Radio Merit Badge

Notes to help make this merit badge a little easier

By AA6J Bill Jeffrey
Assistant Scoutmaster and Merit Badge Counselor


Do ONE of the following (a, b, or c): [Note that this page only discusses Option a, the Amateur Radio option.]

(1) Describe some of the activities that amateur radio operators can do on the air, once they have earned an amateur radio license.

(2) Carry on a ten-minute real or simulated ham radio contact using voice or Morse code; use proper call signs, Q signals, and abbreviations. [See item 4 below.] (Licensed ham operators may substitute five QSL cards as evidence of contact with amateur radio operators from at least three different call districts.)

You should ask your merit badge counselor how he wants you do this requirement. Chances are he is a ham operator and can help you with it. If not, he may be able to tell you who can help. You can also contact the American Radio Relay League who can send you information on radio clubs in your area who will be happy to show you about ham radio.

The 2002 Requirements do NOT include Morse code contacts. You also don't have to know it to get your first ham radio license (although you might want to because it's fun). This makes it easy to get a license so you can use ham radio for emergency communications on Scout outings!

(3) Explain at least five Q signals or amateur radio terms you hear while listening.

QRM Man-made interference   QRN Natural noise or interference
QRP Low Power (< five watts)   QRS Slow down Morse code speed
QRT Quitting - off the air   QSB Signal is fading
QSL Acknowledge receipt (card)   QSO Conversation ("cue-so")
QSY Change frequency   QTH Location (think H for Home)

Log Record of QSOs   CW Morse code (means Continuous Wave)
DX Distant (foreign stations)   CQ Calling any station ("seek you")
OM Old man (male ham)   YL Young lady (female ham)
Rig Radio   Shack Room the radio is in
HI Laugh in Morse code   73, 88 Best regards, love and kisses

(4) Explain some of the Technician Class license requirements and priviledges.

The Technician Class license is the entry level license. There is just one 35 question multiple choice test on theory, rules, and procedures. There is no Morse code requirement. This license gives full VHF & UHF use so you can communicate around town and use repeaters, but you cannot use some of the HF bands which are used for world-wide contacts. This merit badge is covers part of what is on the license test. Books are available with all the possible questions and answers.

Explain who gives amateur radio exams.

The tests are given by volunteer examiners. (Your merit badge counselor or the ARRL can help you find a test.)

(5) Explain how you would make an emergency call using voice or Morse code.

Speak clearly and give complete information, just like when you make a 911 telephone call. Remember to give the correct location of the emergency because the person you are helping on the radio may be in another state or even in another country!

"MAYDAY" is the international word for requesting help by radio. However, it is probably easier and less confusing to just say "EMERGENCY."

Just because you have a radio doesn't mean someone will be able to hear you. You might have to climb higher up a hill. (This is especially true for FRS radios and cell phones, which don't have has much power as ham radios.)

In Morse code you would send SOS (di-di-dit-dah-dah-dah-di-di-dit) and give the same information. (The code should be sent slow enough for the other person to understand you.)

Tell why the Federal Communications Commission has an amateur radio service.
According to FCC, Amateur radio exists for:

  1. Volunteer service (community service and disasters). A Scout does a good turn daily - here's another way.
  2. Experimentation. If you want you can build your own radio equipment, and many hams build their own antennas. Some hams have come up with new inventions.
  3. Communication skills. And, because only one person can talk at a time, you learn how to listen, too.
  4. Self-training. You can learn by doing.
  5. International goodwill. A great way to talk to people in far away lands.

(6) Discuss handheld transceivers versus home "base" stations. Explain the uses of mobile amateur radios and amateur radio repeaters.

Handheld radios (HT): Small, light, portable, but not much power. Some can fit in your pocket. With repeaters they can be quite useful, and they can go on your hike easily.
Base radios: More power, easier to use, more features.
Mobile radios: More power. That HT antenna doesn't work well inside car.
Repeaters: Located on high points (Mountains, tall buildings) to automatically relay signals. Some have connections to the telephone system.
Which kind of radio is best? It depends on what you want to do. You aren't going to go backpacking with a base radio, but that base radio will let you talk farther away when you are at home.

These notes are designed to help the Scout earn a merit badge that sometimes can seem a bit difficult. They are not intended to replace the Radio Merit Badge book.You will still need to meet with a merit badge counselor.

7 Links about this requirement below:

Copyright Bill Jeffrey 2000-2002. Rights to reproduce and use for nonprofit purposes given.
Please do not copy this material to another web page. Thank you.

American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is the US national organization of Amateur Radio operators. Their web site includes:

Radio Terms and Abbreviations by is a very good dictionary of ham radio terms.

Amateur Radio in Emergencies:

AC6V's DX & Amateur Radio - My friend Rod has the world's best collection of links to amateur radio information.

Last update February 3, 2002