Tuned in: Amateur radio club connects listeners through long-distance hobby

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By Tirzah Rowland

Piglet Radio isn’t the only local club for amateur radio enthusiasts, but its goal is to promote the long-distance hobby by frequently bringing its members together.

The club was launched in summer 2022 by Hamilton County residents Chris Pacovsky (call sign W9CZK), Alexandra Auvinen (AC9XK), David Estes (KC9AAP), Derek Fronek (N9TD) and Scott Messick (W95DM). Piglet Radio (N9BCN) wants to grow membership and interest in the hobby through events, online forums and monthly meetings.

“We wanted something different,” said Pacovsky, Piglet Radio’s president. “We wanted a radio club with a more pronounced social aspect and comradery along with a technical focus.”

Currently 30 members strong and growing, the club is a space for amateur radio enthusiasts to discuss and develop ways to use the radio frequency spectrum to communicate, often with people around the world through purchased and self-made equipment.

Pacovsky, a Westfield resident and homeschool father, sees it as a family hobby and wanted a place that could be a “safe harbor for all ages,” he said.

“It’s slow and organic,” Pacovsky said. “Learning from each other is different than reading a book.”

The name Piglet Radio is a play on the traditional word for an amateur radio operator, ham, and a nod to many of its members.

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An amateur radio portable station.

“We are a young group,” said Pacovsky, emphasizing that the club is open to all ages and anyone eager to learn. “Our monthly meetings are a starting place to get together and learn about every aspect of the hobby. We want to provide connections for deeper understanding.”

While many amateur radio clubs focus on emergency management, Piglet members have interest in a broad range of topics from 3D modeling, engineering, Morse code and how radio impacts technology.

“We are never bored. There are so many aspects to it. Limitless things to do and great people to do it with. We are always changing and trying to improve what we do,” said Derek Fronek, a founding member and Carmel High School graduate.

Pursuing an electrical engineering degree at Purdue University, Fronek is president of the Purdue amateur radio club (W9YB). He credits amateur radio for providing a social outlet while honing technical skills.

“This is a gratifying hobby with an element of mystery,” Fronek said. “Gratification in technical problem-solving and the mystery of who you will communicate with.”

Pacovsky agrees.

“It’s fun to turn on the radio and see who you’re going to get on the other side,” Pacovsky said. “Sometimes, you make a new friend. It might be someone across the world just wanting to chat.”

Club membership provides resources to pursue and develop in the amateur radio sector, and donations help pay for expenses and FCC licensing.

Piglet Radio along with other area clubs will assist Hamilton County Emergency Management during the influx of people expected for the solar eclipse in April. They are also called on to help spot storms and aid in communication for other emergency response situations.

“Radio is the backbone and failsafe of communication,” Pacovsky said. “The airwaves are going to be there, point-to-point. We don’t need to rely on public infrastructure. We don’t have very large transmitters and most people operate with 100 watts or less. There are hobbyists who challenge themselves to communicate globally with as little transmitting power as possible.”

Members have hobby shacks and mobile units for their radio communication equipment. Fronek said working on mobile units is “fun and allows us to do other activities without needing to be at home.” His highlights include monthly fox hunts, campouts and field days. The group routinely activates state parks in a global program called Parks On The Air (POTA).

“Our hobby is ingrained in STEM. You can purchase a $10 radio or build up to a superstation,” Pacovsky said.

To connect with the community, Piglet Radio previously hosted a soldering event at Carmel Clay Public Library and will host an introduction to 3D modeling at CCPL in February.

“Piglet Radio reached out to us about coordinating an educational workshop for the community that would teach our patrons about the history and usefulness of the ham radio hobby,” said Kendall Culbertson, CCPL adult services assistant manager. “We saw it as a great opportunity for our community members to learn about something that might be new to them. The members of Piglet Radio are so kind and very passionate about what they do and sharing it with the community.”

Learn more at pigletradio.org.

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Joe Pereira (Call sign KD9HYG) communicates with amateur radio satellites during the 2023 Winter Field Day at Coxhall Gardens in Carmel. (Photos courtesy of Piglet Radio)

Get to know Piglet Radio

The mission: Piglet Radio Inc. aims to provide a welcoming and inclusive community for individuals interested in radio communications and to foster education, innovation and exploration in the diverse aspects of amateur radio, according to its website.

Ways to connect: Monthly meetings, open to the community, at Wolfie’s Grill, 1162 Keystone Way South in Carmel 6:30 p.m. on the third Monday of every month.

The Piglet Radio winter field day will be open to the public from 5 p.m. Jan. 27 until 5 p.m. Jan. 28 at Osprey Point Pavilion, 19777 Morse Park Ln. in Noblesville. Anyone interested in learning more about the amateur radio hobby is welcome to attend. The event will include competitions, demonstrations and time for interaction and questions. Contact Piglet Radio for specific event times.

Introduction to 3D modeling from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Carmel Clay Public Library, 425 E Main St. in Carmel.

There will also be a national day for simulated emergency response in April.


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