After 200 hours of studying and passing a 50-question, multiple-choice exam, Silas Kriner of Jonesboro recently received his Extra Class amateur radio license. It's the highest licensee class and means Silas has full privileges on all frequencies authorized by the FCC for amateur radio operators.
Silas, by the way, is 8.
"It was fun, but it made me a little nervous," Silas says of the test, which he took after earning his Technician and General Class licenses. "I would study for about three hours a day."
Among the subjects he studied were FCC regulations, radio propagation, circuits and circuit components.
"And there were, like, a lot of subtopics," says Silas, whose call sign is KI5VDZ.
Silas will be entering the fourth grade in the Valley View School District, and says his favorite subject is science. He is the son of Eric and Florence Kriner. Eric has been into amateur radio for about 11 years and Florence, whose call sign is KF5OBU, dabbles in it a bit.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Eric, whose call sign is KF5KVE, began listening for updates on his shortwave radio, which caught Silas' attention.
"Silas started showing an interest and we pushed him toward amateur radio to supplement his schoolwork," Eric says. "I wanted him to be exposed to a new skill and he ran with it."
Silas began studying for his entry-level Technician Class license on April 11, then moved on to the General Class. After 67 days of studying, he took the test for his Extra Class license.
"That's pretty good for an 8-year-old," Eric says. "The Extra Class test is substantially more difficult. It's the highest level. The mathematics are advanced and it's challenging even for some adults."
In 2021, Vincent Kahler, an 8-year-old from Danville, Pa., received his Extra Class license, but he and Silas are exceptions.
"It's very unusual," says Mike Walters, field services manager with the National Association for Amateur Radio in Newington, Conn. "It takes a lot of effort and concentration to pass the test. Not a lot of 8-year-olds can even sit still long enough to take the test."
Seeing Silas earn the top-level amateur radio license was a bit of a surprise, Eric admits.
"I didn't expect him to achieve the Extra course because of its difficulty. We are all just blown away, and I couldn't be more proud of my son."
Silas says he hopes that his radio skills can help the community if there is ever a natural disaster. In the meantime, he's learned how to solder and piece together basic circuits. He also wants to learn Morse Code.
It's a ways off, but we wondered if Silas had any thoughts about what he'd like to be when he grows up.
"An astrophysicist," he says.