Jamboree organizers Greg Kear and Edward Vandeyck set up a 100-foot-tall radio tower for the annual jamboree at Camp McLean. (Dan Ferguson/Black Press)

Langley youths connect to the world at annual Scouting radio event

Local kids learned about ham radio, Morse code and other communication methods from bygone days.

Lower Mainland Cubs, Girl Guides and Scouts learned about the vintage technologies that save lives in emergencies, when they gathered for the JOTA-JOTI communications weekend.

Since 1957, kids in the Scouting and Guiding movements have participated in JOTA-JOTI, using ham radio, Morse code and other communications methods.

Jamboree On The Air and Jamboree On The Internet (JOTA-JOTI) is the largest Scouting event in the world with over 1.8 million Scouts participating across 150-plus countries.

Locally, they spend the weekend at Camp McLean in South Langley, reaching out to the world.

In an age when kids have technology always at hand, the event still managed to grab their interest.

“For the younger crowd the emphasis was on the demonstrations, which included tin can and string communications, a basic experiment that was previously unknown to them,” said John Schouten, one of the adults who provided the technical expertise for the event.

One of the highlights was before the kids got to communicate.

“By far the highlight for all age groups was a show of our air cannon, used to launch a weighted tennis ball over the tall trees for erection of wire antennas,” he noted.

Natural and human-made disasters often leave people without high tech such as computers, cellphones and the internet.

Ham radio provides reliable communications around the world and even to the International Space Station. The kids heard ham radio stations in Italy, Mexico, Brazil and Hawaii.

The kids learned about amateur radio, UHF and VHF communications, Morse code and the phonetic alphabet (Tango, Whiskey, Hotel), and even a chat with the space station (allowed under supervised conditions at certain times of the day.

“Dave Sinclair VA7DRS hosted the Winlink station using a grab & go kit with a built-in modem to connect to the Telephone Pioneers Station in Burnaby on 145.090,” Schoutens added. “The Scouts enjoyed sending email from Camp McLean using VHF radio.”

The organizers also put on a technological fox hunt in which equipment was hidden in the camp woods and the young people had to use their equipment for the search.

“Feedback on the foxhunt was overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “The kids appeared to have great fun searching for strange objects hidden in the woods. Most groups were able to complete the challenge in well under the allotted hour. A change for next year might be to add another fox or two or increase the difficulty of the ones placed.”

The Surrey Amateur Radio Club, the Langley Amateur Radio Association, and the TELUS WiseR team volunteered their time to facilitate the event.

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