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Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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Ham Radio Club Revives Alternative Communication

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Nolan Duncan
The club uses an array of equipment to operate.

The president of Marshall University’s ham radio club said he believes radio communication is a great way to bring people together.

Jacob Wriston, the president of the Thundering Herd Amateur Radio Club, said his experience with ham radio began in high school. He said that when he was looking at Marshall, he had hoped there would be a radio club similar to WVU’s amateur radio club. In July of 2022, he started a discord for the group before making it an official organization in the 2022 Fall Semester.

“I saw that WVU has a radio club,” Wriston said. “They’ve actually had one since like 1913 as the oldest club on campus, and, so, I was hoping that Marshall would have the same thing, and they don’t. So, I just started a discord server over the summer.”

Wriston said the club’s main goal is to promote the hobby of amateur radio.

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The club’s faculty advisor, professor Tom Cuchta, said the average age is high for those interested in amateur radio; however, he said he believes that the digital side of the hobby will attract more younger members.

Cuchta said his personal experience with amateur radio began during the COVID-19 lockdown. He said he had already had an interest in computers and electronics when he learned about amateur radio.

Wriston said one of the benefits of ham radio is its lack of infrastructure needed to communicate. He said the direct connection is a strong point compared to other communication methods.

“When AT&T coverage went out, people with AT&T coverage were lost,” Wriston said. “They had no way to communicate with people. When you have to rely on infrastructure to get communication, whether it’s Internet, whether it’s cell service, whatever- we’re still able to communicate because when we set an antenna up, when we talk to somebody, we’re not rely-ing on infrastructure–I’m talking straight from me to you with an antennae and with the radio.”

Wriston said the club does more than talk over radios; they were deeply involved in the practice emergency event at the campus football stadium last semester and helped provide radio communications for the event.

“So, in October, it was an emergency preparedness event at the Joan,” Wriston said. “The radio club participated in that by facilitating communication between the buses that transported our ‘UN victims’ from the scene of the accident to the hospital.”

Wriston said he and Cuchta were both on the buses running radio communications between the various sites.

Wriston said he believes that radio communication is an important skill in an age where everyone is trying to demonize each other.

“Whether you speak Russian, or you speak Ukrainian or you speak English,” Wriston said, “if you go to church, if you don’t go to church, whatever you do- as long as we’re both on the radio, and then we can communicate with each other, have a good time.”

Cuchta said he had recently made contact with a fellow amateur radio hobbyist in Russia.

“It’s really cool that I can throw a piece of wire in a tree, and I can make a contact in Russia, which I did last night,” Cuchta said. “It’s this idea that you can make really long range communications with very little equipment which is kind of fascinating.”

Cuchta said part of the purpose of ham radio communication is its ability to backup broken infrastructure and build international goodwill.

“During the Cold War, for example, you know, they’re very heated two sides – they’re the enemy,” Cuchta said. “But, even then, ham radio people could talk to people, and they did, and it was great. People would play chess over the radio with people in the Soviet Union.”

Wriston said the club meets bi-weekly in person, and the other weeks over the radio. He said because of how expensive the hobby can be, the club has radios members can rent and borrow.

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