Q&A with Raymond Lajoie, AA1SE, Technical Coordinator for The BIG E Space Chat

We caught up with Ray Lajoie, AA1SE, who is heavily involved with “Project Big E,” the ham radio display booth showcasing modern Amateur Radio in West Springfield, Massachusetts from September 16 to October 2, 2022; and the related “BIG E Space Chat,” an ARISS contact scheduled to take place from The BIG E Exhibition/Fair sometime between September 26 and 29.


Q: What is your involvement with Project Big E and BIG E Space Chat?


I’m currently supporting Larry Krainson, W1AST, with the booth setup as well as constructing equipment for displays. I’m also working with Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC, to help coordinate the technical aspects of the ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) contact. Finally, I’ll fill in and staff the booth in the event someone is unable to work their shift.

Q: What are some of the technical aspects you’re working on?


I’m making sure that our pre-contact audio-video and live presentation is choreographed and well-timed. I’m also ensuring that all the connections—telebridge, telephone, and internet, and sound—are tested ahead of time and that there won’t be any failures in the arena or the booth.

Q:  What happens if there is inclement weather?


ARISS requires that we have contingency plans in place. In the event of inclement weather, we will move the BIG E Space Chat inside to the booth area in the Better Living Center.

Q: How did you get involved in this project?


I was volunteered! Seriously though—I am the Western Massachusetts Section Manager, and I feel a responsibility to help out in any way since it involves my section. Larry, W1AST, and the Hampden County Radio Association took on a huge challenge and I want to make sure that he and the club have my full support.

Q:  With whom are you working?


The project involves a number of collaborative partners. I’m working with Bob Phinney, K5TEC, of New England Sci-Tech in Natick, Massachusetts. Also, the ARISS program. Black Helicopter Creative are our media partners. They are donating their services to help produce the pre-contact show. I’m also working with the Mellowship camera and production crew for Eastern States Exposition.

Q: Have you done anything like this before?


No. While I have experience with audio/video working for Comcast, I’ve never done anything on such a large scale. The choreography will provide a unique challenge for me.

Q: What do you hope will come from this experience?


It’s my hope that Project BIG E and The BIG E Space Chat will provide entertaining and informative content which will inform the general public about Amateur Radio and have a positive impact on youth and STEM education.

We Need YOU at the Amateur Radio Booth at The BIG E!

Amateur Radio will be on public display like never before at The BIG E in West Springfield, MA from September 16 – October 2, 2022. Over a million people will visit the Fair over the 17-day period. We need ham radio “Goodwill Ambassadors” to staff the booth and promote our hobby-service to the public and potential licensees.

Who: Amateurs like you who enjoy interacting with the public

What: You’ll be demonstrating ham radio contacts and sharing Amateur Radio information with the public (talking points will be provided)


Two shifts per day, 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM (first session) and 3:30 PM -10:00 PM (second session) on some days

Dates/times available:

  • September 16 (Military Appreciation Day), second session, 1-2 more people needed
  • September 17 (Maine Day), second session, 2 more
  • September 19, first session, 2 more
  • September 20 (Rhode Island Day), first and second sessions, 3-4 more
  • September 22 (Massachusetts Day), second session, 2 more
  • September 24 (Vermont Day), first and second sessions
  • September 25, second session
  • September 26, first and second sessions
  • September 28, first and second sessions
  • September 29, first and second sessions
  • September 30, first and second sessions
  • October 1, first and second sessions
  • October 2, first and second sessions

Where: Booth #103 inside Door 6 of the Better Living Center

How:—Sign up via the following link, which will list currently-available sessions:



New England Sci-Tech Space Science Club Up and Running!

Youth at New England Sci-TechNew England Sci-Tech, a STEM education center and makerspace in Natick, MA, is running a 12-month space science program for students in New England in grades 4-12. Amateur radio is part of this effort; in the last week of September 2022 (NASA determines the date and time 10 days out), students enrolled will have the opportunity to speak to an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) as part of an ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) contact (“The BIG E Space Chat”). ARISS coordinators partner with educational groups in programs that involve education around space technology and research, as well as wireless technology and communication and radio science.

Some of the Space Science Education Program courses that have already started at New England Sci-Tech include:

  • Amateur radio Technician level classes
  • Model Rocketry Workshops
  • Introduction to Morse code classes
  • Introductory Mathematics for Modeling Rocket Flight

Upcoming classes/offerings include:

  • Introduction to Basic Electronics
  • Introduction to Arduino Electronics
  • Air Powered Rockets
  • Public Telescope Nights

The “Space Chat” will be held in the Arena at The Big E Exposition in W. Springfield, MA and those in attendance will learn more about the Space Science Club, background on amateur radio and ARISS and be able to listen in on the questions that the students ask the astronauts during the ~10-minute window during which the 2-way conversation is possible with the ISS.

All welcome!