Jamboree-on-the-Air, or JOTA, is the largest Scouting event in the world. It is held annually the third full weekend in October. JOTA uses amateur radio to link Scouts and hams around the world, around the nation, and in your own community. This jamboree requires no travel, other than to a nearby amateur radio operator's ham shack. Many times you can find the hams will come to you by setting up a station at your Scout camporee, at the park down the block, or perhaps at a ham shack already set up at your council’s camp.
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Scouts of any age can participate, from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts and Venturers, including girls. Once at the ham radio station, the communication typically involves talking on a microphone and listening on the station speakers. However, many forms of specialized communication may also be taking place, such as video communication, digital communication (much like sending a message on your smartphone but transmitted by radio), or communication through a satellite relay or an earth-based relay (called a repeater). The exchanges include such information as name, location (called QTH in ham speak), Scout rank, age, and hobbies. The stations you’ll be communicating with can be across town, across the country, or even around the world! The World Scout Bureau reported that nearly 1 million Scouts and almost 20,000 amateur radio operators participated in the 2015 JOTA, from more than 17,776 stations in 151 countries.
When Is It?
Jamboree-on-the-Air is held the third weekend in October. There are no official hours, so you have the whole weekend to make JOTA contacts. The event officially starts Friday evening during the JOTA Jump Start and runs through Sunday evening.
How Can I Participate as a Scout?
Contact your local Scout council and see what may already be planned in your area. You can also contact a local ham radio operator or a local amateur radio club. You can find a searchable database of clubs at www.arrl.org/find-a-club. This website is operated by the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio, which is cooperating closely with the BSA on JOTA and many other activities.
Your local club may be able to direct you to its planned JOTA activities. These can include ham stations set up at camporees or other events. Or, if there are no planned activities, you can either work with them to get something set up or arrange to visit a local radio operator’s ham shack at a scheduled time to participate in JOTA.
How Can I Participate as an Amateur Radio Operator?
Contact your local Scout council and see what may already be planned in your area and how you can help. You can find your council at http://scouting.org/LocalCouncilLocator.aspx.
If nothing is currently planned, or if current plans aren’t reaching your area, you can work with the council or a local unit (pack, troop, crew) to set up a JOTA station or arrange for visits to your ham shack. You can also participate just by making QSOs with the many JOTA stations that will be on the air. A good resource to find a local Scout unit is the Be-A-Scout website at https://beascout.scouting.org/BeAScoutMap.aspx.