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Amateur radio workshop coming to Scranton

Amateur radio operators and professionals will connect in-person and over the air waves with people from all over the world during a two-day conference in Scranton.

The University of Scranton is hosting the Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) Workshop on Friday, March 17, and Saturday, March 18. The workshop will include talks from prominent leaders in both the professional and amateur communities about radio science, space science and space weather.

Nathaniel Frissell, Ph.D., is an assistant physics and engineering professor. He received two grants to bring the workshop to Scranton. This is the first time the event is in Scranton. The 2023 theme is Forging Amateur-Professional Bonds.

Space weather, like auroras, surrounds the earth. It can impact the electrically charged portion of the upper atmosphere, which is what allows ham radio operators to talk to each other all around the world, said Frissell.

At the workshop, amateur radio operators — often called ham radio operators — will learn how their hobby can be used to study the upper and lower atmosphere and its connection to space.

"You're able to sit here on the ground and you're actually able to take measurements of things that are happening very far away from you," said Frissell.

Frissell, a Space Physicist and Electrical Engineer, said the systems they can study with ham radio can impact climate change, space travel and national security.

“You can't design spacecraft, you can't design satellite communications, you can't really understand how our environment works without understanding these connections," he said.

What Frissell finds special about Ham Radio is the ability to communicate around the world.

“We don't need internet service providers, we don't need satellite communications, we don't need a telephone company," he said, "we can just take one of these radios … you can connect it to a battery or to some sort of power, you throw an antenna up in the tree."

Friday, March 17, will be more of a standard scientific conference with a banquet at the Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel, said Frissell. Dr. Patricia Reiff, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rice University and founding director of the Rice Space Institute, is the keynote speaker.

The March 18 portion of the workshop will be held in the university’s Loyola Science Center. It will be interactive with tutorials and speakers. The Murgas and Scranton Pocono Amateur Radio Clubs will also work off two temporary antennas that will be put on top of the building for demonstrations.

“Someone who just doesn't know anything about this can walk in the room, be like what's going on, they can actually see a real ham radio station, they can talk to the people operating it," Frissell said.

Amateur radio license exams will also be at the workshop. HamSCI is an officially recognized NASA Citizen Science project.

To sign up, visit hamsci.org. The last day to register is Monday, March 6.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.

You can email Kat at katbolus@wvia.org