WFU students will communicate with people around the world during amateur radio demonstration

The Wake Forest University Amateur Radio Club will host a short wave radio demonstration to celebrate World Amateur Radio Day on April 18. It will be in Reynolda Hall, Room 101, from 1-4 p.m.

The student group will use IBM ThinkPad laptop computers to control their radio communication as they contact fellow operators around the world.

“The demonstration station will use computers to control the radios through a digital process that was developed only a few years ago,” said Ken Hoglund, a professor of religion at Wake Forest and the club’s advisor. “This technology is at the cutting edge of communications innovation.”

Operators follow a frequency spectrum on the computer screen that tracks the strength of different frequencies in contrasting colors. This helps them adjust their radio controls to keep signals steady using visual cues instead of only audio ones.

Sophomore Chris Plumblee, the president of the Wake Forest club, hopes to attract more students to the hobby through the demonstration. Depending on the weather and various conditions in space, the students may be able to send and receive signals from anywhere in the world.

Hoglund said amateur radio is gaining popularity with young people thanks to
movies like “Frequency.” Another draw, he said, is the opportunity to do public service via radio communication. Radio operators often help the weather service gather information during emergencies and help law enforcement agencies during natural disasters.

Plumblee used his radio to help coordinate the volunteer relief effort after a 1999 flood washed through Tarboro, his hometown. In recognition of his continued public service and leadership in the radio operators community, Plumblee has been nominated for the national Hiram Percy Maxwell Award. The national award annually recognizes one operator age 21 or younger that demonstrates technical achievement, leadership and public service, and recruitment and training of new operators.

“I believe that amateur radio can be an important resource available to Wake Forest,” Plumblee said. “It’s an important resource not only from the purely recreational standpoint, but also because amateurs are able to provide emergency communications. This demonstration station is really our first chance to show our capabilities to the campus and community as a whole.”

For more information on the demonstration, call Hoglund at 336-758-5120.

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