Posted August 11, 2020
In the early months of COVID-19 many people were stuck at home. With lots of free time, many people started studying for a ham radio license. Testing requires at least three Volunteer Examiners(VEs) with the highest level of license to administer an exam. https://www.fcc.gov/wireless/bureau-divisions/mobility-division/amateur-radio-service/examinations
At one time, various regulations limited gatherings of groups of 10 people. Once these regulations were eased, finding a place to host an event such as a ham radio exam was very limited.
Some groups got creative by having exams in parking lots. With the success of the parking lot exams and no hosts available in the Jacksonville area, a parking lot exam was planned to meet local regulations while maintaining a safe environment.
Ed Austin Park is a very large park that two VEs go to regularly for their exercise. They visited the park on a Saturday in the early evening to see how many people are usually there. 5PM was chosen so that it would have cooled down from the Florida heat while having plenty of sunlight.
There were start times every 30 minutes with a limit on the number of people at each time slot to prevent a large gathering.
Four people drove 2-3 hours since there wasn't any testing in the Orlando or Gainesville areas.
Brand new exams were printed and were discarded after the session. Gloves and masks were offered to all candidates and VEs.
All paperwork was pre-printed assuming candidates would pass the first exam. The four candidates that passed Technician and General had their Certificate of Successful Completion (CSCE) hand written.
While checking in, candidates cleared their front seats, so VEs were comfortable that they didn't have any exam aids. Identification and calculators were checked. A printout was placed on the dashboard to indicate which cars needed to be watched. They were asked a series of questions to see if they had any COVID-19 symptoms in the past. They remained in their cars with the windows cracked for the entire exam.
Some VEs stayed in front of one to two cars while others roamed the parking lot. At least three VEs were able to observe each candidate per FCC regulations.
Bill Vetter KK4CAM(left), Brandi Kiehl K4PL(center), and Russ Langel K4HRL(right) grading exams
Three VEs set up a couple portable tables and a lawn umbrella to have a make shift grading station. They endured uncomfortable seats and paperwork flying away with the wind. Water bottles served as make shift paper weights.
There were 27 candidates, of which 25 passed. 37 total exams were given. There were 16 new Technicians, 6 new Generals (4 zero to General), and 3 new Amateur Extras.
Thanks to everyone that helped make this exam possible. We couldn't do it without the help of the Volunteer Examiners that attended and helped plan the event.
Rajesh Verma K4SK and Brandi Kiehl K4PL
This exam received lots of national attention and was featured in the July 2020 edition of CQ Magazine. A copy of the article is available at https://rawdust.com/uploads/Drive%20In%20Exams.pdf