August 6, 2007
On the airwaves with Mr. Haley aka WA0ZDE
By Karrah Anderson
Most people know him as Mr. Haley, the sixth grade teacher at Delano Middle School, or even as Dad to his four children, but there is an entire community of people that know him by the call name of WA0ZDE.
Rick Haley has been interested in amateur radio for many decades, and his passion began back during the “space race,” when astronauts landed on the moon.
Just barely in his teens, Haley took a test that began his journey through the radio spectrum. He studied Morse code, brushed up on the proper etiquette of radio transmission, and took a test to get his license in amateur radio. His studying paid off and he passed, receiving the title of novice.
Over time, Haley’s hobby developed into a passion and solid knowledge for understanding the radio spectrum, as well as other aspects of his life. He gained access to a world many are unfamiliar with.
“I’ve enjoyed it for a long time,” Haley said, “It’s always been interesting to hear other’s viewpoints.”
The first radio transmitter that Haley operated was hand-built by himself, where he personally sought out each piece of equipment and assembled it. His first radio was a single channel, and he communicated through Morse code, a required knowledge for the license test.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s, Haley would listen to the radio, hearing the perspectives of people from all around the world in different countries.
“There was a lot of propaganda, I remember,” Rick explained. “It was just a characteristic of that time period.”
As your experience increases as a novice, you have the opportunity to study more and climb up the ladder of licenses. By learning more about the system and studying the radio spectrum, a novice is able to advance to technician, all they way to “extra class,” the highest level of licensing, the title that Haley carries today.
Each of these levels allowed Haley to gain more access to different radio frequencies, and to operate and communicate to a broader range.
Ham radio is home to many different people, and is transmitted worldwide.
Depending on the frequency, Haley has been able to communicate with people on either coast of the US, as well as other countries including Australia, Korea, Japan, and many more.
Although ham radio operators come from all walks of life, their shared interest in the radio waves bonds them together, creating a community only experienced in space.
“You know, you build someone up to be a certain way in other countries, but you realize that they are just struggling along like we are,” Haley explained.
General protocol of a radio transmission is to greet with your call name and state where you are broadcasting from: WA0 ZDE, Zula Delta Echo, to aid in proper reception of the call name, in Delano, Minnesota.
The conversation continues from there, starting light with talk of the weather and then it moves to a discussion of the equipment you are operating with, which is where your knowledge is tested.
After sharing a transmission, it is common to send a postcard to the person you met with, depicting where you are from and also documenting the frequency and power of the transmission you shared. This process has allowed Haley to build many friendships with people all over the world.
“I have exchanged many cards and built friendships,” Haley said. “There was a woman I came to know well that would send my kids cards for birthdays and holidays.”
The radio spectrum is vast and takes a patient person to properly hone the skills Haley has.
He spends most of his summer mornings cruising the air waves, listening for the slightest noise, indicating someone is out there to meet and communicate with
“It’s kind of like fishing,” Haley explained. “You have to just sit and wait until you get a bite.”
Haley has learned a lot since his first transmission in 1969. As he has gone from strictly Morse code and a handmade radio to a highly sophisticated piece of machinery, his confidence has matured as well.
“My first transmission was very exciting and kinda scary, it was all in Morse code,” Haley remembered. “You learn through trial and error and it gets easier that way.”
He has learned a lot about communication, too.
“It kinda makes you listen more, take notes,” Haley explained. “You pay attention to what people are actually saying, other than just think what you’re gonna say.”
During a transmission, much like most radio communication, only one person can speak at a time, allowing you time to jot down notes about what they are telling you, so you can respond thoughtfully. It is also key to relay your call name every 10 minutes to dissolve confusion and keep the transmission well-informed.
Ham radio has advanced over time and now, both the radio and computer can interact and control one another. Haley, along with many other operators, have created online profiles explaining their equipment and the location they are transmitting from.
The summer also allows Haley to listen more than during the busy school year, when time is more often restricted to the weekends. He did have the opportunity to bring ham radio into the classroom last year, on Exploratory day.
His students came to his ham radio station, and had the opportunity to speak with people and be a part of multiple radio transmissions. They also learned their names in Morse code, a knowledge that has dissolved in this generation.
Haley explained that in Morse code there were code names like “YL, OM, and XYL,” which mean young lady, old man, and wife; these were communicated in order to get an idea of who you were speaking to.
Through the many years Haley has been involved with ham radio he has met many different people, attended “Hamfests,” where people gather to share their interest in ham radio, and has learned a lot about the art of communication through patience. Amateur radio has existed for a very long time and has been a staple of Haley’s life.
After attending Concordia College in Moorhead, Haley received his degree in teaching, which is the very reason he ended up in Delano. Haley has been teaching for the past 30 years, 28 of which have been in Delano. He and his wife, Wendy, raised their four children, Kari, Dan, Kim, and Sam in Delano, just a short distance from the school where Haley teaches sixth grade.
This is more than a hobby to Haley; it has developed into a passion that is shared among many, because of the friendships and community it provides through just sharing information across the globe and through space.