July 7, 2008
June 28-29 saw members of the MIT Radio Society (W1MX) participating in the 76th annual ARRL Field Day. In the past the club has largely participated from the steps of the Stratton Student Center at MIT, but emboldened by last year’s exciting and successful Field Day on Lovells Island in the Boston Harbor Islands, we decided to try operating from Wompatuck State Park in Hingham, MA - slightly more accessible than Lovells Island, but preserving the “off the grid” qualities that made Lovells so exciting.
This year, W1MX set up a 2A station at South Field on Saturday morning. Club operators trickled in until the official start of Field Day at 2pm. Members not directly operating set to work raising tents and stringing and raising any last-minute antennas. Like last year, the club relied on a gasoline-powered generator for all of its power needs, though a battery back-up system meant we were able to continue operating even in the event of a generator failure. The club set up a GOTA (Get On The Air) station to encourage new hams and non-hams alike to make contacts and learn more about ham radio; the GOTA station was pleased to host students from MIT’s RSI program, as well as other non-club MIT students curious about ham radio.
W1MX forwent the barbeque this year in favor of a late-night pizza run; the Wompatuck site had even fewer amenities than Lovells Island, though water could be obtained by driving a short distance. Operators worked through the night in shifts, snatching sleep in the club tents, before rising in the morning to conclude operations by 2pm. Organizational talent and manpower made cleanup a quick task; the entirety of the stations, antennas, and camping equipment were struck and packed into cars by 3pm.
Field Day has two main goals - public education and emergency preparedness. We educate the public by demonstrating the capabilities of ham radio and the ways in which it can serve the community, and we show our ability to prepare for emergencies by operating from a remote, “off the grid” site with few amenities. Public outreach to hams and non-hams alike was a success; multiple area hams, as well as local law enforcement and representatives from the ARRL showed up to watch W1MX in action. It’s uncertain where W1MX will operate Field Day from next year, but be certain it will be with the same goals in mind!