PEPPERELL -- The World Championship of amateur ham radio is coming to Massachusetts next year, and local ham-radio operators were helping prepare for it by testing sites around the region this past weekend.
"This is big international stuff, and Massachusetts is the one that's hosting it," said local ham radio operator Bob Reif. He helped set up a radio tower in Heald Street Orchard Friday morning to test the site for the competition. "It's the Olympics of amateur radio."
The World Radiosport Team Championship, a competition held every four years, will be based at sites across Massachusetts in July 2014. The competition will feature 59 two-person teams from across the world, each stationed at a different site in the area.
Competitors will be chosen based on their scores in other major competitions, and will represent all regions of the world.
Teams will be scored based on factors such as how many sites they can communicate with in a 24-hour period and how many countries and regions of the world they make contact in. The winners will be presented with medals in a ceremony after the competition.
The efforts of the Nashoba Valley Amateur Radio Club this past weekend served two functions: to participate in the weekend's International Amateur Radio Union High Frequency Championship competition; and to test the functionality of the sites for next year's world championships.
Local operators were testing 30 sites across the region, from Plymouth to Hollis, N.H., by trying to communicate with other IARU championship operators around the globe with the goal of finding out which sites are fit for next year's competition.
"The sponsors are very concerned that nobody gets an unfair advantage. Not all radio locations are equal," said Bruce Blain, who was at the Heald Street Orchard site last Friday afternoon.
Blain said the competition last weekend provided an opportunity to communicate with other operators around the world and test which sites around the area are good or bad for radio communications.
If any sites are substantially better or worse than average for communicating, they will be removed from the competition in order to ensure all competitors have an equal playing field next year.
Local amateur-radio operator James Youngberg said the WRTC organizers asked the local radio clubs, including the Nashoba Valley Amateur Radio Club, to help test the sites.
"It's a lot of engineering and an immense amount of logistics in planning," Youngberg said.
Reif said all the local operators participating in the testing are volunteering their time to help make the competition a success.
"We want amateur radio in New England to shine. We all have a desire to help it succeed," Reif said.
Youngberg said the global competition not only shines a light on New England's amateur radio community, but provides an opportunity to network with amateur radio operators worldwide.
"A lot of what ham radio is about is making friends around the world. Here's a chance to see them eye to eye," Youngberg said.
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