A Model to Lift the Profile of Amateur Radio & Attract New Amateurs.
(an NZART paper presented at the International Amateur Radio Union R3 Conference Christchurch October 12th-16th October, 2009)
In November 2008 and again in April 2009 "ZL3 Radio Buildathon" events were held in Christchurch, New Zealand. This involved radio amateurs assisting people, who had no prior experience in electronic construction, to build working radio units.
The objectives for the events were:
Each Buildathon event was held in a local school hall on a Saturday morning.
Similar events have been held regularly in the USA, and more recently in Bath, UK. The local events were modeled on those organised by the Bath, UK, coordinator, Steve Hartley, G0FUW.
The first event attracted 27 participants, mainly local radio amateurs, their family, and friends. The project was to build TRF SW receivers designed by the doyen of modern day TRF's, Charles Kitchin N1TEV. The kits of parts were assembled in Christchurch.
The second event attracted 52 participants with many more participants from the general public. The youngest participant was just 10 years old, with the oldest being an 81 year old gentleman from Australia. Family involvement was very evident, including parents, brothers and sisters. The kit used this time was an MK484 broadcast radio imported from Australia.
Past Buildathon events have largely served those already involved or already interested in amateur radio or electronics. The objective of the local effort was to attract members of the general public, thus generating new recruits for the amateur radio service.
Publicizing both events was a challenge. A steep learning curve followed on how to create news, what really interests news media outlets, and how to gain their attention. After the first event copy and photographs were sent to community newspapers, local clubs and posted on a specially generated website. Coverage was achieved in Break In, and one local newspaper, (which would later prove its worth) plus half a page (with photos) in Practical Wireless magazine (January `09) UK.
Following the second event, reports appeared in Break In (May/June `09) and Radcom (April `09) UK, and again in the local newspaper. Associating the activity with World Amateur Radio Day (April 18th) attract a reporter from a local daily newspaper. On arrival to report the activity the reporter asked "Has amateur radio been overtaken by the internet?" This was the only negative on an otherwise very constructive day.
The Christchurch City Council, like many councils around our world, encourages safe, secure, and supportive communities. One method of encouraging this is to offer grants for worthwhile community initiatives.
David, ZL3DWS reports: "We attended two meetings with Council representatives to present our case. After the second meeting we were telephoned to ask if we would hold Buildathons for groups of 10-13 year olds and selected youth clubs. It seemed that both representatives had seen the newspaper report before the meeting and were impressed!" A substantial grant soon followed.
The key objective is to bring people together, Amateurs and the general public. The project need not be complex nor represent the latest in technology. These events sought to introduce new comers to "the smell of solder" and their "first project" while meeting kindly amateurs who could help them get started. That was the objective and the reward, an experience that would last a lifetime.
Full reports and photographs of the events are available on the ZL3 Buildathon Project web site at
NZART is confident that the model developed can readily be adopted and adapted by other Societies; and that the lessons learned will assist in the success of similar projects.
Building New Hams
These events are possible because of the tremendous support received from all NZART Christchurch Branches and CARDS, which in turn has helped secure a worthwhile grant from the Christchurch City Council.
Events will be held at Kendal School, Kendal Ave, Burnside, Christchurch on:
Children from throughout Christchurch, Waimaikariri, Selwyn and Banks Peninsula Districts have been invited as part of the CCC http://www.kidsfest.co.nz July school holiday fun program.
Come along and spark a kids interest in Amateur Radio and electronic construction.
For regular progress reports on the ZL3 Buildathon Project please visit:
David W Searle ZL3DWS: ZL3DWS@nzart.org.nz:03 358 2424::021 039 1764