Published: 09th December 2020
At 13 years, Bengaluru girl, Smriti Hegde is among the youngest HAM radio operators in India
Last month two 13-year-old girls from Karnataka became the youngest Young Ladies (YL) amateur radio operators. We speak to Smriti Hegde to find out what attracted her to HAM radios
When Smriti Hegde got her official license as the youngest HAM or radio operator from the Department of Telecommunications last month, her happiness knew no bounds. "I was happy and felt like jumping as high as I could. But I couldn't as I was in a car heading home from my regular cricket practice," she says with a chuckle.
Smriti, who is currently studying in class 8 at National Centre for Excellence joined the Indian Institute of Hams in 2018 to train as a HAM operator. She recalls, "My father was the first who wanted to learn to operate a radio or HAM, so we visited the institute. We fell in love with the HAM as well as the way it operates. We joined the weekend classes and learnt the phonetics like any other HAM operator." What are phonetics? The 13-year-old explains, "Phonetic alphabets are meant for communication with a person on the other end. We usually use phonetics to release critical information. For instance, instead of using A B C, we use the words Alpha, Bravo, Charlie. Some letters like D, T, V might sound similar so it helps to use Delta, Tango, Victor. Whatever we say is heard clearly by the person on the other end."
But before Smriti received her license to be an official HAM operator, she wrote an exam — the Amateur Station Operator's Certificate (ASOC) conducted by the Amateur Radio Society of India — and cleared it. She explains, "There are two sections in this exam. While section A is basic electronics, section B consists of the rules and regulations that a HAM has to follow while operating. The questions are multiple choice and each section is for 50 marks. They don't disclose the marks but tell you if you have passed or not. Soon after this, I applied for the license and got it."
Smriti believes that learning is a continuous process and it doesn't end once you've mastered one thing. She is now training in Morse Code through the material available online. Her typical day starts at 6:45 am when she wakes up and gets ready to attend her online classes. Once she is done with it at 12:30 pm, she reads or goes through the Morse Code material. After lunch, she leaves for cricket practice. Every day, she goes to the Karnataka Institute of Cricket (KIOC) to practise for two hours. She is a wicket-keeper and a batsman. She says, "I started playing cricket when I was ten years old and before that I played gully cricket with my friends."
When asked if she is ready to work as a HAM operator during disasters, she says, "If my parents allow me and I complete learning Morse Code, I will surely go ahead and help people during disasters."