For some reason, the Interim Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences decided to promote the teachign of S-factor courses this summer. The ‘S’ stands for supervision, and these are courses that generally have a low student-to-faculty ratio and require personalized supervision and mentoring by the instructor of record. In STEM, an undergraduate research experience could be taught as an S-factor course. Since I was planning on being around anyway, having agreed to teach Calculus 1, and since my Chair thought it was a good idea, I proposed to the Interim Dean that I teach a course in amateur radio. I think I called is ‘Amateur Radio and Society’ or somethings. My proposal was approved, and here I am four weeks into the summer session with something to say about the course.

The course I proposed would be structured around (1) students preparing for and earning an amateur radio license, then (2) using that license to pursue one or more of their personal interests using radio. This structure reflects our campus club policy on attracting students to the hobby by making a wide variety of pathways to and through radio available to them.

When the class began, I had two studens. A week later, a third student joined. Not bad for starting the course from zero.

Licensing Successes

I approached licensing assuming that students could and would study on their own. On the first day of class, I told them to get the HamStudy app for their smartphone and use it to study the questions and answers. ``The question pool is fixed, and you only need to answer 74% of the 25 questions correctly. Don’t try to be a hero; you only need to get 74% to get your license; nobody will ever ask you your score, nor is it recorded anywhere.’’ I told them they’d take the exam in two weeks.

I also gave them a spiral-bound paper copy of all the questions in the question pool, where the correct answer appears in bold face so the distractifiers could be ignored. I wrote about how I did this here.

To help motivate them, I created a series of daily assignments in our Course Management System (Canvas) that directed them to upload a screenshot of their in-app progress on studying. The app dispays a bar graph that shows for each of the exam’s ten elements how many of the questions they’d seen and how many they were answering correctly consistently. Every few days, I’d check their submissions and award them a point and some encouraging words if they did it.

It took slightly more than two weeks for us to secure an online exam time with a GLAARG team. (GLAARG waives the exam fee for students.) All three students were nervous, and two passed. The third will take it later.

The students who passed are Neysi Reyes (KO6FDD) and Adam Wilson (K06FCR). Both were pretty stoked to have succeeded on the first try.

Their success validated my approach to having them study on their own, report their progress, and take the exam early. I will strongly recommend this approach to colleagues who teach an amateur radio class in the future.


Grades in the course will be assigned according to the projects that students successfully complete. The projects they have chosen include

  • earning the General class license,
  • learning CW,
  • building the club’s two GOTA boxes and commenting on what improvements might be made, and
  • building the club’s repeater radio (sans isolator/circulator).

The students also want to explore amateur radio on Santa Rosa Island, and I’m pretty sure I will ask for their help to build out a 20 foot shipping container that will be used to house our repeater on Watertower Hill.

Wish them luck in completing the projects they set out for themselves.