My highschool, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, was designed from the ground up to turn out engineers and had a long-lived and thriving radio club. Last time I checked, the club's no more and the call, W3CDI, is held by the an alumni club.
And so it goes ...
Two of my friends and I got licensed while in high school. The two of us that became EEs are still licensed. Is it why we became EEs - Yep! I wanted to understand my hobby better, and get paid for it. Didn't quite work out that way, I've been a computer designer my entire career instead of building radios. That was a good thing too because it allowed me to still enjoy radio as a hobby.
As for where we are today - there are several comments about the Science fairs not being up to snuff compared to the "Good ol days." Well - science fairs are for scientists, not engineers. That's why a Tesla coil is a LOUSY science fair project, but "which brand of Paper Towels absorbs the most" is an acceptable project. There is experimentation involved in the latter, but not the former. (Note - my son won his 3rd grade science fair with that topic.;-)
He is also a ham and turns 18 today. He is off to college in a far-away place soon. I expect him to join the ham club for comradeship more than his interest in radio. After all- it has that aspect to it too. He is pursuing a degree in film making, so the technical part of the hobby never really grabbed him.
Summary - I think hams make great EEs - but it isn't a necessary or sufficient reason to follow a technical degree. You gotta have a passion for what you study.
I am sure there is some correlation between the exposure to ham radio and a future in engineering and/or science. I believe there is a greater correlation when a person is passionate about his interest and is willing to share that passion/interest/expertise to inspire a young mind.
I had three great science teachers. My junior high science teacher was a quantum physics buff and demonstrated the experiments conducted by J.J. Thompson and others of that era. He would set up the experiments in his free time and run them for anyone who was interested in seeing them.I never missed them. (He also let me mix and test different solid rocket fuels.)
In high school,I was involved in a pilot project to learn nuclear science (using radioactive materials)and had a teacher who worked on the A Bomb. What a great opportunity to learn science and hear the history first hand. Mister C. submitted my name for an Explorers Post in Electronics at a local instrument lab. I never missed a meeting. (Remember the days when industry wasn't afraid to open their doors to permit hungry young minds to explore?)
Another science teacher was a Ham and sponsored the Radio Club. Members learned code and theory and obtained their Novice License. The club was more of a science club for the free exchange of ideas. We also constructed electronics projects. (I was in High School when the teachers were unafraid of using "real" chemicals, tesla coils, and high voltages.)
Those three teachers went above and beyond their required scope to inspire. (I regret that this experience was never repeated in college.) I cite the name of these three teachers and my experiences with them every time my nine year old son asks me how I became interested in science and electronics.
Ham radio definately got me into electronics and my EE degrees. With the internet and cell phones, ham radio has taken a back seat. But when all else fails, hams radio operators are still there. The comm systems are so complicated they don't take much to fail. (Check out the cell phone failure at an Ohio State game due to system overload) I know some ham friends who worked down in N'Orleans and Miss.. 'cause all the com and police towers were down. These trunked radio systems are wothless in an emergency. Everyone wants to be on the air so nobody can get through. Simplicity has great advanages for reliable communications.
I also have a big problem with "I should be able to do anything I want with anything and it's not my fault if I get hurt" syndrome. No risk no gain no learning. My mother gave me my old chemistry set with all of these "dangerous" chemicals in it. I'm saving it for my kids and grand kids so someday they be able learn something interesting with it.
It works both ways, I think. I was tinkering from the age of 9-10, and then got a book about ham radio, found a local club (they had a stand on a local Air Show), and it kept me in electronics (I was building one receiver after the other and then transceivers). We also had a club in secondary school that I run for some time after the leaving the school. My first boss was my teacher (ham also). Got my second job because of good knowledge of radio circuits. What is important is that this hobby builds a network of people and they're all technical - kind of good for your EE career :)
What ham radio does (for some at least) is that it teaches by doing and in my opinion experience is the key.
Oh ... one of my teachers always said that radio circuits are the hardest of all so if you can build them you can build anything. :)
I did enjoy the article and comments as well. I am now a ham operator, N8QVS, extra class, but I was interested in electronics long before that. Of course, building all sorts of projects from assorted discarded TV and radio sets was educational. Presently it would be very challenging to collect usable parts from current consumer electronics stuff. Custom chips and surface mount parts are both less useful and much harder to recover for re-use. As for the safety concerns, I agree that the current attitude toward the elimination of the possibility of all risks has become stupid. Of course we meed to be careful and pay attention, but living in constant fear has got to be a fairly horrible existence.
I heartily approve of the ear and eye protection...
Yes, a great exercise.
Both of you should be grateful that you can do that in your neighborhood without all hell breaking loose (it WOULD be an issue in mine...I need to move...).
Not all kids today are as sheltered. My 17 yer old has been a science fair junkie for several years. Lately my role has been as financial adviser and parts collector! Here is video of his latest contraption where he built a jet engine. Had to smile signing his safety paperwork. Risk of fire, check; risk of electrocution, check; risk of explosion, check; risk of loosing one hearing, check... the list was fairly long. Now that is what I call a good learning exercise!
For me I got the EE bug watching my neighbor use his ham gear and send code at +20 wpm, an amazing thing to watch using a double key. I stayed on the EE track, never getting my ham license (yet, at 55, at least). I learned the most about radio not from school or books, but from friends who were avid hams, and by working in the college radio station under ham-knowledgable tutaledge(sp?). As far as schools today, my opinion is best expressed in this lecture: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html