Spring 2007 Issue

The Orbital classroom

Education vs. Training

By Dr. H. Paul Shuch, N6TX

Mal Raff, WA2UNP, was already highly educated with a Ph.D. in astrophysics when at a recent conference Ed Cole, AL7EB (now KL7UB), trained him in the construction of microstrip low-noise preamplifiers. (N6TX photo)

Do you know the difference between education and training? Although the AMSAT mission includes both distinct components (see sidebar), because the two endeavors often overlap, they easily are mistaken for one another. The distinction is a subtle but important one.

As a gross oversimplification, you can consider education as the imparting of knowledge, while training involves the acquisition of skills. In the context of satellite communications, prior knowledge often is necessary before specific skills can be acquired. Conversely, prior specific skills often can enhance or accelerate the accumulation of knowledge. That is why AMSATís educational and training departments must work so closely together.

In AMSAT, educational activities fall within my purview as Director of Education. I am tasked with developing curricula and materials to help the classroom teacher use our satellites as educational tools. Often this has nothing whatsoever to do with completing a QSO, and everything to do with the inner workings of the satellite or the outer workings of its orbit. If you think the only purpose of an HEO (high-Earth orbit) satellite is to facilitate making DXCC, you are missing its educational potential.

Training within AMSAT generally involves helping hams operate the rig, track the bird, and make contacts. It involves manipulative skills and thus requires hands-on practice with real equipment. AMSATís training cadre is our growing network of volunteer Area Coordinators, organized through a structured Field Operations department, communicating largely through the Field Ops e-mail reflector. If you need a helping hand in making your station play properly, you can turn to Field Ops for swift and skillful training.

There is a great deal of overlap between these two distinct areas, however, so AMSATís educational and training departments collaborate extensively. As Director of Education, I often find myself helping a teacher figure out the operation of a particular rig in order for him or her to complete a classroom contact. Also, there are many Area Coordinators who have had to educate local hams in Keplerís laws so they could properly plug them into their tracking software. Perhaps this is why the two distinct functions become blurred in the minds of many.

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