Lydia Bennett is currently a junior at Saint Francis High School near Atlanta. While in middle school, Lydia participated in an Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) event. ARISS is an international program that lets students use amateur (ham) radio to talk directly with crew members living and working on the International Space Station (ISS). ARISS, a Space Station Explorers partner program, supports hands-on learning about radio and electronics and has organized live events, called contacts, that connect students to the space station.
Below, Lydia shares her thoughts on participating in an ARISS contact and learning about ham radio and the impact the experience had on her.
In 8th grade, I was lucky to be invited by my science teacher to participate in the ham radio event, Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, at my school. My science teacher, Martha Muir (amateur radio call sign W4MSA), sent out a flyer inviting students to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The goal for this event was to communicate with an astronaut via ham radio as the ISS passed overhead and to get students interested in the sciences by giving them this special opportunity. Students needed to submit questions to ask an astronaut on the ISS, and Ms. Muir chose students who had submitted the best questions. I was one of the students chosen.
It honestly was one of the best days of my life. I was so excited to be chosen because I would have this incredible opportunity to ask my own question to an astronaut. Some of us, myself included, even got to ask other questions submitted by students who lived in England! I feel so grateful for having the opportunity to talk to an astronaut using ham radio.
When kids are little, they always dream of being an astronaut or even talking to one. Having an ARISS contact experience is such a great way to open up and talk to a real-life astronaut. It really helps expand kids’ interest in ham radio, too, even though they might not fully understand the whole concept of ham radio.
I recently got my Amateur Radio Technician license. One of the main reasons for deciding to get my license was so that I could have the possibility of getting to know more people around the United States and, eventually, around the world. Ms. Muir helped me study for it, along with my mom who also earned her license.
Having ham radio as a hobby is very interesting, and people can form groups and do various activities. For example, you can put together a Morse code keypad, like I did with my youth group. As an adult, you can also help in emergency communications settings and create communications events, whether it be for adults or children.
I am interested in broadcast journalism, and being a broadcaster in NASA communications would be such a dream! My parents and I just recently saw on TV a NASA/SpaceX mission, and I was inspired by seeing the women broadcasting the event. I realize that ham radio fits into communications and how important it is in communications, due to speaking all over the world with various people using the radio.
Since I lived in Brazil for seven years, I became fluent in Portuguese. Spanish comes easily to me due to how similar the languages are. Because of this, I am considering a minor in Spanish when I get to college. I am looking for colleges around the Northeastern part of the U.S. and am planning to major in communications. Next semester, I plan to take an engineering class that my school offers.
Another thing that inspired me was when my parents and I visited the NASA Kennedy Space Center. We enjoyed the space center so much that we decided to go back for a second day. My uncle and grandfather were both aerospace engineers who worked for Boeing and worked closely with NASA.