Spring 2008 Issue

Amateur Television for Fun and Education

Amateur Television
in Math and Science Curricula

By Miguel Enriquez, KD7RPP

Miguel Enriquez, KD7RPP, is a mathematics teacher at Pueblo Magnet High School in Tucson, Arizona. He is using ATV to create enthusiasm among his students for their studies and amateur radio.

Pueblo Magnet High School is located in the most socially and economically depressed area of Tucson, Arizona. The daily challenges the students face at the school are many of the same trials and tribulations found in many other high schools in this nation—drugs, violence, low achievement scores, and a high dropout rate. Early in the 2005–2006 school year I started an amateur radio club at Pueblo Magnet High School. I had tried other approaches to bring life into the math classes I was teaching, but had been unsuccessful in getting the students’ attention or their participation.

As I was teaching a class in August 2005, my handie-talkie went off. Through the magic of one of the local repeaters, my students heard the caller identify her location as Show Low, Arizona. The students stopped listening to my lecture and they began to pay attention to the friendly voices on the radio.

Taking advantage of the unexpected teaching moment, I held up the radio in order to improve the signal reception so that the students could better understand the conversation taking place. The effect this QSO had on the students was priceless. Right away they wanted to know why my cell phone looked “funny” with the strange antenna. They next wanted to know why I was listening to the conversation when it obviously was not intended for me. They next speculated that perhaps I was a spy working for the CIA.

After I had explained to them that ham radio is probably the best hobby in the world because it allows any one of us to communicate with practically anyone else on the face of the Earth or onboard the International Space Station (ISS), their first two questions were: “Where is Show Low?” and “What is the International Space Station?” This magnificent opportunity demonstrated that I now had their attention, their curiosity was piqued, and they were participating!

From that day on, I began to talk about ham radio as part of the math curriculum. By the end of that first week I had students asking me how they could become radio hams. Next, I began talking about electrons, frequencies, resistors, and bands. They paid attention.

Now it is important to share with you that I am neither a religious person nor a person who expects miracles of any kind. Even so, somehow, for some unknown reason, the students began to perform better in their daily math assignments and in their exams. Bear in mind that 94% of my students are Hispanic and that many of them struggle to learn even the most basic concepts. However, my math students now show the highest benchmark scores in algebra in the school district.

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