Anthony Opipari


PhD Candidate, University of Michigan

Getting my Ham Radio License at MIT

FCC Amateur Radio License: K1FMN

July, 2019.

Interest in Ham Radio

I (K1FMN) was first introduced to amateur radio while working at MIT Lincoln Laboratory by my colleague, Dr. Marc Vaillant (KB1OOO). Marc was one of my advisors at Lincoln and we sat next to each other while working on research projects at the laboratory. Marc had gotten into the hobby after he finished grad school and had extra time on his hands. Based on Marc’s experience, ham radio sounded like a fun hobby for welcoming, technology-interested people who enjoy finding clever ways of fitting radio transmissions into their lives (and homes).

In addition to Marc’s experience, the time I’ve spent working at Lincoln has given me a unique appreciation of the potential of radar and radio technology. MIT Lincoln Laboratory was created out of the MIT Radiation Laboratory (or Rad Lab, for short) and has a long history of innovating radar (and computing) technology. Hence, while working at Lincoln it would feel like a sort of malpractice not to get credentialed with at least an amateur radio license.

Thus, ham radio fits well with my ethos.

Preparing for the Test

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) offers a good set of resources for getting started in ham radio. After a bit of searching beyond the ARRL resources, I was lucky to discover and subsequently purchase a copy of the No Nonsense General Class License Study Guide (for tests given between July 2019 and June 2023) written by Dan Romanchik (KB6NU). This study guide served as my main resource for preparing for the test.

Taking the Test

The MIT Radio Society, America’s oldest college amateur station, offers Ham Exams once a month. Based on when I decided to try for the license, I had just missed the June exam but signed up for the July exam. After studying for about a month, I walked to Room 1-150 on the evening of Wednesday, July 24th to take my test.

I’m grateful to Steve Finberg (W1GSL), Professor Gerald J. Sussman (WA1NSE), and Nicholas Altenbernd (KA1MQX) for volunteering as the examiners for my test that evening. I really enjoyed overhearing the examiners discuss the intracacies of watch making while I answered the test questions.

I’m proud to report that the studying paid off—I ended up with a perfect score on the Technician Class test, followed by a perfect score on the General Class test. The tests are given such that after passing one, you’re offered a free try at the test for the next license level. After acing the first two tests, Professor Sussman suggest I try for the Amateur Extra Class license. But knowing I hadn’t studied beyond the General Class questions, I opted to keep my perfect record intact and leave with a General Class license.

MIT Nerd Pride Pocket Protector

After learning I worked at Lincoln Laboratory, Professor Sussman (WA1NSE) was kind enough to give me one of his very own MIT Nerd Pride pocket protectors. I can’t think of a more fitting memento for my time at the Institute.

MIT Nerd Pride Pocket Protector

My First Radio

After getting back to Michigan to start grad school, I received my first radio—a Yaesu FT-60, pictured below:

My Ham Radio Station and Transmitter