Newly licensed amateur radio operator Keller Ford is joined by his parents, Julie and Ephraim Ford and his brother Robinson at Cottonwood Valley Charter School.
John Larson | El Defensor Chieftain

It was something that he thought would be fun. Eleven-year-old Keller Ford is now a licensed amateur radio operator. He earned his Technician Class FCC License after passing a test involving FCC rules and regulations and the basic operation of radios.

A short ceremony was held at Cottonwood Valley Charter School where ham enthusiast Jon Spargo presented Keller with a hand-held BaoFeng radio.

Spargo is part of the network of ham radio enthusiasts in Socorro who volunteer their time and equipment to be ready to assist emergency services in times of disaster.

“The radio is donated by a member of the Socorro Amateur Radio Association,” Spargo said. “It is a dual-band radio that transmits and receives operating in the 2-meter ham band and the 70-centimeter band.”

Keller said he was inspired to go after his license after experiencing the limitations of walkie-talkies, which have only a range of a mile or two.

Jon Spargo (left) helps with the unboxing of Keller Ford’s BaoFeng ham radio, a gift from a member of the Socorro Amateur Radio Association.
John Larson | El Defensor Chieftain

“The main reason I did it was for fun because I thought it would be cool to contact other people,” Keller said. “I had some walkie-talkies but it can only get out so far. So I thought, there’s a ham radio club at the school.”

Spargo said with his license and new radio he will now be able to talk all over the state of New Mexico.

“Keller passed the exam for the entry-level license which will give him operating privileges for the dedicated amateur radio bands with frequencies of 30 MHz or higher,” Spargo said. “This includes both VHF and UHF ham bands.”

Keller said he also plans to use the radio for school projects.

“There are a lot of options you can do. Which is the other reason why I got the license,” he said. “I might use it on a backpacking trip. It’s useful to communicate in an emergency. Or communicate to other people on that trip who also have a ham radio license.”

According to the Federal Communications Commission, “licenses to operate amateur stations for personal use are granted to individuals of any age once they demonstrate an understanding of both pertinent FCC regulations and knowledge of radio station operation and safety considerations.”

“At over 100 licensees, Socorro has one of the highest per capita ham radio operators of any town, anywhere,” Spargo said. “We feel it’s important to encourage young people to learn what it’s all about and hopefully carry that interest into their adult lives.”

For more than 100 years, Amateur Radio – also called ham radio – has allowed people from all walks of life to experiment with electronics and communications techniques, as well as provide a free public service to their communities during a disaster or emergency.

“Hams do this by using a layer of Earth’s atmosphere as a sort of mirror for radio waves,” he said. “In today’s electronic do-it-yourself environment, ham radio remains one of the best ways for people to learn about electronics, physics, meteorology, and numerous other scientific  disciplines.”

Keller is currently awaiting his FCC call sign.