Bikers in the recent American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure connected to home base with technology designed and built by students in RIT’s Amateur Radio Club K2GXT.
All the two-way radio and digital telephone transmissions were relayed along the routes of the annual fundraising event back to a command center created by members of the campus club and staffed by other area amateur radio supporters. The command center was located at Monroe Community College, starting point of the Tour de Cure.
“This was like a full, mini-911 center,” said James Stefano, staff adviser to the radio club. He and RIT undergraduate students Max Kelley, Aaron Herting and Kevin Cosgrove, along with 42 volunteers from the Rochester amateur radio community, helped monitor the 131 teams, 1,839 event participants and route conditions. Routes included the short, 3-mile family-friendly trek around MCC to the 100-mile journey around Conesus Lake and back. Every rider wore a wristband, provided by the event sponsor, with the telephone number to call or text the command center.
The club team had piloted a networked communication and safety system at last year’s event, Stefano added. They were charged this year with building the system that would be used by the race coordinators and safety personnel along the routes. It also had to include text capabilities to ensure participants who are deaf or hard-of-hearing could both access and provide information to event coordinators as needed.
The RIT Amateur Radio Club is more than 60 years old, and currently has 15 members. The club has provided technology services for many community-based events, such as the Rochester Marathon. In 2011 the club launched its High Altitude Balloon, and in 2012 the club was instrumental in supporting RIT’s Women in Engineering Program connect with the International Space Station. The young women in the summer camp program spoke to astronauts living at the ISS remotely. From its inception, the club has focused on increasing members’ knowledge of the technological aspects of the hobby.