NORTH AUGUSTA — Young and old came together as the North Augusta Belvedere Radio Club participated in the American Radio Relay League's field day over the weekend. Sitting side by side in Aiken County Emergency Services' communications trailer were Darby Wills, 13, and Mike Newland, 72. They and their colleagues were trying to contact as many other amateur radio operators as possible in the United States and Canada during a 24-hour period that had begun on Saturday at 2 p.m. As of 12:40 p.m. on Sunday, they had reached more than 1,300.


“I like the technology,” said Wills, who attends Schofield Middle School in Aiken and will be in the eighth grade when the 2014-2015 school year starts in August. “It's all about experimenting and trying to figure out how it works and seeing if it blows up in your face or not.”


Newland, who lives in Graniteville, has been an amateur radio operator for about 10 years. He was able to contact an amateur radio operator in Hawaii during the field day.


“I'm kind of proud of that,” Newland said.


By just after noon on Sunday, Daniel Kingery, 13, had made more than 100 contacts.


“It's fun to know that you can talk to anyone, anywhere, when you want to,” said Kingery of his enthusiasm for amateur radio. “You don't need any cellphone towers. You can talk to someone directly, radio to radio. You can reach all over the world without having to pay for cellphone service or pay for Internet service. You just buy the radio, and then you get your amateur operator license and talk. It's cool.”


Kingery's two younger brothers – Jonathan and David – also participated in the field day.


David Kjellquist, who is the North Augusta Belvedere Radio Club's treasurer, said approximately one dozen of the organization's members were involved in the field day. Around 15 visitors stopped by the Public Safety Station to watch.


For youngsters, “amateur radio is a great introduction to technology,” Kjellquist said. “It's the reason why I have two degrees in electrical engineering and had a 40-year career as an engineer. I got into amateur radio when I was 16 years old, and I'm celebrating 50 years as a ham radio operator.”


Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard.