JEROME • Magic Valley Boy Scouts dialed into an old but reliable mode of communication Saturday with the help of a ham radio club.
Before it was over, area Scouts had spoken to troop members in Wyoming, California and Portugal. For many of the scouts, it was their first experience with amateur radio.
“It felt weird,” said Hunter Muir, 10, a member of Twin Falls Troop No. 79, which made contact with a participating troop in Livermore, Calif. “We talked about the weather.”
The event at the Twin Falls/Jerome KOA Campground was part of a worldwide Boy Scouts Jamboree on the Air. Scouts from 100 countries were expected to participate.
Members of the Magic Valley Amateur Radio Club set up three ham radio stations at the campground and were eager to share their knowledge. Nearly 50 Scouts from the Snake River Area Council participated.
Ham radio might seem like a relic in the smart phone/Internet age, but area club members said the hobby is still relevant.
As scouts huddled around the radio sets, club members helped them reach others around the globe. With a turn of the dial, the sound of static suddenly turned to voices.
“We love doing stuff like this,” said Jim Kennedy, president of the Magic Valley club. “One of the reasons we were really excited about it was so we could get some young people involved in the hobby.”
Amateur radio has helped provide emergency communication during every major natural disaster in the past 50 years and will continue to be a factor, he said. Victims of Hurricane Katrina and the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti would have been “cut off from the rest of the world” if it hadn’t been for ham radio operators, Kennedy said.
“When all other communications fail, ham radio operators will still be talking to each other and providing communications for those in need,” he said.
Miles “Doc” Humphrey, the club’s vice president, used a mobile unit to reach other ham operators on Christmas Island in the Pacific and a group of Scouts in Portugal.
Helping Scouts connect with each other via the amateur airwaves is the whole idea behind the annual Jamboree, said Humphrey, who got hooked on ham radio in 1956 at the age of 15.
Amateur radio operators have a long history of helping Scouts learn radio communication skills. The Boy Scouts offered the first Wireless badge in 1918.
In some ways, ham radio has actually benefitted from the Internet, club members said. Radio enthusiasts often post instructional videos on YouTube, said member Michael Payne.
“YouTube is probably the biggest promoter of ham radio. The videos are actually very interesting to watch.”