Bootheel radio club presents Kennett teen with award at party

Sunday, January 4, 2009

KENNETT, Mo. -- A local member of the Bootheel Amateur Radio Club was presented with the "Ham of the Year" award at the recent BARC Christmas party.

Following an open nomination, Jill Niemeier, a ninth-grade student at Kennett High School, was chosen by BARC club members to receive the 2008 Ham of the Year award for her excellence and improvement in community service, according to BARC president Larry Ford.

"She's a very impressive young lady," Ford said. "She's went to two science fairs and won awards in both of them. As a club, we're real proud of her."

The daughter of Robert and Donna Gill of Kennett, Niemeier recently passed the test for Amateur Extra in Amateur Radio, the highest class license available.

"She has already went through and obtained her extra class amateur radio license, which is, for someone of her age, sort of prestigious," Ford said. "Not often do they get it that young."

The community service Ford spoke of was Niemeier's continuing work toward developing an emergency radio for use during a major disaster.

In 2007, while in middle school, Niemeier placed first in the engineering category of the Junior High Division at the Regional Science Fair at Cape Girardeau with her entry "Emergency Communications." She also won the Cape Girardeau Area Engineers Club Award, the Best Model Study Award, a Discovery Communications Award and the Best Overall Junior Physical Science Award, which was given to the top project from the biochemistry, chemistry, earth and space sciences, engineering, mathematics and computer science and physics categories.

At the 2008 Regional Science Fair, Niemeier again took home several awards for her follow-up entry, "Emergency Communications II."

Those awards included first place in engineering, the Cape Girardeau Area Engineers Club Award, the Best Model Award in the Junior Division, the Montgomery Bank Award, the National Society of Professional Engineers award for the most outstanding engineer project, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps award, the Overall Junior Physical Science award for the most outstanding project in the areas of biochemistry, chemistry, earth and space sciences, engineering, mathematics and computer sciences, and physics categories, the SSP Middle School Program award, ant the Top Eighth-Grade Student award.

Niemeier's project focuses on the fact that if the New Madrid fault area ever experienced a major earthquake or other major disaster, all normal means of communication would be lost.

"Underground cables would be cut, and cellular telephone towers would fall, leaving many communities, like Kennett, for example, without normal methods of communicating for help," Niemeier said. "Even satellite phones may or may not work due to propagation conditions or interruptions."

Niemeier has done extensive study in emergency communications and has used her findings to develop a portable amateur station. She has also gathered GPS data on all major bridges and businesses in Dunklin County.

Currently, Niemeier is working on an emergency communications system for the medical staff of Kennett schools.

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