. Sidebands are a sine function
on paper and a blip on a spectrum analyzer screen
but on the air you can experience them by tuning a
receiver. MATLAB is great, but there's no substitute
for energetically adjusting a receiver to get rid of an
interfering sideband or intermodulation product that
is covering up a faint signal coming in from the other
side of the planet or reflecting off the moon!
Hams also get a great feel for how radio frequency
(RF) energy flows around and through equipment.
That "ground" conductor that works so well at 60 Hz
is more like an antenna at Very High Frequency (VHF)
and might even disappear entirely at certain

HKN.ORG

7


http://www.arrl.org/college-students-and-educators http://www.arrl.org/qst https://hkn.ieee.org/ https://hkn.ieee.org/

The Bridge - Issue 2, 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Bridge - Issue 2, 2019

Contents
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2019 - Cover1
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2019 - Cover2
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2019 - Contents
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2019 - 4
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2019 - 5
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2019 - 6
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2019 - 7
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2019 - 8
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The Bridge - Issue 2, 2019 - Cover3
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