"C-Q, C-Q, this is W4LMS — Whiskey-Four-Lima-Mike-Sierra — calling C-Q for School Club Roundup." Haley Durfee, 12, leans into a microphone connected to a desktop-sized amateur radio set up in the back corner of the LaFayette Middle School Library, awaiting a response.
After a short pause, a new voice breaks in over the static. "Whiskey-Five-India-Alfa-Alfa, Air Mobile. I'm flying aboard an aircraft right now off the coast of Massachusetts. How do you hear me?" This new voice belongs to a Coast Guard officer, Haley learns through the course of their conversation.
Prompted by amateur radio coach Jack Thompson, Haley explains why she's calling and shares her first name spelled in phonetic code: "Hotel-Alfa-Lima-Echo-Yankee."
"Very good. This is Jason: Juliette-Alfa-Sierra-Oscar-November. Have fun today and enjoy your activity. Over."
"Continue to keep our coast safe," Haley adds as a goodbye. She then reaches to the radio, fiddles with the dial to change the frequency, and starts calling out, "C-Q, C-Q, this is W4LMS", looking for her next contact.
Held in February and October, the School Club Roundup competition pits amateur radio enthusiasts against each other. The mission is to make as many contacts as possible within the week.
By the end of their week, the LMS Rambler Radio Club had operated for over 13 hours and made 191 contacts around the world and in 37 states.
Of the 13 LMS students who went on air during this year's Roundup, 12 were female.
"With a female voice on the radio, it's so different. Especially a young female voice on the radio. It will cut through whatever noise there is," said Jody Carter, a computer science teacher at LMS who has led the club since 2006.
When seventh-grader Kaylee Edgeman, 12, was calling out for contacts, somebody immediately identified her as "YL," standing for "young lady." During the Roundup, she made 65 contacts around the world.
Kaylee joined the club after a few other students in her computer science class mentioned it and, as she put it, "actually had a lot of fun."
When students join the club, they're tasked with learning the phonetic alphabet, since they'll be reciting their name and station code over the airwaves. Carter coaches them with the help of Thompson and Allen Padgett, both local radio enthusiasts. They listen in, helping the students identify problems with the frequencies, suggesting adjustments and guiding the students through talking to new contacts.
Beyond learning how to operate the radios and frequencies, the students also end up learning geography "without realizing you're learning," said seventh-grader club member Lana Barrett, 12.
Carter believes the appeal is social, too.
"They get treated like an adult," he said. "The people talking to them on the radio don't look at them and say, 'That's so cute you're on the radio, you're 12.' In many hobbies, you don't get that."
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