What is CARA Fest?

CARA Fest is an annual Ham Fest and STEM event hosted by the Columbia Amateur Radio Association (CARA, K3CUJ). Because it encompasses so much more than just a Ham event, we call it “CARA Fest.” It brings together amateur radio operators (“hams”) and those interested in other electronics-related activities to exchange ideas, expertise, enthusiasm, and equipment. CARA Fest provides a variety of educational and sales opportunities, such as:

  • Local/national vendors and individuals selling personal equipment, from radio gear and books to computers
  • Reps from local technical organizations
  • Hands-on STEM activities for kids and adults
  • Speakers on a variety of technical topics
  • On-site amateur radio license testing
  • And much more!


Why Get Into Amateur Radio?

Amateur radio is a hands-on hobby for tech enthusiasts and there’s something for everyone- from analog to digital to Morse code. It’s a hobby for everyone interested in science, technology and electronics. Plus, the ham community is small but diverse, including some very interesting folks. When you hop on the radio, you never know who you might talk to…it could be the king of another country or a Hollywood star.

Amateur Radio also serves a critical need in our community. Through the Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), Hams provide volunteer emergency communications during natural disasters and other community crises. When other forms of communications are down, hams come to the rescue. Read about how amateur radio was instrumental during Hurricane Katrina, the attacks on 9/11, and how hams help in search and rescue operations.

The History of CARA Fest

CARA has been hosting CARA Fest at the Columbia Fairgrounds for more than 20 years. What started as a small gathering of hobbyists to swap gear to what CARA Fest is today, we’ve grown to encompass more of the Ham community and STEM. In that span of time, we’ve hosted the testing hundreds of students for their amateur radio licenses, and directly funded dozens of STEM scholarships to students. Scholarships are open to students nationwide, but preference is given to Maryland students.


Who Does CARA Fest Benefit?

CARA Fest benefits the local amateur radio community, STEM, our Howard County community and anyone interested in electronics. Proceeds from CARA Fest directly fund CARA’s scholarships to students in STEM-related fields.


About Columbia Amateur Radio Association (CARA)

CARA is a 501(c)(3) scientific and educational charity, organized to advance amateur radio, encourage the development of radio communication and electronic technology, and provide communications in the public service. We are located in Howard County, Maryland.

CARA offers many opportunities for licensed operators as well as those interested in learning more about amateur radio. We:

  • Operate four repeaters that extend the range of FM UHF/VHF (2m and 70cm) radios throughout central Maryland.
  • Provide ham radio operators at public service events across the state of Maryland.
  • Host an annual CARA Fest that provides local hams an opportunity to buy, sell, and trade.
  • Fund two $2,000 scholarships each year to support youth in STEM-related academic studies.
  • Encourage the technical growth and experience of our members through club-sponsored activities and a series of expert speakers at monthly membership meetings
  • Hold a monthly breakfast gathering and other social activities to keep us in touch.

About Amateur Radio

Amateur Radio (ham radio) is a popular hobby and service that brings people, electronics and communication together. People use ham radio to talk across town, around the world, or even into space, all without the Internet or cell phones. It’s fun, social, educational, and can be a lifeline during times of need.

You can set up a ham radio station anywhere! In a field…at a club station….or at home.

Although Amateur Radio operators get involved for many reasons, they all have in common a basic knowledge of radio technology and operating principles, and pass an examination for the FCC license to operate on radio frequencies known as the “Amateur Bands.” These bands are radio frequencies allocated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for use by ham radio operators.