Breakall sends students on a 'fox hunt' to learn ham radio

December 11, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – An initiative led by Jim Breakall, professor of electrical engineering, aims to get first-year students excited about ham radio.

On Dec. 7, students in his EE 009S First Year Seminar in Electrical Engineering class participated in a “fox hunt” on the University Park campus. 

Breakall explained, “The idea is that one student, the fox, hides on campus and transmits a radio signal. The rest of the class starts out at the HUB. In teams of two or three, they try to use techniques with hand-held radios, such as using the body as a shield or using a small antenna such as a paper clip, to try to find the fox.”

One of the purposes of the activity, Breakall said, is to simulate an emergency, for example someone lost in the woods or an airplane that is down. “It’s just a lot of fun for this class to see who can find the fox first.”

He noted that some students come up with their own unique ideas to find the fox. “Alex Yuan, a first-year electrical engineering student, asked if he could employ a more sophisticated system using the Doppler technique with four antennas and attached circuitry. It then lights up LEDs in a compass arrangement and can guide one right to the transmitting signal, in this case the fox. He installed the system on his bike. It is pretty amazing.”

After the hunt, Breakall treated the students to ice cream at the Berkey Creamery to celebrate everyone finding the fox. 

He recalled, “While Alex, science undergraduate Mike Brulo (the fox) and I were leaving, we ran into President (Eric) Barron, who was just coming to the creamery. He saw Alex’s bike and asked us what this was all about, and we explained everything to him. He was pretty impressed.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 11, 2014