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Radio enthusiasts given an opportunity to hit the airwaves

Talking to astronauts in the space station, chatting with a businessman in Russia and swapping stories with a teacher in Australia is easy when you are a HAM radio operator. Even with today's technology, including cellular telephones and Internet, there is something special about the human contact that HAM radios bring with them.

Next week, people from throughout the Yakima Valley will have a chance to earn their own space on the airways. The Lower Valley Amateur Radio Club is sponsoring exams for technician, general and extra class licenses, plus code tests, on Tuesday, March 15, at 3 p.m. at Housel Middle School in Prosser. The cost of the exam is $14.

President of the Lower Valley Amateur Radio Club, Jim Martin, explained that passing the exams makes it possible for a person to earn a federal license for use of certain radio frequencies. He said the Federal Communications Commission requires all radio operators to have a license. Martin said the technician license is the first license a person can receive. After passing that exam a person can move on and test to upgrade to a general license, which gives them access to more frequencies. Martin said after receiving a general license a person can then choose to take the test to upgrade to an extra class license, which brings with it privileges on all amateur radio bands.

The reason the test is being administered in Prosser is because a group of students at Housel Middle School have been studying to take the technician class exam. Martin said the students are planning on starting a HAM radio station at the school. He noted that the equipment for the station was donated by the Amateur Radio Relay League, which is a national amateur radio organization.

Martin said once the students take the exam for their technician class licenses they will be able to connect with other HAM radio operators around the world. He added that he believes once the students have passed their technician exams they plan on continuing studying to take their general license exam.

Those who are interested in HAM radios and getting their first license or upgrading to their next license can find help through the Amateur Radio Relay League. Martin said books are available through the organization to help people study and prepare for the exams.

Anyone interested in learning more about HAM radios is invited to attend a meeting of the Lower Valley Amateur Radio Club. Martin said the club meets on the first Thursday of every month at the fellowship hall of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Grandview. For more information about the local organization or to learn more about taking the licensing exams contact Martin at 830-4158 or 839-3335.

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