When many kids her age are learning texting abbreviations such as ROFL or IYKWIM ("if you know what I mean"), 10-year-old Sierra Saylors is focused on KK4RJW.
That's her call sign, the collection of numbers and letters issued by the FCC that identifies her as a legitimate ham-radio operator.
On the air you may hear a timid “KK4RJW, CQ?" know that it is spoken with a big, hopeful smile.
Sierra is thought to be the youngest ham-radio operator in Northwest Georgia.
Although ham radios may seem outdated in an era of smartphones and Twitter, hobbyists remain devoted to their frequencies, enjoying the chance for random chatter while standing by to use the airwaves in an emergency.
Sierra wanted to join her parents; father, David WK4DS and mother Teresa KG4WHE, as amateur radio operators. After Sierra saw her father work a ham in Russia with Morse code, she was primed to get her ticket, FCC amateur radio license. She studied for a month and passed the Federal Communications Commission's required technician-license this week with flying colors.
Recent years have seen a huge revival in the interest in amateur radio, said Allen Pitts, spokesman for the American Radio Relay League, a national ham-radio group. "We were the first social media, and ham radio has had a three-year growth spurt in the number of new licensees, now with almost 700,000 in the U.S.," Mr. Pitts said.
As recent events, like the 2011 tornadoes in Dade county, the Oklahoma tornadoes and the bombing in Boston, when the common modes of communication rapidly failed, Amateur radio was there to provide the much needed communication.
Sierra's venture into ham radio grew partly out of an interest in helping others through calamities; she is a member of the Dade ARES group. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with their local ARES leadership, for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes.
Sierra is a star honor roll student in the fifth grade at Davis Elementary School. Her father stated, “she is always hungry to learn new things so I got her a study guide. It took her about a month of study time (during softball season no less).”
After passing the technician test, and taking a short break from studying to go swimming some, she will be working on getting her general license. The general license will allows her to communicate on a wider array of frequencies, and potentially with ham-radio operators around the world.
The general license exam includes some questions on electronics and engineering, is a harder test to pass, but Sierra is up for the challenge.
Sierra and her parents are active in Dade ARES group and will be on the air at the Amateur Radio Field Days at Cloudland Canyon State Park on the weekend of June 22 and 23.
Dade ARES - The Dade ARES group was formed in 2013 by local citizens after the communication failures that occurred during the tornado outbreak in April 2011. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service consists of licensed amateurs who have volunteered their time and equipment, for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. This Dade ARES group is for amateur radio operators that would like to take part in emergency and special event communications in the Dade County.
Local HAMs consider checking in during the weekly net, 7 p.m. Thursdays, on 146.595 MHz simplex. Join them the last Friday of the month, at 7 p.m. at the sheriff's office in Trenton. Hams and non-Hams are welcome to attend the meetings.