NAPILI - Nathaniel Muto, 11, may well be the youngest ham in Hawaii!
Nathaniel, Griffin Sagar, 12, and Maui Preparatory Academy teacher Ian Cowan recently took the FCC technician class exam at the Maui County Civil Defense headquarters in Wailuku.
"All three passed with flying colors! Our three test-takers have now earned their amateur (ham) radio licenses and are now contacting hams from around the world from the Maui Prep Amateur Radio Club station located in a classroom on our beautiful campus," explained former Maui Prep Principal Dr. Mike Manafo.
"Through the benevolence of hams on Oahu and Maui, along with the Schools of the Future grant, we now have a fine station capable of transmitting on 11 different amateur frequency bands and able to reach stations throughout the world on SSB, CW and FM."
To date, KH6MX, the club's call sign, has contacted more than 300 stations in 17 different countries.
The Maui Prep Amateur Radio Club grew from a one-week interim activity in February to a full-fledged club that meets Tuesdays and Thursdays after school until 4 p.m.
MPA students are welcome to join at no cost and work toward earning their radio license.
On April 9, a big, high-frequency ground plane antenna was installed behind the G Building on campus, and the club's "DX (telegraphic shorthand for "distance") potential is now without limit," Manafo said.
"Griffin (WH6DXP), Na-thaniel (WH6DXS) and Mr. Cowan (WH6DXV) studied each day for one full month to learn the radio theory, circuitry and FCC regulations in order to pass the technician exam. Because exams are only administered three times a year on Maui, our students were determined to take their exams in April rather than waiting until August of this year. And they did it! Of the 15 test-takers - 13 adults and two kids - the Maui Prep crew had among the highest scores, with the ever-amazing Griffin notching a 98 percent on the exam!"
Manafo and Muto recently flew to Honolulu to attend a meeting of the Ko'olau Amateur Radio Club and thank members for supporting Maui Prep's program.
"In turn, our hosts were thrilled to meet young Nathaniel, perhaps the youngest ham in the state," Manafo said.
"By the way, this young lad is an honor student at Maui Prep and an all-around great kid. Despite computers, I-Pads and all other distractible gadgets, Nate is most excited about ham radio. His goals over the summer are to master Morse Code and to sit for his general exam this coming August. Griffin and Ian have the same exact goals!
"It really warms my heart to work with kids for whom 'radio is magic' - the same way it was for me when I was a kid. I believe that school radio clubs can help transform a hobby that many believe is pass, and can help make radio wondrous all over again. With young hams such as Griff and Nate leading the way, our avocation is in good hands."
Ham operators in Hawaii played a key role in building the Maui Prep school radio program and KH6MX.
"This past December, I put out an e-mail blast to the local ham community looking for gear, and the response was overwhelming! In fact, there were more offers of equipment than we could possibly accept at KH6MX," Manafo explained.
With their contributions and a grant from the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, Schools of the Future initiative, Maui Prep hams are on the air through a Ten-Tec Omni VII transceiver, FT8800R dual band UHF/VHF transceiver, a Zero-Five 10-40M GP Vertical, six-band fan dipole and Comet GP1 dual band UHF/VHF vertical.
"Even the coax and connectors were donated! Mahalo nui loa to all our KH6 friends and supporters! Ham Radio is alive and well at Maui Prep in Lahaina, Hawaii," Manafo concluded.
Dr. Manafo (K3UOC) was first licensed in 1962 and started his first school radio club that same year at Wesleyville High School in Erie, Pennsylvania.
He has since been the licensee or trustee of the following school ham clubs: Colegio Internacional de Cara- bobo, Escuela Campo Alegre, Harvard Wireless Club, Harvard Caribbean Contest Station, Al Khalidia Academy, St. John's School and Maui Prep.
Dr. Manafo and his family have moved to Pennsylvania.