Hams have a field day

MILFORD – By last Sunday afternoon people all over the world knew the location of Milford’s Keyes Park.

That’s because members of the Nashua Area Radio Society worked over the weekend to set up generators, a 40-foot tower and a radio station to allow them to communicate with other ham radio operators.

It was an exercise in practicing skills they could use in a emergency when all other forms of communication are out of service.

It was also part of the biggest ham radio contest in New England, with the goal of seeing how many contacts they can make within a limited period of time.

The equipment they set up Friday and Saturday, allowing them to talk, through voice, Morse code and digital communication, to people around the country and around the world.

The club has 200 members, making it one of the biggest in New England.

“We are very dedicated amateurs,” said John Halbert of Nashua, who has been part of the club for nearly 40 years.

And dedicated they are. On Saturday night four of them stayed for the graveyard shift, taking turns sleeping and operating radios in the (somewhat) heated hut they created with tarps covering the park’s pavilion.

They made 1,145 contacts during the 24-hour period, including stations in 48 of the 50. states, 12 of the 13 Canadian provinces and territories and 12 countries outside the U.S.

“Our effort should put us in the top five of the stations that participated in Winter Field Day in North America and around the world,” President Fred Kemmerer said.

Keyes Park was chosen for two reasons, he said.

“First, we always like to do emergency preparedness exercises like Winter Field Day in a public place so that folks can learn about the Amateur Radio Service and our role in providing communications in emergencies. The second reason was the availability of a large, open area that had a pavilion that we could use to construct a temporary shelter.”

Another part of the Society’s mission is to advance STEM education.

At Hudson Memorial School last June, they took part in a simulated emergency while teaching kids how they communicate through a satellite in space. The students were able to talk for nine minutes with astronaut Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, aboard the International Space Station.

The summer field day will again be held at Hudson Memorial School and will likely be a much larger one, encouraging students and teachers to be part of the operation.

Unlike CB radio operation, ham radio operators have no age limit, and Keith Sangillo, 13, of Candia, was at Keyes with his father Saturday. Keith’s Boy Scout leader got him interested and then “I got my Dad into it,” he said, looking pleased.

Kathy Cleveland may be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.