From the 11th to the 17th of August 2019 around 80 youngsters from 27 countries met in Bankya, near Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria to connect and learn from each other. The event was organised by the Bulgarian Federation of Amateur Radio as part of IARU Region 1’s “Youngsters On The Air” program, abbreviated as YOTA. The summer camp is held in a different country every year, over the last years it has been held in Austria, the United Kingdom, South Africa and many more. YOTA is growing quickly, this year’s summer camp demonstrated this especially well. The great majority of participants had never participated in a YOTA summer camp before, they are a new generation of young amateur radio enthusiasts. Another thing showing YOTA’s success is the number of girls at the camp, 40% of the participants were YLs, a percentage not often seen in amateur radio.
During the week youngsters did a variety of workshops such as building VHF and HF antennas, electronic kits, and much more. However the focus of this week’s presentations was on learning from each other: YOTA is shifting more and more towards a “youngsters for youngsters” approach where youngsters teach each other, rather than relying on older generations for input. A number of participating youth teams presented their youth activities. For example, the Finnish team gave an insight into the Nordics On The Air sub-regional camp, they not only showed how successful it was, but gave great tips and a good guide to organising such an event. The main goal of the YOTA summer camp is to give youngsters the ideas, knowledge and experiences they require to go back to their home country at the end of the week and start their own youth activities. The practical workshops are mostly easily reproducible so that youngsters could use them to introduce new young people into the hobby. For example youngsters might do a kit building workshop at a local school or use the antenna built at the camp to do a SOTA activation together with some new youngsters.
Sub-regional camps like those held in Finland, Italy and Germany in the last years are being organised more and more. For example, the next one is already being held in September in the Czech Republic, followed closely by a camp in the Netherlands in December. The idea behind a sub-regional camp is to bring together around 30 youngsters for an extended weekend, for example from Thursday until Sunday. Other than the YOTA summer camp, these camps are also used to bring new youngsters into the hobby. Un-licensed youngsters who know relatively little about amateur radio are invited to these camps to show them how interesting and fun amateur radio is.
The Italian youth team’s presentation showed very well that a sub-regional camp can be organised on quite a limited budget, their camp only cost 25 euros per participant per day. Furthermore they showed how such an event can re-vitalise a local radio club. The radio club supporting the event gained many new members as many of the participants of the camp did their license after the camp and joined the club. Furthermore the existing members of the club became more active as they organised the camp together.
A large number of youth teams now want to organise such an event, and during the coming months there will be many applications to IARU to hold a YOTA sub-regional camp. What the participants learnt at the YOTA summer camp will be an invaluable resource for organising sub-regional camps and youth activities on any scale.
Saturday marked the day of departure, some participants had very early flights and already departed in the early morning, whilst others stayed at the hotel until the afternoon, waiting for their flights. All participants were sad to leave, surprised that the week had ended so quickly. Looking back at the last 6 days, the participants have learnt a lot, from the organisers and presenters as well as from each other. The summer camp is all about learning, but of course also many new friendships were made. YOTA connects youngsters from all over Region 1, from the very south of Africa to the very north of Europe, even youngsters from New Zealand joined the camp.
The camp was a great success thanks to the organisers, the Bulgarian Federation of Radio Amateurs, and all of the sponsors who supported the event.
The next big YOTA event coming up is December YOTA Month where each participating country will have special YOTA callsigns on the air, operated by youngsters all through the month of December. Furthermore there will be a subregional camp held in the Netherlands in the beginning of December. The summer camp will also be followed by many regional activities by the participants.
By connecting and teaching young hams, YOTA is helping to create the next generation of amateur radio, so that the hobby continues to grow. Youngsters like those who met in Sofia this week are the future of amateur radio!
The last full day of the 2019 YOTA summer camp began with the last session of teams presenting the youth activities they have done in the last year and their plans for the next year. For the morning workshop the teams were split into two groups again, whilst one group built a vhf antenna and learnt about the theory behind it, the other learnt about ropes and knots and practiced a number of useful knots, fore example for putting up antennas at field days . After lunch the hands on workshops were continued with building an HF antenna, as before the youngsters also learnt about the theory behind how this antenna works. The wire dipole for the 20 metre band is a great tool for field days, SOTA activations and more. Furthermore this antenna enables a lot of youngsters who do not have access to other antennas to get on the air from their home. Combining the theory with hands on building made it very interesting and more intuitive.
After the last workshop there was a grand ceremony including a magic show to mark the end of the YOTA camp. Followed by a small farewell party where all participants enjoyed the last evening together.
The special callsign LZ19YOTA was on the air nearly 24 hours a day. Youngsters who had never before had a HF QSO were helped by those who have experience. It was also a great opportunity to exchange contest experience and learn from each other.
Just like the last few days, the day began with a Train the Trainer presentation, this time the Finnish team gave an in depth view in to one of YOTA’s most successful subregional camps, the NOTA – Nordics On The Air, which has already been organised twice. They gave many great ideas which can be used at other subregional camps and some great recommendations on organising such an event. Again this presentation was great motivation for the other youngsters to organise something once they get back from YOTA.
Amateur radio is different in different countries, for example in Austria Hamnet is popular, in other countries it’s VHF contesting. Today the Bulgarian organisers showed us what is popular in their country: ARDF and HST! The morning workshops featured some explanations of ARDF, especially interesting for those participants who have not done ARDF before, but also those who have some experience learnt a lot from the experienced Bulgarians. In the afternoon we had the chance to put what we learnt into practice. Some ARDF beacons were set up around the location of the camp and the participants had fun finding them with their ARDF receivers. Other participants chose to practice their high speed telegraphy skills with a variety of different morse keys.
The afternoon ended with another session of short presentations by the participating countries, they showed which youth activities they have done in the past year and what their plans are for the next year. The purpose of these presentations is to exchange ideas for youth projects between countries. Furthermore the successful projects of some countries motivated those with relatively young youth groups that it is possible to grow a large and active youth group. For example the participants told about their visits to technical schools
After these presentations there was still some time to operate using the callsign LZ19YOTA late into the night.
The 4th day of the YOTA summer camp started with a Train the Trainer presentation by the German team, having recently organised a very large and successful subregional camp, they had a lot of interesting ideas and experiences to talk about. More and more subregional camps and activities are being organised by youngsters all over IARU Region 1 and this presentation motivated many of the youngsters to organise some activities of their own.
Following the presentation by the German team, the hands on workshops of the day started. The participants were split into 2 groups, one group began building a vhf wire antenna with a very interesting design, along with learning about how the antenna works in theory. The other group began a great interactive lecture about ropes and knots, skills which are essential when putting up an antenna. Aside from learning different knots and when to use them the participants also learnt about types of rope and their uses in amateur radio and some useful tricks for SOTA or field day activities and putting up antennas at home.
The afternoon was different from the other days, today the youngsters got on a bus to go the beautiful city centre of the capital city of Sofia, just 30 minutes drive from the camp location. The trip brought the youngsters to many famous places, for example the famous Alexander Nevsky cathedral or the beautiful national historical museum. This excursion was a great chance to see the culture and architecture of a different country. YOTA is not only about amateur radio but also about cultural exchange between youngsters and bringing the teams which are from all over IARU Region 1 closer together. After all amateur radio is a passion which brings people from all over the world together.
After returning from the city trip, the youngsters began with their own short presentations. Each country had about 5 minutes to tell the other participants what youth activities they have done in the past year and how successful these were. But maybe most importantly they explained their plans and ambitions for the next year. This was a great opportunity to learn from each other and exchange experiences.
Radio amateur adventure weekend of Western Slavs.
The camp is mostly meant to get to know each other.
When? from 27.9. to 29.9.2019
Why? Do you want your youngster to experience the unforgettable magic of amateur radio? Send them to the Czech Radio Club for the weekend! They get to know new friends and get to know what radio and electronics are and how it works. We tell him about radio broadcasting and it’s up to them if they’ll use this new information and skill in their next lives. These days it’s an easily available hobby that a lot of kids dream about. Your youngster will develop a totally new view on computers, mobile phones and all the modern electronics.
To who? We welcome both girls and boys from 10 to 25 years old.
How much does it cost? Since the IARU and the CRK financially support the event, the participation fee is 500 Kč (Czech currency) – we offer accommodation, catering, drinks and professional lectures.
If we have not a car. Transport will be solved individually depending on our agreement.
If I have more questions. If anything is unclear, just write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Where can I register? Send an e-mail to email@example.com with request for registration form. Keep in mind that we only have 30 seats.
Note: This is an English translation of the Czech version, which can be found on the Český Radioklub homepage
The day was started by an interesting presentation by the Italian team who told the participants about their subregional camp and their successful youth activities. The idea is to inspire youngsters to start heir own local activities after going home from the YOTA camp. Even though the participants still felt the effects of last night’s intercultural evening, they were all eager to learn from their fellow youngsters. Again the Train the Trainer presentation was followed by the second part of yesterdays presentation on measurements by Rhode and Schwarz. Seeing professional instruments in action was quite an experience for the participants.
The afternoon activities were very different, all participants left the hotel and took the bus to the Milara factory in Sofia. This innovative Bulgarian company produces a wide range of products for the production of electronics, for example robots for the automatic production of semi conductors. The visit gave an insight into the technology and how it is related to amateur radio. And once again it was clear that amateur radio can be the beginning of a great career in many kinds of engineering.
After the visit to Milara, the trip continued to the impressive LZ5R contest station, for some of the participants this was the first time at a large contest station. The antenna farm and large masts were quite impressive! But the staton set up was equally impressive, learning how a large station is structured and interconnected was incredibly interesting.
Again the YOTA participants learnt a lot during the day and after getting back to the hotel in the evening, and eating dinner the youngsters sat together to write articles for their national radio magazines, their social media and websites.
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The first day of the 2019 YOTA camp began with the traditional group picture with all countries presenting their national flags. After this the first Train the Trainer presentation began, the aim of the Train the Trainer program during this week is to give youngsters the skills, ideas and knowledge to go home at the end of the week and start their own youth activities in their countries. There will be various presentations by a number of countries during the week and time to exchange ideas and experiences between the teams. This mornings presentation was by one of the organisers of the 2016 YOTA summer camp in Austria, giving some tips on how to organise such an event. For example, the budget, some tools to help organise, how to get sponsors, how to communicate with the media and much more.
The next presentation was by Rhode and Schwarz, a sponsor of the camp. The participants learnt about the basics of electronic measurements in amateur radio and how they can be used in all kinds of situations. A very interesting and useful lesson! Tomorrow the presentation will be continued, for sure there will be a lot more to learn.
After learning so much it was time for lunch and after a short break the afternoon activities started. During the afternoon the participants built electronic kits which can be used to find broken transistors. Furthermore the participants had the opportunity to put what they learned in the morning into practice by using a variety of different measuring instruments. Everybody had fun soldering and putting together the kits. The more experienced youngsters helped those who have less experience with the soldering irons. A great example of youngsters teaching each other and working together. Again a lot was learnt, not only how to solder and put together a kit but also how the kits work and the function of some of the different components. Meanwhile some youngsters operated on 20 metres using the special callsign LZ19YOTA, which will be on the air during most of the week.
The evening ended with a joint dinner. After this the social highlight of the day began, the intercultural evening. This is a tradition which has been going on for a long time at the YOTA summer camps. Each team brings traditional food and drinks from their country. Many teams wear traditional clothing to represent their countries culture. The participants are always proud to show the traditional food of their country, and it was obvious that a lot of effort went into the preparations. The food available ranged from smoked cheese from Slovakia, to sweet Baklava from Turkey and everything in between. Apart from the culinary side, a lot of countries also showed of their countries touristic attractions, for example Iceland’s stunning landscapes. It was an evening of cultural exchange and gave the participants the chance to get to know each other: a lot of new friendships were made, and now the whole group knows each other.
YOTA Bulgaria 2019 – Day1
During the day the YOTA participants arrived at Sofia airport, only about 30 minutes from the Hotel where the YOTA camp is taking place. By the evening all the teams had arrived at the hotel in Bankya, just outside the capital city Sofia.
After a grand ceremony in the middle of the city centre, YOTA 2019 was officially opened by Alexandra Alexandrova, the deputy major of the city. All participants joined the ceremony together with many local citizens of Bankya.
Welcoming words were spoken by Vesi LZ1VST and Panayot LZ1US, on behalf of the organising committee and BFRA, joined by Lisa PA2LS and Alex IV3KKW representing IARU R1.
The ceremony ended with traditional Bulgarian dances performed by a local dancing group wearing beautiful traditional Bulgarian dresses. In the end the audience and the YOTA participants joined the dancing to traditional Bulgarian folk music.
We are looking forward to a great week of learning and exchange between different countries, with the first presentation starting tomorrow morning.