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WMS students to get boost from grant

WORTHINGTON -- As a licensed amateur radio operator and District 518 resource officer, police officer Bob Fritz has two interests -- technology and keeping students out of trouble.

He'll combine both next month when a shipment of amateur radio equipment arrives at Worthington Middle School.

The equipment comes from an Education and Technology Program (ETP) grant the district received from the national association for Amateur Radio in the U.S., called the ARRL.

District 518 was one of nine school districts nationwide selected to receive an ETP grant, which aims to integrate wireless technology into school curricula. Fritz, who has already used his own amateur radio equipment at community events, will lead the charge to teach students in Nobles and surrounding counties about the science behind the many commonplace gadgets they use.

"It will be amateur radio, but from that we'll talk about 'What is wireless technology?' It's everything from when kids change the channel on the remote to talking on their cell phones and lots of other things we take for granted every day," he explained. "I wanted to show kids how (this) all happens in a fun kind of way."

The equipment -- a radio capable of receiving and transmitting, antennae, cables and a power supply -- will be housed in the middle school, but Fritz hopes to eventually form a radio club for students of all ages. He attended a training session at ARRL headquarters in Connecticut, where he learned how to teach students about wireless technology.

"It's really pretty magical when you think about it. You can talk into a microphone and someone on the other side of the world can pick up their microphone and talk back to you. (Students) can reach out and make friends with people through amateur radio," he said. "Getting kids involved in positive activities (is) huge in this day and age."

For students interested in getting their own license to operate an amateur radio, also called a 'ham radio,' Fritz is licensed to certify others.

The students' radio station, KD0CVC, which can not be tuned on a regular radio, will operate out of the school but will be portable to other locations as necessary, Fritz said.

WMS Principal Clete Lipetzky said the program may appeal to generation tech.

"I know there's a strong interest in technology with young people. When I grew up, ham radio was much more high tech then it is today, but there's an aspect of it that's somewhat more personal," he said. "It's kind of exotic to talk with people all over the world."