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Author Topic: The most lasting first radio experience. Making a radio from "found stuff"  (Read 6459 times)

Posts: 2568

« on: February 17, 2018, 07:43:19 AM »

Many hams believe that demonstrating cool radio technology like repeater operation or even talking to the space station is a great way to generate interest for youth. In reality it does not mean that much; the radio is just another "box" that you talk in on one end and someone responds to you from the other side. It is no more challenging than an iPhone or a computer.

If you want to really make an impression on radio, make a receiver and a transmitter from "found things".

A coil of wire, a variable capacitor, a cardboard toilet paper tube, a diode, an ear bud.

Grab up a wad of pieces and parts like that and make a game out of it. Pretend that they are stranded on an island and demonstrate how to make a crystal radio. Have them do it, bring enough parts along so the girls and boys can do it themselves.

Now that you have demonstrated how to receive (listening to an AM station). Now show how they could call for help from their desert island.

A relay, a battery, two caps, a resistor and wire to make a coil and an antenna.

Build a spark-gap transmitter.

Demonstrate how dit's and dah's can be heard by the crystal radio.

Explain how morse code was developed from dit's and dah's and how SOS came to be.

Let the kids build their own spark gap transmitters. Let them send their little blips and for someone across the room to hear them. Encourage them to walk some distance to see how far it can be heard.


This is how I was introduced to radio; It made more of a lasting impression than six years of college and an electrical engineering degree. I will always be able to make a crystal radio and a spark gap transmitter. Even from the rubbish found in a trash can.

Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama
Free space loss (dB) = 32.4 + 20 × log10d + 20 × log10 f

Posts: 14

« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2018, 06:39:51 AM »

This is a great idea! We have a couple of young children in my family and I'd love to get them into the hobby specifically because it offers some level of independence from reliance on utility and private companies for communications. Of course you can't replace the convenience of cell phones and the reach of the Internet with amateur radio. But with amateur radio you realize that you're not entirely dependent on those technologies, either. Plus, it's a great introduction to practical science.
Do you have a schematic or project webpage for a simple project like this?
73. Dave/KC9MGX

UPDATE: found this receiver and this transmitter (30' range)
« Last Edit: April 05, 2018, 06:53:53 AM by KC9MGX » Logged

Posts: 23

« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2018, 09:57:08 AM »

Grabbing very few components from discarded stuff, all safety precautions being met, could led to this minimalist 40m TX (crystal to be provided)

Many other projects on Miguel's site

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