An open day to remember

01 August 2019

Children and parents came from far and wide to get a glimpse of the fascinating world of spectrum engineering last week, as Ofcom played host to the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) annual Engineering Open House Day.

The day, now in its fifth year, aims to promote engineering as a career choice for young people – something Ofcom supports passionately.

And Baldock Radio Station, home of our spectrum management centre, made for the ideal venue, as it celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.A new drone at Baldock

Baldock’s newest drone on display before a test flight

Activities galore

Over 150 children and parents joined us on the day, where they were able to take part in a host of educational and fun activities. This included demonstrations of spectrum in action, with the children having a chance to get their hands on hi-tech equipment. It also showcased the vital work our engineers do at Baldock and how it impacts our everyday lives. The children were also taught the importance of Baldock’s monitoring responsibilities, which make up a large part of Ofcom’s work at Baldock.

The activities included drone flying demonstrations, lessons in how to code, and signal-tracking challenges using state-of-the-art equipment.

Attendees were also given radio-wave interference demonstrations – showing how radio waves from microwave ovens can interrupt a wifi connection.

A child gets to grips with a drone simulation

Some of the children spread their wings with a drone simulator

A very happy birthday

This year’s event was extra special, with 2019 marking the 90th year since Baldock Radio Station came into operation. To celebrate, with the help of Ofcom's spectrum licensing team based in Warrington, the team established the unique radio callsign GB9BRS. The callsign was used to receive incoming radio transmissions – communicating with amateur radio enthusiasts as far afield as the USA, using voice and Morse code. In total, Baldock communicated with 117 separate radio contacts on the day, including Bletchley Park, The Imperial War Museum Duxford and the SS Rotterdam – a hotel ship in the Netherlands.Dez Watson chats with people around the world using Morse code

Ofcom engineering officer Dez Watson chats with people worldwide using Morse code

Long-lasting impact

Presenting engineering as a career path for young people is a priority for both the IET and Ofcom. So, we welcomed the opportunity to open our doors at Baldock and showcase the variety of work that goes on there – inspiring young people to become engineers in the future.

Armelle Boisset, Ofcom’s Director of Spectrum Engineering, said: “This is a great opportunity for young people to discover the vital role that spectrum engineers play in people’s everyday lives across the UK. Our team was on hand to explain the mysteries of the airwaves, and hopefully inspire the next generation of budding engineers.”

Attendees are given an introduction to Baldock's monitoring work

Attendees are given an introduction to Baldock’s monitoring work

So, the Engineering Open House Day is more than just a fun day out; it’s a potential springboard for the next generation of spectrum engineers. We’re keen to play our part and look forward to seeing more young people visiting us in the future. Ofcom also offers opportunities for young people to secure their first role in spectrum engineering through our apprenticeship programme.

What is spectrum?

You can’t see or feel radio spectrum. But any device that communicates wirelessly needs spectrum – such as televisions, car key fobs, baby monitors, wireless microphones and satellites. Mobile phones use spectrum to connect to a local mast so people can make calls and access the internet.

Why does Ofcom manage spectrum use?

Only a limited amount of spectrum is available, so it needs to be managed carefully. Certain bands of spectrum are also used for different purposes. For example, mobile companies use different parts of the spectrum to TV companies. So, it needs to be managed to prevent services interfering and causing disruption to people and businesses.