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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Meet my daughter, KJ4QNH!!!

Nearly a year ago, I posted that my daughter Lauren was studying to be a ham. Unfortunately, with school, life, girl scouts, and basically everything else getting in the way, we were limited to 1/2 hour Q&As once or twice a week on much of what she already studied, and a few sample tests on QRZ, most of which she missed passing by a couple of questions.

As summer approached, I was looking forward to sitting down with her and studying, but she would lose interest (or rather, she was wanting to play with her friends, watch TV, play her Nintendo DS, etc.) or I would not be able to help her due to household "honeydews" that were never-ending.

I was determined not to force her in to doing this. I didn't want to pressure her, and only wanted her to get her license because she wanted to do it, not because I (or my wife) wanted her to. I walked a fine line between encouraging her and making her. I figured if I forced her in to studying, it would only discourage and block her from wanting to get her license, but I would often remind her that she needed to study.

I would occasionally ask her "are you still interested in getting your license?", and she eagerly replied she was determined to get it.

We continued to study together whenever possible and even my wife (Jessie, K4RLJ) was occasionally helping. Her biggest stumbling blocks were the frequencies allocated to Technician class licensees, what bands belonged to what frequencies, and the questions relating to Ohm's Law.

Then I remembered that on occasion ham groups have all-day classes followed by exams that same day. I was listening to a local net and caught some guys talking about one that had just occurred the Saturday prior and decided to email some folks and ask if there was any more such groups that were going to take place anytime soon. I was met with 4 different groups conducting such classes, but none were here in town. One was 2 hours south in Chattanooga, another in Kingsport, and yet another in North Carolina.

I then got an email from a friend who was a VE for W5YI and was going to have a class in my wife's hometown of LaFollette (about an hour north of here) and checked with Lauren and we decided we would do that one.

I gathered that this would be the key to Lauren's passing her test. There wouldn't be any TV, internet, or other distractions and she could focus completely on the task at hand. Plus she had been studying off-and-on for over a year, so my wife and I were confident she would focus her efforts and possibly pass the test. We didn't expect her to pass, but we didn't expect her to fail, either.

I did this once before with my sister-in-law when she was about 13. That one was an all-day session, where one person read off all the questions, and the correct answer, and they moved on to the next question. They then took the exams the next morning. Unfortunately she failed her test.

She did eventually get her ticket after studying and my wife took her to an exam session in Lafollette scheduled just for her. She did not, however get much more involved and her license has expired. If she wanted to get her license, she'd have to re-take the test and get a new callsign.

This session was different from my sister-in-law's. We met at Paradigm Church, which was located at a small shopping center on the far end of town. There, they gave her the questions and correct answers on a study sheet and they let everyone study at their own pace, without reading the pool aloud.

There was one person who was blind, and while Lauren was studying, several of us who were sitting around with nothing to do decided to help him and went into another room and read the questions and answers to him. His father who wasn't licensed either helped out as well.

They would study for 45 minutes and then take a 15 minute break. There was a 90 minute lunch in between.

The guys there were very nice about providing pizza for everyone and a few drinks to pass around. It was small, but quiet, and Lauren was concentrating like I've never seen before.

The study session was scheduled to last until 4PM, but Lauren had already gone through the pool by 11AM. She wanted to take the test right then, but there wasn't enough VEs to administer the examination. I quizzed her on several parts and she would miss one or two, and I would have her go back and re-study those portions. Finally, as the afternoon went on, the VEs arrived and started to fill out the Form 605's for her to get her exam when they asked for her picture ID...and guess who forgot to pick up her picture ID...

I suddenly entered a panic mode. I called Jes and proceeded to freak out asking for anything with her picture on it. Her school had picture IDs produced for those times when they might (god forbid) get lost or missing and I fortunately had one in my wallet. They asked for a photocopy. And guess who didn't have a copier in his back pocket...

I then scoured the town for someone...ANYONE...with a copier handy. The local pharmacies didn't have them anymore. For once, Walmart didn't have what I needed. All the check cashing places with copiers and faxes were all closed. Fortunately there was a rental place open at the local mall and I was able to coax the person behind the counter to photocopy the ID.

By the time I got back (30 minutes later) the other two who were studying alongside Lauren were in the middle of their tests, and Lauren was waiting on me with the photocopy.

We filled out the paperwork, handed over her $14 application fee, and away she went. It was hard not to stare at her while she was taking the test, but I fought the urge as best I could.

20 minutes later, she turned everything in. And we waited.

And waited...

Aaaaaaand waited...

I couldn't get any kind of yea/nay from the VEs one way or the other. We sat there patiently while they graded the other tests and hers. I would see them mark the test and pray it wasn't hers they were bleeding red ink all over.

They told one of the others that she had passed, but hadn't told us if Lauren passed. The longer it went on, the less confident we felt that she had passed.

Finally, the VEs called her up to sign her name on the CSCE. "So she passed?" I asked. "Well heck yeah she did!" was the reply, and Lauren smiled as bright as she possibly could.

We called Jes, her grandmother, some friends, and I posted her success on Twitter and Facebook and the kudos came in from hams the world over.

She missed 7 of 9 questions she could miss and still pass the exam. It took 11 days to get her callsign as the FCC was slow to process the paperwork and Veteran's Day also had an effect on the delay.

Earlier this evening, she had her first QSO with Jim, KQ4AB, who was the man who was overseeing the test session. At first I thought I would be her first QSO, or maybe Jes, or a couple of friends of ours who have kids that are hams, but I thought that she should check in to his net and have a quick QSO with him. He got a kick out of it and I recorded it on my cell phone. Here's the video.

So now, I have a wife and daughter who are hams. Just one more daughter to go. And she's cracked open the book and begun her journey. It may be a couple of years (she just turned 8) but she's determined to be like her sister.

I couldn't be happier.