Ham Arduino Demographics show similarities and differences. But overall, a lot of potential synergy for both amateur radio clubs and maker communities.
Let’s take a break from the technical stuff, and look at the characteristics of the amateur radio and maker communities. Demographics of ham radio are hard to come by. Either they don’t exist or are a closely guarded secret. So I will use some judgement. Demographics of makers are more readily accessible.
Compared to more mainstream hobbies, our target markets are small. For example, more than one in ten households take part in arts, crafts and woodworking activities. On the other hand, ham radio is about one in five hundred. What some describe as the “maker movement” is probably one in twenty.
Most age groups between 18-65, and all income levels are present in the maker community. Members self-describe as hobbyists or students. Hams are definitely older. Estimates of average ham age range between 55-65, which makes sense since most hams have been licensed for more than forty years. Both groups are mostly male, and contain lots of folks working in technical jobs.
Discovery and attraction to maker activities comes mainly online and through school. On the other hand, most new hams are invited into the hobby through friends and family. About the same proportion of both communities take part in group activities: hams through clubs and makers through “spaces”.
Makers are most passionate about home automation and robotic/drone projects. Makers spend around $50 a month on parts and components. On average, both groups spend 4-5 hours a week on their hobby activities. Both makers and hams see themselves primarily as experimenters and tinkerers. However, many makers see commercial value in their activities. Makers make more use of digital fabrication tools like 3D printers and CAD.
Makers are increasingly interested in wireless. Over half pursue Internet of Things projects. Arduino is the dominant hardware platform. Usually, makers are typically interested in hardware and software combined. As with many hams, there is also interest in Linux, perhaps driven by the second most popular hardware, the Raspberry Pi.
Ham Arduino Demographics – Areas of Synergy
Obviously, interest in electronics is common. Hams certainly have enough electronics skills and resources to fit right in. Most hams homebrew a few projects a year; so do makers.
Working together, hams would benefit from maker software skills. In return, maker’s interest in wireless could get a boost from amateur radio operators. Common ground of IoT and remote control is clear.
Am I suggesting that lots of makers would quickly become hams? Of course not. But attracting even 2% of local makers into amateur radio would make a difference. Ham Arduino demographics suggest it’s worth the effort.
(Ham demographics based on some web searches and QST QuickStats. Maker demographics are from Hackster.io.)