For ham radio enthusiasts gathered at a conference Saturday in Brookville, it was clear that their calling is a passion.
About 300 fans attended the annual Ham Radio University conference at LIU Post in Brookville, participating in more than 30 educational forums and hands-on workshops — from building their first amateur radio stations to creating their own ham antennas and honing their skills, organizers said.
Luigi Cassetta, 41, of Westchester County, was at his second event and said he enjoyed the hands-on learning during the Cable Theory and RF Connectors workshop, where he learned about the different characteristics of the cables used in ham radios.
Despite having what he described as basic radio equipment, Cassetta said he was “amazed” ham radio allowed him to connect with people over far distances — the farthest people he’d ever talked with were in New Caledonia, a collection of French Islands in the South Pacific.
“To think that I can get a signal from New York to New Caledonia with just the minimal equipment, to me, it’s a magic trick,” Cassetta said.
Milen Bourilkov, 31, of Queens, at his first conference, said the hobby has helped him connect not only with friends in his local radio club, but also with people as far away as Israel and Japan.
“I’ve never met them before,” he said. “But it’s great. You just call CQ [a general call] and someone comes back. You never know what you’re going to get on the band.”
Aside from being a fun hobby, ham radio can also be used as a key avenue for emergency communications during disasters or storms, said Jim Mezey, 73, of Carle Place. Mezey is the section manager for the New York City/Long Island section of the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio.
For example, during superstorm Sandy, Mezey said, association volunteers were able to provide assistance to emergency operation centers and shelters on Long Island when power went down.
“When communications are down, cellphones are down, and internet is down, we always can talk,” Mezey said.
For that reason, said Mike Lisenco, the event’s keynote speaker and ARRL Hudson Division director, it was important to find the next younger generation of ham radio operators.
“In 20 years, if we don’t do that, we’ll be renting out our headquarters because we don’t have young people involved,” said Lisenco, adding the association had been working on developing programs toward younger people that could “get an interest in radio as being a conduit for learning and enjoyment.”