This past Saturday, about 160 hams from all over the north Georgia area, including the Section Manager (head of the Amateur Radio community in Georgia), David Benoist, gathered at Mill Springs to participate in HamJam. HamJam is sponsored by our local Amateur Radio club, the North Fulton Amateur Radio League (NFARL). This is the second year that Mill Springs has hosted this event.
HamJam is sometimes described as a filet of a hamfest, a gathering of hams that features just the best parts of such a gathering. HamJam offers an opportunity for hams from different clubs and areas to see and chat with each other (this is sometimes referred to as an 'eyeball QSO' in hamspeak), hear some great speakers on a variety of ham topics, and have an opportunity to win some great prizes.
A hospitality room was set up in the PreUpper Great Room. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and other beverages were available along with a selection of sweet and salty snacks. (In his opening remarks, MSA Headmaster Robert Moore recommended the walnut brownies to the crowd.) The offerings in the hospitality room were set out and refreshed by MSA students Rayna Doniparthi, Lydia Bennett, and Alex Rich. As the attendees came down the hill from the parking lots, they stopped into the PreUpper Great Room, got a drink, got some snacks, chatted with old and new friends, and hopefully, bought some more raffle tickets.
Around 8:30 that morning, hams began to leave the hospitality room to head over to get a good seat in the Upper School Great Room, where the presentations would be held. MSA students Josh Drew KM4MVK and Andrew Buchberger KN4IVE served as greeters in the lobby of the Upper School building, welcoming the hams to MSA and to HamJam. They also answered questions about where guests could find restrooms or other things.
HamJam officially began at 9 AM with MSA Headmaster Robert welcoming everyone to our campus and to HamJam. He also thanked the North Fulton Amateur Radio League for the special relationship they have formed with our school, including their help with our ARISS Radio Contact last spring. They have also been helpful in the establishment of an Amateur Radio program here at MSA.
HamJam brought in three sets of speakers. The first was Dale Parfitt W4OP from North Carolina. He spoke on "Microwave Earth-Moon-Earth Communications," which involves sending a radio signal to different parts of the world by bouncing the signal off of the moon! Next up were Rick Boulis N4HU and Tom Harrell N4XP. They spoke of their adventures in a session called "FT-8 Baker Island and Beyond." Baker Island is a tiny speck of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, near where Amelia Earhart disappeared. They went there to set up radio equipment and encouraged hams around the world to contact them – and they did! The third speaker was Jeri Ellsworth AI6TK, a self-taught space and computer industry dynamo from California. She spoke to the attendees via Skype. The title of her presentation was "My Life in a High Tech World." Among other things, Jeri is famous for her YouTube videos on different aspects of technology.
Next up, the raffle! A giant drum was brought in that was loaded with all the raffle tickets that hams had purchased in hopes of winning a great prize or two. North Fulton leaders gave each student who was helping out at HamJam one raffle ticket each for free. Over a dozen prizes with a total value of over $6000 were available to be won including a couple of radio systems each worth over $1000. MSA students Josh Drew and Andrew Buchberger were selected by the prize coordinator to be the ones drawing the winning tickets out of the drum. Ninth grader Alex Rich's ticket was drawn for one of the minor prizes. Since it was not something he thought she would enjoy or get any use from, NFARL member Jim Stafford bought it from her for its stated value.
HamJam is a unique program in the ham community. Most clubs, if they host a hamfest or similar event, use the proceeds for their club's operating expenses. 100% of the proceeds from HamJam go directly to the educational outreach programs of the North Fulton club. MSA has been the recipient of those programs for over five years now.
I'd like to thank all the folks at MSA for helping HamJam to be such a success. Cindy Thorne and the ALLSET crew were very helpful setting up the A/V equipment, Jamie Fambrough helped make sure the Skype connection would work reliably, and teachers loaned us some of the tables from their areas for this event. Thanks also to Bryan Sellers and his students for their help in setting up the chairs in the Upper Great Room on Friday and my students for resetting that room on Monday.