Engineering Hero: Inspiring the Next Generation with Interactive Radio Kits

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by W0PV, Nov 1, 2023.

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  1. W0PV

    W0PV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Mentoring by radio amateurs, parental or otherwise, can produce great outcomes. So many of us today, including me, were inspired toward a productive & prosperous professional career at least partially by our early STEM or other contacts & experiences made through amateur radio. Hope you enjoy this example.

    73, John, WØPV


    Engineering Hero: Inspiring the Next Generation with Interactive Radio Kits - By Embedded Computing Design Staff November 01, 2023

    What were you doing on an average day when you were 7 years old? Probably not learning how to code and develop CAD projects while you waited for your dad to finish working, right?

    Well, Levi Zima, aka KN4YHS, an RF microwave engineer at RF Labs and recent graduate from the University of Central Florida, was doing just that. Even before the age of 7, when he was only 5, he was learning how to solder.

    Born in Oregon, spending several years of childhood in Wisconsin, Levi now resides in Sorrento, Florida, a little north of Orlando.

    Spending most of his time with his father David, aka KJ7JG, also an RF microwave engineer, at work — he naturally, eventually would get bored and want to go home. Enter David Zima’s solution: engineering videos and tutorials to keep Levi entertained.

    This may sound like a career written in the stars — Levi discovered engineering and developed skills as a child, and would therefore naturally follow in his father’s footsteps. He even works at his father’s engineering company, RF Labs. But the truth ended up being a bit more complicated. Levi didn’t actually decide he wanted to pursue a degree or career in engineering until around 2018.

    For the Kids

    Over the years he spent working alongside his father, Levi was able to get a ton of hands-on experience, whether it was assembling and soldering circuit boards at around age 12 or participating more in testing and running the manufacturing line — which he did around age 16 as he started becoming more interested in the electronics themselves.

    Knowing that, it makes sense that Levi has had a hand in numerous projects with applications ranging from child safety around lawnmowers to COVID detection in the Navy. But, according to him, the one closest to his heart even now wasn’t one centered around safety.

    In 2018, the Experimental Aircraft Association asked Levi to design a radio kit that would teach younger kids about electronics. He started with a simple crystal radio, adding a few modifications to the older design. Because the device was for children, he made sure it was packaged in a small form factor to make it easier for kids to handle and build.

    The design process wasn’t necessarily smooth sailing, though. It took several months, a few redesigns, and troubleshooting to arrive at a product Levi was satisfied with. It was finished in time to take to an air show, where the children present could build it, learn about radio and electronics engineering, and even how to solder — all in about 30-45 minutes.

    Levi got a lot of great feedback about that project and how it sparked the children’s interest in the inner workings of electronics, not just from parents of the kids using it and volunteers who were at the air show, but also from the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL).

    “That's really what inspired me to choose the path of becoming an electrical engineer because I just saw all the good that it did, and how something that I created could help inspire the next generation of engineers,” Levi said.

    After that, at the beginning of 2020, Levi decided to pursue his degree at UCF in electronics engineering.

    The Mission He Chose to Accept

    David Zima started his engineering company, RF Labs, shortly after Levi was born to help combat medical expenses. It’s been a family company since then, with David himself, Levi, and his older sister all working together, with a mission to design and develop products that help people and improve lives.

    And Levi has held firm to that philosophy, whether by inspiring the next generation of engineers with a radio kit or working on devices that introduce innovative ways to keep people of all ages safe.

    AA5BK, W7STF, N7XCZ and 3 others like this.
  2. PY1KZ

    PY1KZ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Nice job Levi!!! You are a great exemple for new generation. Congratulations!!!
  3. KQ1V

    KQ1V Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Nice piece.
  4. EI4GEB

    EI4GEB Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Incredibly innovative initiative! I personally engage in mentoring young students in Ireland, focusing on STEM subjects. My mentoring encompasses a wide array of topics such as programming, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, laser cutting, and various engineering disciplines. Through hands-on projects in electronics, we empower these students to apply theoretical knowledge in a practical setting, fostering a deep understanding and passion for the exciting world of technology and engineering.
    Very well done. John

    KI7PMQ likes this.
  5. AA5BK

    AA5BK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    excellent! thanks for the hard work.
  6. K9EZ

    K9EZ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    This is motivational to work with my 5 yar old grandson. Thank you!

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