Home History of CARL Volunteer Information The Ham Shack Education Programs Activities and Events Visitor's Log Book Links and Resources Current Schedule Map and Directions Acknowledgements News and Information Home History of CARL Volunteer Information The Ham Shack Education Programs Activities and Events Visitor's Log Book Links and Resources Current Schedule Map and Directions Acknowledgements News and Information


Every shift at the Harkins Ham Shack brings a new experience. Each visitor enters the station with a unique set of expectations. The Volunteer on duty must be attuned to the visitor's attitude and find a way to move the demonstration along lines that create an impression that resonates with that visitor's world view. No one has suggested that this is an easy task.

        Some visitors are quite young. They would like to push buttons with no real concern for cause and effect. The idea of using that button for other than just the feel and click is alien to their experience up to that point. Timing, duration and rhythm must be introduced one step at a time, or the visitor never gets the message. Of course, no two youngsters are identical. To some, the idea of dits and dahs makes instant sense. Get on with my name! To some the mystery remains behind a cloud and the Volunteer/instructor plods on, hoping that somewhere along the line the concept will break through. That is why this Volunteer never invites a visitor to try Morse. Every one who stops in the Shack reaches some degree of success. So we suggest the they “do”, not just “try” (thanks, Yoda). That is, after all, what the signs say. “Do your name in Morse code”.

A family stopped at the entrance to the Shack. Typical nuclear family/ Father, Mother and two young girls. The girls appeared to be about 7 and 4. Under the gaze of the proud parents, the older girl took up a pen and proceeded too demonstrate that she could, indeed, write her name in the boxes on the form. That task completed, she followed instructions to use the button (key) too form the dit, then the dah, and, finally, combine them to form the Morse A. A little light came on in her eye. The parents glowed with pride at what their offspring had learned in that brief moment. Now the Instructor/Volunteer filled in the code for each letter of the girl's name, and she proceeded to do it. A pause for further instruction about the need to separate the letters. Then her name could be heard, in Morse of course, across the gallery. Certificate awarded. Sticker/badge (I sent my name in Morse Code) proffered and affixed, by her, to a prominent place on her blouse. Session done? Her voice is to soft to work on the radio, so we wait for her to leave. But not so fast! She insists that her young sister must do her name. Well, we are there to serve. How will we do that? No need to worry. Big Sister becomes the instructor! Fills out the code sheet with little sister's name. Asks the Instructor to fill in the code.

Shows little sister how to do the dit, then the dah. Guides her finger to make the Morse A. Then on to the name in Morse, guiding the little finger through it all. Hands the form over to the instructor for validation and certification. Peels off a fresh sticky badge and places it on the little sister's shirt waist. Looks up for approval! (which she did receive from all observers). So – is the mission complete?

Not really. Little sister has a stuffed animal that must learn Morse code. Big sister does the entire protocol again for that animal. Without complaint or hesitation.

The family seems reluctant to leave the Shack. What else can we do for them? We talk a bit about Ham radio and present some colorful flyers. Since they are Science Center members, we invite them to return for a refresher. As the family walks on to other activities in the area, the girls turn to show those new Morse badges to their parents. The day is off to a great start in the Harkins Ham Shack. (Hint – that Volunteer could have been YOU)

The Great Roof Repair Project may actually be complete! Not really sure, but it was to start the evening of 29 August. Unless the Cosmos has taken an unusual turn, that is a date in history. This is a project with many pieces and many performers/managers. Let us explain.

The City of Phoenix owns the building that house the Arizona Science Center. The roof also belongs to Phoenix. It has been up there in the Arizona sun for almost eighteen years. As is typical of flat roofs in this climate, it has developed a few flaws. The City wants to repair those flaws in order to protect the integrity of the building.  But Phoenix does not have roof repair technicians on its payroll. Phoenix has issued a contract for the work to an local roofing company. That company, in order to stay in business, has a backlog of roof jobs, each with its own problems and imperatives. This job apparently requires access to both the inside and the outside of the roof. Special equipment must be used inside, and some exhibits are in the wrong location for that to happen. The Arizona Science Center has a relatively small exhibit staff. Their job is to keep the exhibits in repair. This small, though experienced, staff must now move some exhibits in order to allow the roof repair contractor to get that large equipment into the correct location. One of those exhibits is a HUGE motorized preying Mantis. That does not belong to the Science Center! It must be moved very carefully. The Science Center wishes to stay in operation and not shut down.

When the Ham shack was first installed, it was on the Science Center second floor. At that time the decision was made to place the antennas on the roof! That roof now leaks and is the subject of the repair project. Back in the last century, the W7ASC volunteer corps was 20 years younger, fearless and nimble. The roof, the platform for the antennas, is about sixty feet off the ground. Access is ONLY via shaky ladder that is bolted to the outside of one wall. No other options exist. The building was not designed to be an antenna farm.

There is yet another factor. A crane is required in order to move equipment and materials up to the roof. A crane that can lift heavy stuff sixty feet in the air is expensive. It will be on-site for the shortest possible amount of time. The roof will be sealed and the crane and the contractor will leave.

Somewhere in this flurry of activity the Ham shack antennas will need to come down, be replaced and possible repaired. New cable will be pulled into place. Some of the original volunteers are now grandfathers. They have life insurance with “falling off of buildings” exclusions. Some have arthritis. The ranks of the available have thinned.

The above gives you some idea why we are unable to give you a firm schedule for Ham shack operations during this project. Volunteers will probably be there to teach Morse. EchoLink should work. There have been suggestions that we use mag mount antennas. Great idea, but the ham shack is all wood and plastic. We can reach the ARA network through the Chase tower repeater using a hand held. Count on the Volunteers to be resourceful! They are, after all, Hams!

73 de W4CIH Jean

jeanjol@hotmail.com  480-664-7353

For more information, please contact

Center for Amateur Radio Learning
at the Arizona Science Center

600 E. Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ USA 85004-2394
Tel. (602) 716-2000
Email: info4@w7asc.org

Copyright 2016. C.A.R.L. - W7ASC.org