Written by: Tom Rieland
Date: April 28, 2017

The 1918 Aviation hanger would become the home of WOSU Radio.

The 1918 Aviation hanger would become the home of WOSU Radio.

In May 1917, the U.S. Army established the School of Aeronautics on Ohio State’s campus as one of six flying schools at universities across the country to ready new pilots to fight in World War I.

The school opened with about 100 civilian instructors and greeted waves of squadrons every week with each cadet receiving an intensive eight-week training in photography, radio telegraphy, gunnery, airplane engines, aerial observation and piloting.  

Given Ohio State’s leadership in wireless telegraphy dating back to the turn of the century, the Army focused in part on courses radio transmission and reception.

By 1918, a new aviation hangar was completed near the OSU electrical engineering labs at 215 W. 19th Avenue. The distinctive building included a saw-tooth skylight with north-facing windows placed vertically allowed for maximum indirect natural light in the building.

The idea, developed by university architect Joseph Bradford, was to minimize shadows as student flyers teamed together to work on airplanes.

With 15,000 square feet of open space, the lab’s hangar was large enough to house four airplanes, a machine gun study area, and two rooms designated for the study of wireless. After the War, a portion of the the WWI hangar became the home of WOSU Radio and would remain so for the next 50 years until WOSU moved into the Fawcett Center.

The Army tapped an unlikely youngster to help lead instruction in wireless communications, a sophomore at a local high school named Bob Higgy. This was not just another teenager dabbling in wireless.  

As a 10-year-old living in Lima, Ohio, Higgy received his wireless operators license and used a homemade spark coil transmitter to send code across the state. 

His father was a salesman and moved the family to Arizona and California. Along the way, young Higgy built a reputation with operators across the western United States for his technical prowess. He was regarded as a “smooth code operator” for his deft touch on the key.  When Higgy’s family moved to Columbus, the Army Signal Corps quickly recruited the youngster to teach cadets the science and art of wireless telegraphy at a pay level equal to a First Lieutenant. Higgy would later direct WOSU’s radio stations.

Robert Higgy took over as the first full-time director of WOSU in 1927.

If you have any unique history about WOSU, please let me know! Send me a tip at tom.rieland@wosu.org


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  • Raymond Willis

    I think your arguement really does not make as much sense as it used to make. I am a long time public television and public radio follower. I do like your selection of music, art, nature and cultural broadcasts. I can find similar else where in the multitudinous choices from iTunes to university courses and stations in 1/2 the countries of the world. The PBS network is usually better in their selection. However, political positions have taken too large of a role and an increasing role in airtime, even in the tone of reporting that involves anything labeled as social issue. It is probably more noticeable to those of us who have followed and/or participated in politics all of our lives. And you know that this is the case. I would be critical of this even if the extreme bias moved to the conservative side. Public dollars should not be spent on politically biased presentation whether it is $1.95 or $.01. I will listen to the “Save Science” discussion this morning to see if it is a validation of my point. I am pretty sure that it is promoting the Trump Administration as science illiterate. At least you have Rodger as part of the discussion as he can discuss the politicalization of science during the Obama Administration with the growth of the “Save the World” government science. Honest science and open science is the goal whatever is the politically desired use of science. In this way the issues of PBS funding and science funding are related.