BSA Radio Merit Badge – Requirement One

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Content Courtsey of K2GW

Explain what radio is. Then discuss the following:

  • The differences between broadcast radio and hobby radio.
  • The differences between broadcasting and two-way communications.
  • Radio station call signs and how they are used in broadcast radio and amateur radio.
  • The phonetic alphabet and how it is used to communicate clearly.

Radio is a way to electronically communicate without wires. Radio sends information from one location to another using electromagnetic waves. The information could be morse code, your voice, music, or data. Electromagnetic waves are created when we get an electrical circuit to vibrate electrons back and forth thousands or millions a time per second.

You probably already know broadcast radio, but radar, wireless networks, remote car locks, cell phones, microwave ovens, communications satellites, televison, satellite navigation systems, EZ-Pass toll systems and those security tags in stores are all radio too!

Broadcasting uses radio to send information to many people at the same time. Hobby radio is the use of radio by ordinary people such as ham radio operators to communicate with each other or to control models.
Broadcasting is a one way transmission to many receivers at the same time such as a local music station or television station.

Two way communications are a back and forth conversation between two stations. Both stations then take turns transmitting and receiving. Two way radio is used by police, fire, ambulances, planes, trains, ships, astronauts, and folks like you every day!

All radio transmitters must use call signs to prove that they have been licensed. Some broadcast call signs are WABC or KYW. Amateur Radio Call signs are like K2GW or KC2PNP, with a number in them.

Because some letters such as “C” and “E” might sound alike when transmissions are noisy, standard Phonetic Alphabet words are often used to make things understood.

These standard “phonetics” are:

Letter Pronunciation Letter Pronunciation Number Pronunciation
A Alfa (AL fah) N November (no VEM ber) 0 ZEE row
B Bravo (BRAH VOH) O Oscar (OSS cah) 1 WUN
C Charlie (CHAR lee) P Papa (pah PAH) 2 TOO
D Delta (DELL tah) Q Quebec (keh BECK) 3 TREE
E Echo (ECK oh) R Romeo (ROW me oh) 4 FOW er
F Foxtrot (FOKS trot) S Sierra (see AIR rah) 5 FIFE
G Golf (GOLF) T Tango (TANG go) 6 SIX
H Hotel (hoh TELL) U Uniform (YOU nee form) 7 SEVEN
I India (IN dee ah) V Victor (VIK tah) 8 AIT
J Juliet (JEW lee ETT) W Whiskey (WISS key) 9 NINE er
K Kilo (KEY loh) X X Ray (ECKS RAY)
L Lima (LEE mah) Y Yankee (YANG key)
M Mike (MIKE) Z Zulu (ZOO loo)

For example, you might say “My name is Gary, I spell Golf Alfa Romeo Yankee”