Talking about hams we often classify us in two categories – operators, also called communicators, and tweakers. The first group of hams is almost obsessed in making QSOs, the more the better, the faster or longer the better, the rarer the better. Often these hams are engaged in DXing or contesting but they could as well enjoy ragchewing for hours. The second group of hams are the quiet type possessing enormous ability to focus their attention to a technical problem as long as needed to solve it. There is a frequent rumour that a third type exists – a combination of the two types described above – but I strongly suspect that this is an anomaly or exception from the general rule. Well, enough joking around!
It is quite easy to detect to which group a school class of youth belongs. After the introduction or presentation of Amateur Radio we usually have three positions which may be freely chosen by the pupils to participate: electronics constructing position, CW key with a training oscillator and a working radio station. The result: the class will be divided into three equally sized groups. Obviously the first group is formed by tweakers and the two other groups are made of communicators. It is also true that CW attracts musically talented youths. Especially young female violin players have shown remarkable success in quickly mastering the correct way to send with a straight key. To have a fist like that underlines that CW is music.
In Finland we have several national contests organised by SRAL or local clubs. The easiest to participate is the monthly Basic Contest aimed at newcomers. It only lasts one hour both on phone and CW. The contest rules favour the Basic class licensees in such a way that they are entitled to free use both segments of the 80 metre CW or phone sub-band while the Extra class licensees can call CQ only in the upper segment. In the lower segment the latter can only call the Basic class licensees running the pileup on their own frequencies. This makes it easy for a newcomer to choose an unoccupied frequency in the lower sub-band and enjoy a nice pileup without reverting to making QSOs in the Search-and-Pounce mode.
I have made several tests with youths showing some interest in Amateur Radio by introducing the Basic contest to them. As a rule, they have liked the contest very much. After a slow start they have been taken by the flow of adrenalin in their veins so that the typical expression after the contest is “Hey, this is really cool!”
Some young operators have found contesting to answer their need to compete in order to be the winners among the peers. There are several young contesters in Finland today as witnessed by the popularity of contest stations like OH8X www.radioarcala.com or OH0Z www.qsl.net/oh0z/ among youth. Many young OH hams want to be part of a top contest team but in order to reach their goal they have to start from the bottom, i.e. Basic contest, and progress through smaller international contests until they are ready to be invited to join a top team.
Contesting is a suitable challenge for competitive types of young hams. It gives them ample opportunities to develop their operating talent to a level where the deep feeling for an accomplishment is the best reward. In Finland, many contest stations welcome young operators and guide them through the process of building their skills into perfection.