Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Teaching how to use the GOTA station

One of the things that I saw countless times was people sitting in front of the GOTA station, and choking. There is the common example of a kid sitting and just not knowing when to make a contact, or tuning the dial on the slowest knob endlessly, hoping to find someone to talk to. I've seen people respond to a CQ by saying CQ themselves. Bottom line is, how can we improve the quality of contacts for the GOTA station, so they have fun, make contacts, and a line can move through efficiently?
I feel the best way to accomplish this is to have a set of two classes. Previously, I had mentioned that there are two groups of GOTA users, one who simply wants to sit down and make a contact, and a second group who wants to get 20 contacts for the 20 bonus points. As these are really two very different groups, two different methods is required to make them work.

For those just wanting to make a contact or two, here's what I would do. Some of this is based off of an exercise from the Boy Scout Radio Merit Badge. Ideally, this should be run with about 5-6 people, run as often as can be done. After completion of this activity, they should get in line to use the GOTA station. It isn't absolutely required to do this to run the GOTA station, but should be strongly encouraged

The basic idea is that you either sit everyone down in a circle, or you give them a FRS radio (FRS so you don't have to worry about call signs, as most of these people are unlicensed). Assign everyone a call sign. If there are slightly older kids, they might enjoy if you give them a foreign call sign, just for the fun of it, of their choosing. I know several kids got a kick out of being from Cuba, Russia, North Korea, etc, and the key is for them to have fun. Have each of them practice calling CQ, and responding to the CQ, using the field day exchange. I would have them each call CQ at least twice, and respond at least twice. They could log the information on a paper log, or otherwise change things. Hopefully, this will help them to learn how to respond to a CQ, and call CQ, two valuable skills.

Another activity that could be beneficial is to practice tuning the radio before they sit down at the GOTA station. The best way I can think of to do this would be to set up a station, a poor antenna is okay, that can't transmit. Have them simply listen for a few stations, to get some practice tuning. You can even show them when they should respond to the CQ for maximum benifit.

Lastly, there is the advanced class. This should cover material from the above two, but be focused on calling CQ, and getting people to respond to you.

The goal of this is to help people not get as frustrated as they sometimes can, and to help them overall make more contacts. Remember, Field Day is fun! This should help to get some of the shyness away from the potential users, and help them to have more fun. Make this as fun as you can for the users, and they will want to come back for more.

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