A few hobbies, like ham radio, are ideal for for attracting like-minded new people who share a common interest. That’s why amateur radio clubs play a central and pivotal point for radio aficionados worldwide – and such can certainly be said for hams in the US. Hams do tend to focus on their main points of interest, venturingdeeper and deeper only to reciprocate with one another in the sharing of their knowledge, but most of all a Club has social value. It’s provides a platform for interaction with the community at large, enabling hams to show as a group, far better than possible individually, the many ways radio can prove useful in making life better.
That’s why the birth of a new club is always a positive event. Recently, we learned of a new club that has exactly what it takes to become a relevant player on the ham radio scene, owing largely to the fact that it originates within ESPN, the popular TV Sports channel. That’s why we got in touch with Ted Szypulski, KG2AV, President of the Worldwide Amateur Radio Club, WE1SPN.
Let’s start from your personal experience: how long have you been licensed and what are your main areas of interest in our hobby?
I was first licensed in 1968 as a novice class with call sign WN2EHZ. I was attending high school at the time, and I was 15 years old. I’ve most enjoyed ragchewing and DXing on the HF bands. I’m an electrical engineer, so I also enjoy building and fixing electronic equipment and experimenting with antennas. My Dad, K2GAV, got me interested in ham radio, and while he passed away 20 years ago, K2GAV goes on as my own call sign today.
A ham radio club associated with one of the leading sports broadcast networks in the US. What’s the story behind this?
The genesis of the idea came from our employer, ESPN, Inc. With increasing awareness of emergency preparedness over the past decade, the service that amateur radio can provide with emergency communications fit right into their plans. We are fortunate to be provided with substantial funding by ESPN for the purchase of equipment, and for housing our stations. We are building two identically equipped stations in two diverse locations. One station is complete now, the other is soon to follow.
What are the requirements to become a member? How many members do you have so far?
Members must be either employees or retirees of ESPN, or its parent corporations, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), or the Walt Disney Company. Otherwise, one cannot access the grounds of ESPN, where the stations are located. We currently have about 43 members, most of which are currently licensed by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.
WE1SPN is the vanity call for your club station. Where is it located and can you tell us a little about it?
The two stations are about one mile apart, on separate campuses of ESPN in Bristol, CT. Each identical station includes an Icom 7000 with a Tarheel vertical antenna for the HF bands, and an Icom 2820, including D-Star, with a Comet dual band vertical antenna for 2 meters and 70 centimeters. Each has company data network connectivity and telephone service. The computer terminal has access to the Internet and to our own campus weather station.
What activities does the club mainly focus on (DXing, contesting, DXpeditioning, ham classes organization…)?
As we are only about two months old at the time of this interview, we’re still exploring how we’ll interact with each other and with the greater ham community worldwide. We have already created committees for Education, Safety & Compliance, Emergency Preparedness, and Public Relations. It is important for us to quickly ready ourselves to provide emergency communications, as it is the genesis of the club, but we are also very focused on providing training assistance for our members, about eight of which currently are unlicensed. Many members would like to upgrade to higher classes of US Amateur licenses too. We intend on provide some non-testing focused concepts such as on-air etiquette, proper operation of our particular equipment, contesting, etc.
Tell us about the station’s first time on the air.
Our kickoff event occurred on March 29th at 17:00 local time on 7.177 Mhz. We were quite happy to find a “pile-up” waiting for us! We worked 54 stations in the first hour. It was a lot of fun, and confirmed to us that we are an interesting contact for those familiar with our employer’s popular sports programming! ESPN is very well known in the U.S., but we are an international corporation. ESPN’s slogan is, “The Worldwide Leader in Sport”. That is where our club name comes from, “The Worldwide Amateur Radio Club”. We will be working towards more awareness of WE1SPN, both locally and on a national and international scale. As you can imagine, the methods used for publicizing oneself varies a lot with that broad a presence! We are already allied with similar clubs in other parts of the Walt Disney Corporation. Our sister stations include W2ABC at ABC Television in New York, W3PVI at WPVI Television in Philadelphia, WD4WDW at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and W6MM at Disney’s headquarters in Los Angeles, California. We will continue to reach out to all divisions of the company, worldwide!
How can somebody go about getting more information on the club?
Besides our web page on QRZ.com under our WE1SPN call sign, we have our own web page at WE1SPN.org. Development of both is ongoing.
What about the future?
Our future is bright. We’re currently looking at participating in Field Day 2012 in order to have some social interaction amongst members outside of the work day, and to broaden everyone’s horizons in ham radio. We just received our first order of 1,000 QSL cards, and we have a lot of confirmations to mail out from our kick-off event. We’ll look at opportunities to have special event operations and we’ll work with other amateur radio organizations to publicize them. In the meantime, if you hear a CQ from WE1SPN, say hello!
Thanks to Mark Kelley, W0BG, for his kind assist.