Amateur radio a hobby for youth

Hans Tonseth identifies himself with his call sign on an amateur radio frequency Jan. 24. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

 

By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

Sam and Hans Tonseth with their amateur radio equipment. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

Ten-year-old Hans Tonseth of Waterville first developed an interest in amateur radio by participating with his dad Sam Tonseth, a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy, who is licensed as a general class operator.

“You could talk to people,” Hans Tonseth said of the appeal of the hobby.

This appeal kept Tonseth studying for about a year to obtain his entry level, or technician class license, last September. The exam covers radio theory, regulations and operating practices. It allows amateur radio operators — or HAMs as they often refer to each other — to communicate on frequencies regionally and nationally. It also gives some access to bands of radio frequencies used for international communications. The distance an amateur radio operator’s signal may travel depends on conditions such as weather and time of day.

Since being licensed, Tonseth made contact with people in various parts of the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Brazil and Chile.

His mother, Heidi Tonseth, said that he was especially proud to have been able to make contacts in Brazil and Chile even before his dad had done so.

Tonseth checks into certain amateur radio networks or “nets” almost every day. These are on-the-air gatherings of amateur radio operators. He and his dad also check into the “Tuesday Night Net” of the Apple City Amateur Radio Club each week. On the net, operators exchange information such as weather conditions and give club information.

Hans and Sam Tonseth have attended a club barbecue and are hoping to attend the club’s hamfest at the Dryden Gun Club in June.

Asked about the importance of amateur radio in this high-speed information age, Sam Tonseth said that amateur radio operators have important roles when there is an emergency that shuts down power, telephone lines and internet connections.

During the 2014 Carlton Complex Fire, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office repeaters (mountain top communication relays) were off the air, but amateur radio operators had backup power systems that allowed them to help the sheriff’s office relay emergency communications.

During the 2017 hurricane in Puerto Rico, amateur radio operators accompanied the American Red Cross and set up a station at each hospital for emergency communications.

The hobby is fun for amateur radio operators, but also helps them prepare to serve the public in times of emergencies. Operators stay in touch and regularly practice providing emergency communications services.

Hans is already making plans to take the exam for the general class license. With that upgraded license comes increased operating privileges and the use of frequencies that will open the door to more world-wide communications. He’s looking forward to making contact with people in other states and countries.