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First-Year Amateur Radio Licensing for Electrical Engineering Students

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

First-Year Issues in ECE Education

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Dennis Derickson California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

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Dennis Derickson is the department chair of Electrical Engineering at California Polytechnic State University. He received his Ph.D. , MS, and BS in electrical engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of Wisconsin and South Dakota State respectively. He got his start in Electrical Engineering by getting his amateur radio license in 1975.

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Marcel C.E. Stieber Amazon Lab126

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Marcel is an Electrical Engineering alumnus of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. He was a former President and is current Industrial Advisor to the Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club ( He is very involved in community events and regularly provides communications for bike rides and triathlons, helps at local repeater work days, and assists several testing sessions each year. His Masters Thesis is titled: Radio Direction Finding Network Receiver Design for Low-cost Public Service Applications. Marcel was licensed on Cinco de Mayo in 2008 as KI6QDJ. He received his Extra License in the Summer of 2010 and is now holds the callsign: AI6MS. He is an ARRL Life Member and has used his VE credentials to help license over 673 hams since 2009. Marcel has taught numerous classes including: Introduction to Electrical Engineering for Non-Majors and an Advanced Digital Communications Lab. Marcel currently works as an Electrical Engineering Systems Lead at Amazon Lab126 in Sunnyvale, CA and serves on the Cal Poly Electrical Engineering Industry Advisory Board.

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Stanton Chueng Wu California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

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Stanton Wu is an electrical engineering student at Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo. After getting his amateur radio license in October 2012, he has been an active member in his university's ham radio club and is currently serving as the club's president. Stanton volunteers with his club at local bike rides and triathlons to keep communications strong on the course where cell service is not readily available. Setting up the communications infrastructure for events like the Wildflower Triathlons has helped Stanton apply the skills he learns in lectures. He received increased exposure and furthered his skills when he was accepted as an intern at Space Systems Loral to act as a payload systems engineer tasked with designing satellites. He hopes to reach new heights alongside the amateur radio club as they follow Cal Poly's motto of "learning by doing".

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1st Year Amateur Radio Licensing for Electrical Engineering Students

In this paper, we describe the results of having all Electrical Engineering Students obtain their amateur radio technician examination during their first quarter on campus as part of an orientation course. Benefits include students becoming licensed to use Federal Communication Commission (FCC) allocated amateur radio spectrum, introduction to advanced electronics concepts early in the curriculum, increased electronics experimentation, and a sustaining source of membership for the on-campus amateur radio community. The amateur radio service was created to allow for public use and experimentation of one of our key natural resources, the electromagnetic spectrum. In order to use this public resource, individuals must pass an FCC examination that is taken from a pool of ~400 publically available technical questions. The first year Electrical Engineering orientation course at (University) has made the technician-class amateur radio examination a required part of the curriculum since 2011. The local on-campus W6BHZ radio club administers the examination during a 50 minute class period. The W6BHZ group has FCC-authorized Laurel Volunteer Examiners (VE) administer the examination so that there are now no costs to students. Students have shown an 85% pass rate for the examination over the last 5 years. Students who do not pass the examination in class are allowed to re-take the examination for full credit at other examination sites by the end of the course period. Over the last 5 years, over 700 Electrical Engineering students have successfully obtained their amateur radio examination as part of the 1st year orientation class. Projects created by the amateur radio community were incorporated into the formal and informal curriculum for the Electrical Engineering department to take advantage of the newly FCC licensed students. Informal assessment of 1st year amateur radio licensing includes strong membership growth in the amateur radio club on campus, increased interest in the RF/microwave/communication concentration of the curriculum, and a devoted group of licensed Alumni who come back to campus each year to participate in communication-related service events for the community.

Derickson, D., & Stieber, M. C., & Wu, S. C. (2016, June), First-Year Amateur Radio Licensing for Electrical Engineering Students Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26908

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