ARNewsline Young Ham of the Year – Erin King AK4JG

Erin King, AK4JG, a 17-year-old from Columbus, Georgia, who re-founded her high school’s radio club and then lofted a ham radio-carrying balloon to over 90,000 feet, recovered the flight data and used it to produce a truly striking video of that flight, has been named as recipient of the 2012 Amateur Radio Newsline Young Ham of the Year Award.

Watch MIT’16 EA Tube goes to Near Space!

Ever wondered how to execute a high altitude balloon mission? Erin King, AK4JG, talks about the process, planning and options in a presentation at Dayton in 2012.

Watch Launching Radios and Other Cool Stuff into the Stratosphere AK4JG.wmv

Erin is the daughter of Paul, K4ETY, and Patricia King.  She has two siblings:  Brandon, age 16 and Rachel, age 15.  Erin became a licensed radio amateur in 2009 and now holds an Extra Class license.  She is a member of the ARRL, the Columbus Amateur Radio Club, and the Russell County Radio Club.  She enjoys operating on local VHF and UHF repeaters as well as phone and digital modes on the High Frequency amateur radio bands. She is looking forward to mastering Morse Code as her next amateur radio challenge.

Erin King AK4JG

Erin King AK4JG

Erin became interested in amateur radio after joining a club at her high school dealing with robotics and then ham radio-equipped high-altitude balloon launches.  This school group has participated in FIRST Robotics competitions, and Erin has twice been Team Lead for Programming. The club also launches several high-altitude balloon missions each year, in a program called DREAMS.  They have flown various scientific experiments as part of these missions, in addition to planning, building, and integrating radios, Global Positioning System (GPS) units and TNCs to track and recover the balloons.  To facilitate these activities, the group’s sponsor, Luther Richardson, KI4AOJ, has encouraged the students to obtain their amateur radio licenses.

A subset of this group,including Erin, has participated in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) “InvenTeam” competition, designing and building a portable lightning detector and early warning system. In addition, Erin re-started the Columbus High School Radio Club and served as its president for the past two years.  The club was active in the 1950s and ’60s, and Erin’s great-grandfather (the original K4ETY) was one of its mentors at that time. The new club obtained the callsign W4CHS (Columbus High School) and has been active on the air.

Erin King AK4JG working 6m for Field Day 2011 - Image Credit Columbus Amateur Radio Club W4CVY

Erin King AK4JG working 6m for Field Day 2011 – Image Credit Columbus Amateur Radio Club W4CVY

Erin’s involvement with amateur radio and FIRST Robotics has helped fuel her interest in science and engineering. Last year, she applied for early admission to both Georgia Tech and MIT; she was accepted to both and will be attending MIT this fall.

Inside the shiny tube which contained Erin’s MIT acceptance letter was a note suggesting that the students “hack” their tubes, meaning to do something cool with them, in along-standing tradition of MIT hacks or stunts. Erin chose to send her tube to near-space.

Drawing on her ballooning experience,Erin planned, built, integrated, and tested a complete new tracking setup to fit into the very small shipping tube.  The payload consisted of two GPS units, two custom-made antennas, one Argent Data OpenTracker+ kit (which Erin built), one handheld radio, and a fellow ham’s Byonics Pocket Tracker, a self-contained 100-milliwatt tracker/radio combination in an Altoids® tin.  Erin also talked her mother into letting her use mom’s brand new GoPro Hero HD video camera.

With the assistance of a group of hams from the Columbus Amateur Radio club, Erin launched her balloon from Lumpkin, GA.  A couple of hours later, she and the tracking team successfully recovered it, along with the complete HD video record of the flight. Erin took this video, as well as other photos and videos taken of the launch activities, and compiled it into an 8-minute presentation,complete with background music.  She posted it to YouTube, and put a link to it on the MIT hack-the-tube site (see<>). According to YouTube statistics, Erin’s video has been viewed thus far in excess of 82,500times.

This past May, Erin was invited to participate in no less than three forums and sessions at the 2012Dayton Hamvention®.  These included the 25thanniversary “Youth Forum,” the “Ham Radio Town Meeting” and an “ARRL Expo”presentation where her video was screened.

Award Ceremony

The 2012 Amateur Radio Newsline™ “Young Ham ofthe Year Award” will be presented on Saturday, August 18th at the Huntsville Hamfest in Huntsville, Alabama.  As the 2012″Young Ham of the Year,” Erin will receive –courtesy of Yaesu USA — an expense-paid trip to the Huntsville Hamfest, along with a gift of Yaesu brand ham radio equipment.  CQ magazine will treat her to an expense-paid week at Spacecamp Huntsville,and will present Erin with a variety of CQ products.  Amateur Radio Newsline™ will provide Erin with a commemorative plaque at the award ceremony.  Once again, the cost of year’s plaque has been underwritten by Dave Bell (W6AQ), President of DBA Entertainment Inc., Hollywood, California.  Heil Sound Ltd. will also be presenting Erin with a ham radio-related gift.

The presentation of the Young Ham of the Year Award has been a regular feature of the Huntsville Hamfest since 1993.  This has been made possible through the generosity and kindness of the event’s Planning Committee and the good offices of Huntsville Hamfest Association Vice President Charlie Emerson, N4OKL. (See

This year’s award ceremony will be hosted by Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF, and Don Wilbanks, AE5DW, of Amateur Radio Newsline™, Rich Moseson, W2VU, of CQ Communications, and representatives of Yaesu USA and Heil Sound.

Award Program Background

The Amateur Radio Newsline™ “Young Ham of the Year” award (formerly the Westlink Report Young Ham of the Year Award) has been presented annually since 1986 to a licensed radio amateur (ham) who is 18years of age or younger and who has provided outstanding service to the nation,his/her community or the betterment of the state of the art in communications through the amateur radio hobby/service. A website with full information on the award program and background material is located at

Award Sponsors

The award program is sponsored by the Los Angeles, California-based Amateur Radio Newsline™ with corporate support from Yaesu USA Corporation of Cypress, California, CQ Magazine of Hicksville, New York, and Heil Sound of Fairview Heights, Illinois.

Since 1976, Amateur Radio Newsline™ and its predecessor, the Westlink Radio Network, have been providing radio amateurs around the world with up-to-the-minute news at no cost to them. (See

The award’s three major corporate underwriters are world leaders in their respective areas of Amateur Radio product support.

Yaesu USA, which has been a corporate underwriter since the inception of the award program in 1986, is considered the trailblazer in the design, manufacture and distribution of high quality amateur gear as well as commercial two-way,  monitoring, marine and air-band communications equipment (See

CQ magazine and its sister publications, CQ VHF,Popular Communications and World Radio Online, are publishedby CQ Communications, Inc., and are considered the trend-setting publications serving today’s modern radio amateur.  (See

Heil Sound Ltd. Is considered as a world leader in the development and manufacture of new technology microphones and related audio products for professional sound reinforcement and amateur radio communications.  (See