Two Cottonwood students are Socorro’s new amateur radio operators

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Cottonwood students Matthew Price and Abby Cadol passed their ham radio operator tests after studying the full school year with Jon Spargo.
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Two young Socorroans are newly licensed amateur radio operators, thanks to an after-school program at Cottonwood Valley Charter School and their own hard work.

Matthew Price, 10, a fifth grader, thought why not try becoming an operator since his whole family on his dad’s side is licensed.

“It also has a lot of electrical components and stuff, so if you choose to be an electrician, you get a little basic knowledge of fuse diagrams, a little electrical knowledge,” Price said.

Price and 11-year-old Abby Cadol had to learn about ham radio rules and safety – patterns, fuse diagrams and how to avoid being electrocuted. They also made their own antennas.

“I’ve always thought walkie-talkies were pretty cool, so I was kind of excited to learn that it’s like a long-range walkie-talkie,” Cadol said.

The pair practiced answering questions every Tuesday after school with ham radio enthusiast Jon Spargo to prepare for their amateur operator license test. This is the thirteenth year of the amateur radio group, which is open to sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Fifth graders are welcome if they can handle some simple algebra.

“It’s a hobby, but unlike a lot of other hobbies, it’s a hobby with community service in mind,” Spargo said.

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service has an agreement with Socorro County that, in the event of a disaster, they will travel to the county’s emergency operations center and help equip the radios. Many hams belong to search and rescue groups, local hobbyists have participated in mock disaster drills helping the ambulance radio and law enforcement radio talk to the hospital, and they competed in the annual Striders and Riders triathlon. Amateur radio operators communicate when the racetrack is clear and are ready to broadcast in the event of an emergency on the course.

“It turns out there are over 100 ham radio operators here in Socorro,” Spargo said. “It’s one of the highest densities of any community in the country and it’s made up of people from the VLA, Tech, White Sands Missile Range and other organizations in town. There’s just a lot of hams here.

About 15 to 20 of these amateur radio operators earned their license through the after-school program.


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