Sputnik produced many "Media Moments!"
Many magazine and news articles
covered the adventures of the St Joe's Radio Club gang tracking the very first space satellites
Sputnik and Sputnik-2 launched by the Russians in the Fall of 1957, and Sputnik-3 launched in May, 1958
An oscilloscope photo of the first Sputnik "beeps" recorded on tape by the club
made the cover for their feature story in January 1958 CQ magazine, and was later remembered in the
October and November 2007 issues of that magazine for the 50th Anniversary Year.
In all, the St Joe's Radio Club had gotten onto 7 TV shows and were covered in more than 30 radio news stories
and 20 newspaper articles, before they stopped counting.
The students literally got their "fifteen minutes of fame"
by relating their adventures "live" on WEWS TV-5 in Cleveland, on Sunday Dec 1, 1957.
That included movie footage
taken while they were doing the actual Sputnik tracking.
The movie was later made into a science visual-aid film.
Sputnik and the ensuing space-race produced an explosion of interest in Science and Engineering as choices of
study that extended well beyond the 1960's race to put a man on the moon!
In the years that followed, the students were repeatedly on TV-5 programs with their own Science Fair projects!
--no doubt positively influenced by this experience, but in the end it was the fantastic radio club that
gave them a can-do attitude and convinced them anything was possible.
Besides amateur radio, their moderator and mentor Mike Stimac encouraged them to obtain commercial
radio operator licenses "as a backup" to any career or job they might pursue. But this group was
especially linked by an event that would thereafter cause all broadcasting and communications
to be dependent on satellites and "rocket science." On the heals of Sputnik, a flying program followed!
Thus, several worked as avionics, communications
and broadcast engineers as they went on to college, or served in the military. Many were affected by the
"mentoring", later becoming technical specialists, inventors, scientists, and engineers. Perhaps fittingly,
one of them served a long career with WEWS-TV and headed the National SBE! --Another had a long career with NASA!
--and yet another had a long career as a university staff physicist and then acted as moderator of that
school's radio club!
So it went.
"Talk about the STEM program these days?
--We DID IT ALL in the 1950's!"
St. Joe's High School
The St Joe's Radio High School Club (SJHRC) prevailed from 1951 to 1979.
During that time about 150 students learned Morse Code, got licenses,
built and repaired transmitters and receivers, and performed public-service work, such as
providing communications for special events, conducting Halloween Vandal Patrols,
participating in Civil Defense drills and RACES --the Radio Amateur Communications Emergency Service.
On October 4, 1957, the Russians jump-started the "Space Race" by launching Sputnik,
the first space satellite!
The students had tunable receivers, rotate-able antennas, and the manpower to
immediately start tracking the signals; --and they recorded the beeps on magnetic tape.
The tracking stations for the "official" planned U.S. satellite launch program
were equipped with dedicated fix-tuned receivers
and special antennas set for 108 MHz and NOT the
"common" 20.005 MHz and 40.002 MHz frequencies the Russians blatantly had chosen for
their worldwide public-relations coup!
By the time the U.S. Govt. equipment could be changed over, the SJHRC had recorded
thousands of feet of tape.
Sputnik was battery-powered, and the 20 MHz signal started to falter
in just 8 days.
When the FBI came to take the 20,000 feet of tape for analysis
they said the club even beat the Navy station by 4 hours!
On November 3rd the Russians launched Sputnik-2 with a dog Laika on board.
By this time, the boys had even invented the "Orbitometer" --a circular slide rule, to predict with great accuracy,
the location of the satellite at any time. School officials started pursuing the idea of a patent.
On May 15, 1958, a massive 3,000 pound Sputnik-3 was launched!
Instead of beeps, it seemed like they now heard telemetry coded in the form of a Morse code "L" --didahdidit--
perhaps chosen in memory of Laika! --or maybe just an artifact due to the pulse width coding of some beeps.