On Monday, 5 May, Mark Richards (father of OMS 5th grader Hyatt Mayor), an electronics engineer who enjoys Amateur Radio as a hobby, presented “Introduction to Radio Propagation: The Invisible, Ubiquitous Electromagnetic Wave” to Oak Meadow Middle School science students. A component of Oak Meadow’s STEM program, one in which students are at the root, this exposure aligned with the ongoing exploration of the frequency spectrum, from sound waves to light waves.
Related to his current work, Mark told students, “My work is also my hobby, and I wouldn’t be doing engineering if it wasn’t interesting and fun, so if you enjoy science and find it interesting, stick with it!”
Mark led students through a quick review of electromagnetic wave theory, covering basic DC and AC waveforms, the wavelength and frequency relationship, the electromagnetic spectrum, the ionosphere, line of sight propagation, ionospheric propagation, field strength and inverse square law of field intensity, and polarization. Phew! Oak Meadow students, in a 40-minute session, received a broad brush of topics that might be covered in a college level course. All the theory was brought to practice when students were challenged to find a hidden low power transmitter somewhere on the campus grounds. Using a hand-held receiver and a directional antenna, students found the hidden unit in two challenges by simply tracking the signal along the bearing of its greatest strength.
One student expressed an interest in doing this fun and challenging activity in a larger venue. Subsequently, we will soon place our hidden transmitter in Prouty Woods and Oak Meadow students will again use the same techniques, and perhaps a few refinements, to find the signal in a larger geographical area.
“This is the same basic technique that is being used to track the black boxes from the lost Malaysian Airline flight”, said Mark. “The practical applications of radio wave propagation are almost endless.”