By Peter Barnes, M0SWN (President, Swansea Radio Society)
When I started my first semester at Swansea University, naturally one of my first questions was is there a radio club?
Little was I to know that this question would lead me down a long path of research, discovery, but ultimately starting and running my very own radio society at my university.
Setting up an amateur radio club is no small task
There are so many things to think about: committee members, annual general meetings, activities, meeting places, and importantly, funding.
Without some amount of funding a new club would completely rely on a strategy of “beg, borrow or steal!”
While this method often works very well for students—and is the main reason I have most of my personal radio equipment—the injection of funding into a new club provides it with a huge boost of momentum in its most fragile period of operation.
With this in mind, one of my first tasks as a prospective founder was to arrange funding for my new club.
Where can you get funding from?
There are a huge number of funding sources available to student amateur radio clubs.
As a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) activity, support may be available from your university, student union, lottery grant and STEM schemes all over the country.
In addition to this, there may be a huge number of funding sources within the amateur radio community itself.
Shops and companies often provide sponsorship in exchange for advertising, or even a post on Twitter.
If you think about it, sending a new club a £200 radio in exchange for great PR material is a lot more cost effective than launching major ad campaigns, hence being a great route for clubs to go down.
Finally, there are charities such as the RCF (Radio Communications Foundation).
The RCF’s aim is to encourage the use of technology by bringing amateur radio to young people.
It has been involved in fantastic projects such as Funcube-1 (a small satellite built by radio amateurs), and supports a wide range of projects.
This long standing reputation made the RCF our perfect choice when it came to starting the Swansea Radio Society.
Thankfully for us, the Trustees agreed to provide us with £2,500 of funding to start the club.
So what else is involved with setting up a club?
I was determined to find out as much as I could about the history of amateur radio in Swansea.
I paid a visit to some local clubs, the Swansea ARS and the Swansea and District ARS.
Through talking to amateurs who had lived in the area for years, including some who had been at the university when they were my age, I discovered that Swansea University had a huge legacy of groundbreaking experiments.
I found out the university had helped to develop a “wormhole” that allowed users to connect to the internet through a dumb terminal over a high frequency link.
The club also ran a 2m beacon, took part in microwave experiments and much more.
The old shack remains undisturbed to this day, and our original callsign GW3UWS ready for us to pick up again.
Where are we today?
Fast forward nine months, and I am now nearing the end of my first year at Swansea.
The club has been meeting regularly since February, and has attained a regular group of enthusiastic students.
Last month, four of our students passed the foundation course, which had been taught and examined at the university.
We have tracked satellites, built direction finding antennas, experimented with software defined radio, mobile setups, morse code and much more.
The university has given us permission to install a permanent antenna system on the roof of the engineering building, including a G3TXQ hexbeam on a SPID rotator.
We have been provided with space to set up a shack in the electronics lab.
Once the setup is completed we will be on air on six HF bands as well as VHF and UHF, putting Swansea back on the map.
There are loads of plans in place such as launching high altitude balloons, running a direction finding event and experimenting with Raspberry Pis.
Without funding from the RCF none of this would have been possible.
How can I find out more?
If you are interested in more information about the club, have a look at our website gw3uws.uk.
On the website are contact details should you wish to get in touch.