On Sunday, December 2, 2018, at around 4:30 pm, Mackenzie Pooler (KE1NZY), a ten-year-old from Hudson, NH, turned in her Amateur Extra Exam to be graded by the VE team at the Nashua Area Radio Society’s testing session held at the Dartmouth Hitchcock campus in Nashua, NH. Only a year and a half before, you could have asked Mackenzie about amateur radio and she wouldn’t have been able to tell you the terms “diode,” “capacitor,” or “susceptance” meant, or any rules or regulations surrounding the FCC use of the amateur airwaves. In that short amount of time, Mackenzie’s passion for amateur radio and all that it entails was ignited to a point that she became inspired to pursue the highest licensing offered to an amateur.
Mackenzie or Kenzie as most in the amateur radio world know her, became interested in Amateur Radio because of my own pursuit of learning about Ham Radio as I prepared for the Hudson Memorial School ARISS contact. I studied for and passed all three levels of licensing in a two month period of time. As she saw my interest and excitement around amateur radio grow, she too became interested in getting licensed. Throughout 2018 she tagged along as we attended Kids Day on the radio at AB1OC and AB1QB’s QTH. While Kenzie did not want to talk on the radio, she became interested in both Morse Code and Fox Hunting at the event.
The Nashua Area Radio Society came to the Hudson Memorial School STEM Night on March 14, 2018, and Kenzie joined in on the fun. She came to the night to play math games with friends and family. By the end of the night, she was playing with the Morse Code Tutor kits and watching videos on Fox Hunting. Kenzie sat at the NARS table for over half an hour. At that point, she knew she wanted to pursue a Technician level license. Her opportunity to pursue her first license came shortly after the STEM Night when HMS and NARS announced that they would be offering their first student class one week in July. Mackenzie got a copy of the Technician Level class and began reading and studying the material.
The spring came and Mackenzie became invested in her other passion, softball. Mackenzie worked hard to become her team’s number two pitcher. The team had several weekends of tournaments that did not allow Kenzie to do much with amateur radio. The Nashua Area Radio Society held their Annual Field Day at Hudson Memorial School the same weekend at the Softball State Tournament. Even though the weekend was filled with games, Kenzie made sure we had time to stop by the field to see what was going on. Kenzie looked at all the antennas and equipment in amazement. She talked with many of the operators to understand what they were doing. Even though she did not have much time to spend with amateur radio during that weekend, she continued to study for the course.
July quickly came around and twelve students and educators sat through four days of Technician class material. Kenzie sat and listened to the material while finding ways to study. She enjoyed numerous demonstrations with the GOTA remote station, Fox Hunting, Morse Code activities, Antenna building, and more. Mackenzie was fully invested in learning how to do everything that the course had to offer. She spent nights practicing for the exam on a phone app and returned each day ready to go. At the end of the course, Mackenzie took her exam and found out that she passed. At that point, she was excited but really had no intention of getting any higher level license. She could Fox Hunt and play around with Morse Code, which is really what she wanted to do. She could even get a vanity call that mimicked her name; KE1NZY could be hers. It wasn’t until months later that her interest in a higher license would be realized.
In August, Mackenzie partook in her first RTTY Rookie Roundup. Using the club call sign, she was able to operate in all areas of the bands with no restrictions. She quickly took to digital operation as she didn’t have to say anything over the air to the other operators. Being a child of the digital age, it was second nature to use the computer to make contact. She became a pro at decoding call signs and her excitement grew. After that day, Mackenzie decided that she wanted to pursue her General License. Knowing that digital areas of operation of the bands allowed complete access to people with a General Level license gave her the internal drive to study the material. From August to the first week of October, Mackenzie studied the material on an app and with me. When the licensing exam was offered at the beginning of October, Mackenzie took the test and passed.
In the midst of her studying, Mackenzie attended the Boxboro, MA Hamfest. This was a first for both of us. Mackenzie enjoyed the NARS kit build of a Morse Code tutor and helped Fred Kemmerer and I present about building youth programs. Kenzie shared with the group her love of Morse Code, Fox Hunting, and digital contesting. Considering that she really doesn’t enjoy talking in front of people she doesn’t know, it was a great experience. She also loved building the Morse Code tutor kit so much that she was able to work as a mentor at the same activity during fall NearFest.
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