Special Bulletin: Anchorage ARC VEC Update

As we all know there is a huge amount of interest in trying to find new
ways to continue Volunteer Examiner (VE) related amateur license
testing, currently being largely stifled by the current virus pandemic.
In my last Division newsletter I made some statements regarding
challenges the Anchorage ARC VEC group had in carrying out their “remote
VE testing” program. Shortly after publication I received an e-mail from
Lara Baker, AL2R, that contained some clarifications, and greatly
improved my understanding of the current groundbreaking work their VE
team was doing. I then asked Lara to turn that e-mail into an article,
and I will now share that article with the NW Division. While the
Anchorage ARC VEC group is not part of the ARRL VE program, it’s still
wonderful to have such great accomplishments being performed by
dedicated members within our Division:

In keeping with its heritage (their VEC was the first one appointed by
the FCC [27 February 1984]), the Anchorage Amateur Radio Club (Anchorage
ARC) Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) program continues to provide
VEC services for remote testing across the country. Their VEC Chairman,
Brandin Hess, AL6I, implemented their modernized remote-testing
protocols in Maine many months ago. In late summer, 2019, Kent Petty,
KL5T, used commercially available software to implement the full gamut
of FCC Amateur license exams in a web-based system. This system was
first used at a live testing session on 12 October 2019 at the Radio
Science and Operations Center (RSOC) (their “ham shack”) in
Anchorage. They continue to use this system today.

The AARC VEC has been running the only fully operational remote
examination program in the country for several years. But, most
recently, they ramped up operations to help deal with the COVID-19
crisis. As nearly all group examination sessions have been suspended
around the country by the various VECs (including the AARC VEC), the
AARC VEC opened up the opportunity to take remote examinations to
virtually anyone that suffered the shutdown of other testing
opportunities. To date, the AARC VEC has had test requests from 34
states and Antarctica!

The first trial of using the web-based testing along with VE’s in
vastly differing locations took place on 20 February 2020, where the
[practice] examination subject was in Eagle River, AK (near Anchorage);
one VE was in Anchorage; and one VE was comfortably ensconced at a gate
at the Denver, CO, airport. Different commercially available software
was – and is – used to electronically sign the 605’s and
Certificates of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE’s). Since
then, most of the testing sessions have involved VE’s in different
states with the examinee(s) in yet other states. Another advantage of
using the web-based testing is that each test has appropriate questions
from the question pool, but in a completely random order, thus, each
test is unique.

On Wednesday, 15 April 2020, the AARC VEC program achieved multiple
milestones when it administered a couple of remote license examinations,
among others that day. First, two examinees on the same outside patio
were administered examinations simultaneously with the remote web-based
testing platform. Second, they administered two examinations
simultaneously to two examinees at separate testing venues. Third, they
scored their first “Zero to Hero” examinee via remote testing (walk
in with no license and walk out as an Extra).

Wednesday’s first-ever multisite examination session involved one
examinee in Massachusetts and one examinee in Texas. The six Volunteer
Examiners (VEs) administering the session were located in Anchorage, AK
(KL5T and KL7MM); Kill Devil Hills, NC (KN4EWI); Sealy, TX (W5AD); and
Homer, AK (KL2T and AE7ES). There was one vetted proctor at each test
site. The sessions went off without a hitch with two new proud licensees
when it was all said and done (one Technician and one General). The
AARC VEC believe this testing session, that is, two separate examination
sites simultaneously administered, to be a first for amateur radio
examination administration.

The new Extra Class amateur was happy to share his story for the day.
Matthew Loschiavo of Houston, Texas was confident and had every
intention of taking and passing all three examinations that day. And
sure enough, Matt sat down and plowed through his Technician, General,
and Extra exams in one sitting (with no failures or reattempts) and
walked out with an Extra class license. Matt had his call sign within a
half hour of finishing the examination session. As with all new
amateurs, newly licensed Amateur Extra Class licensee, Matthew
Loschiavo, AG5YR, is welcomed in our ranks!

There have been comments made by those not so close to our program that
the process is somewhat complex with a lot of backdoor administration
requirements. There is certainly added complexity due to the need to
identify and properly vet the proctors. And, per guidance the AARC VEC
received directly from the FCC’s General Counsel, if the proctor is ALSO
a HAM, the proctor MUST become credentialed as a VE in the AARC VEC
program. However, from the applicant’s perspective, he/she simply
applies for remote testing on the AARC VEC website (he/she nominates a
proctor in their application), pays for the session electronically,
submits an electronic form to collect information for the 605 and CSCE,
and then sits for the exam. But yes, they do have to secure a proctor
that passes the VEC’s muster.

With the media continually running stories of cyber-attacks on US
systems, the AARC VEC takes security VERY seriously and contends that
their VE accreditation process is the MOST rigorous of all the VECs.
Unlike the ARRL VEC, the AARC VEC does NOT accept VEs from other
programs and automatically accredit them (this is not a criticism of the
ARRL VEC, but just to point out that the AARC VEC process and standards
are different). Prospective VEs MUST review the AARC VECs reference
materials as well as Part 97 and pass a challenging, web-based
examination. With that, their VEs are solid and well-trained. Further,
they vet their proctors VERY carefully, again, to help maintain the
integrity of the examination process. They view the proctors as the
linchpins of their remote testing program.

For those unable to take their amateur radio examination due to the
COVID-19 crisis, you may submit your application for remote testing with
the Anchorage ARC VEC at:

Again,kudos to the Anchorage VEC group for their hard work and continued
dedication to serving radio amateurs.

73 and stay safe!

Mike Ritz, W7VO
Director, ARRL NW Division

ARRL Northwestern Division
Director: Michael T Ritz, W7VO

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