UCSC Engineering Students turned amateur radio operators during this year’s Emergency Communications Field Day. Pictured left to right, with call signs: George H. Lane III (KJ6WKG), Stephen T. Martin (KI6KYN), organizers Bill Conklin (AF6OH) and Suellene Petersen (K6CPA), Jason Ragland (KJ6WLF) and Ivan Tenorio-Amador (KJ6WLB). Photo Courtesy of Sullene Peterson

If they are aren’t using the Internet, students can’t communicate with people around the world. One weekend after graduation though, UC Santa Cruz students engaged in a form of communication that when all else fails will still be operational.

From dawn to dusk on June 23 and 24, thousands of amateur radio operators participated in 2012’s Emergency Communications Field Day, a global event where “hams,” amateur radio operators, demonstrate their emergency communications technology to the public. At the Lower East Field at UCSC, Slugs were able to tune in to this event themselves, learning how to communicate effectively during an emergency.

In 2002, Stephen Peterson taught a UCSC class on radio frequency, resulting in several students’ newfound interest in amateur radio. Together they passed the Federal Communications Commission’s licensing exams in time to participate in Field Day, pioneering the first such event at UCSC and creating the UCSC Ham Slugs Amateur Radio Club. The university and the Ham Slugs Amateur Radio Club have been hosting the event since.

Four UCSC engineering students upgraded their amateur radio licenses on June 23, passing the FCC’s licensing exam as a group.

Suellene Peterson, one of the organizers for UCSC’s Field Day, said students not only had fun, but also learned skills crucial in an emergency.

“All the time students are having fun learning how to operate amateur radios by talking to each other, they are accumulating the skills necessary for emergency purposes,” Peterson said in an email. “At UCSC we also have staff and students who are capable of serving as emergency communicators. This is an asset that is highly valued in Santa Cruz County.”


Students interested in attending the UCSC Ham Slug Radio Club can find more information at their website, hams.soe.ucsc.edu/home/