Class Projects

Not being a pedagogical genius, it never really occurred to me until last year to give my General Class students a project to work on while we slogged through the material. Last year, some of them built little QRP kits. Not only was that fun, it was educational.

This year, I’m again asking them to do some kind of project, but one that they choose themselves. Here’s the short list that I came up with:

  • Build a 2m beam. At our first meeting, one of the guys noted that while he could hear a repeater about 30 miles away from his QTH, he wasn’t able to hit it with the 5/8-wavelength vertical he was using. I suggest that he build a Cheap Yagi.
  • Build a kit like the students did last year.
  • Download some antenna simulation software and analyze a dipole or vertical antenna. MM-ANA is free and looks to be a pretty good program.
  • Learn Morse Code. How could I not suggest this? :)

Anyway, do you have any other suggestions?

If the Economy Hasn’t Gotten You Down…

KN4LF is now reporting another sunspot group from Cycle 23:

On Tuesday January 27, 2009 yet another solar cycle 23 sunspot group (S738) formed near S05E40. If numbered by NOAA/SWPC it will be 11012.

Solar cycle 23 is now 12 years and 10 months long from first spot to present one, an extension of the already record long solar cycle!!!

ARLB008 Laura L. Smith Named to Amateur Radio Enforcement Role

It’s too bad that Ms. Smith doesn’t have an amateur radio license, but perhaps someone close to Washington, DC can rectify that situation……Dan

ARRL Bulletin 8 ARLB008
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT January 26, 2009
To all radio amateurs

ARLB008 Laura L. Smith Named to Amateur Radio Enforcement Role

Laura L. Smith of Pennsylvania has been named by the FCC to fill the vacancy created when Riley Hollingsworth, K4ZDH, retired in 2008 as Special Counsel for the Spectrum Enforcement Division of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. Hollingsworth served in that position for morethan 10 years as the FCC’s enforcement watchdog over the AmateurRadio Service.

A 1990 graduate of the Pepperdine University School of Law, Smith began her legal career with the FCC, working in the Mass Media Bureau and Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. She also served as Deputy Division Chief of the Public Safety and Private Wireless Division. Smith is currently licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In 1998, Smith left the FCC to become Executive Director of Governmental Affairs for the Industrial Telecommunications Association (ITA), now Enterprise Wireless Alliance. In that role, she monitored FCC and legislative proceedings and participated in all regulatory proceedings relevant to the private wireless
industry. In 2001, Smith became ITA’s President and Chief Executive Officer. While in that position, she was instrumental in the formation of the Consensus Group, a group of public safety and private wireless entities responsible for drafting the “Consensus Plan,” a proposed resolution for interference in the 800 MHz band; this was adopted by the FCC in 2004.

Smith returns to the FCC after serving Of Counsel with the Maryland law firm of Shulman Rogers. While there, she dealt with telecommunications matters and provided counsel to numerous entities in the private radio and public safety communities. Smith has served as an industry consultant and written columns for a variety of trade publications including Mobile Radio Technology Magazine and The Private Wireless Magazine.

In an October 2008 letter to then-FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, ARRL President Joel Harrison, W5ZN, urged Martin to name a successor to Hollingsworth: “The appointment of a replacement Special Counsel in this position is of critical importance to the Amateur Radio Service, as the delay in finalizing the appointment stands to undermine in very short order an exceptionally successful and low-cost program of enforcement in the Amateur Service.”

Calling the FCC’s Amateur Radio enforcement program “spectacularly successful,” Harrison reminded Martin of the “long period in the late 1980s and 1990s during which the Commission was essentially uninvolved in enforcement in the Amateur Service. The Amateur Service, consisting of some 680,000 licensees of the Commission, is in essence a self-regulating service; however, due to the shared frequency allocations in the Service and the long distance propagation of amateur communications, a very few rule violators can cause severe disruption in the Service. On the other hand, even a minimal Commission presence has a very strong deterrent value.”

When Hollingsworth was appointed as Special Counsel for Amateur Radio Enforcement, Harrison said that Hollingsworth “established a visible presence in the Service and very quickly, and with very little investment of Commission resources, using little more than the awareness of an enforcement presence, created strong deterrence against rule violations.”

Upon learning of Smith’s move to the Amateur Radio enforcement role, Harrison remarked that he was “very pleased to see the Commission move forward with the hiring of a new Special Counsel responsible for enforcement of the Amateur Radio Service rules,” said Harrison. “Ever since Riley Hollingsworth announced his retirement, we have met with the Enforcement Chief numerous times and corresponded with FCC Chairman Martin to ensure this position remains intact at FCC. The Commission acknowledges the self-regulating environment we maintain, but also understands that we need their assistance occasionally to resolve a few situations. They have continually reassured us that this is an important matter for them, and Ms Smith’s hiring confirms that.”

Minnesota QSO Party, Saturday, February 7, 2009

I like working state QSO parties, and last year, I had a lot of fun working this one……Dan

From Mark, WA0MHJ:

The eleventh annual Minnesota QSO Party is less two weeks away! There will be plenty of action with more than a dozen rovers traveling the state, along with fixed stations to ensure every opportunity for all of Minnesota’s 87 counties to be worked. We look forward to having you join us this year.

All of the latest information can be found by following the links from the MNQP home page. Check out the mobile coverage map for this years QSO Party. Also there you will find an APRS link, the mobile tracking tools provided by K0RC. An Excel workbook that provides detailed individual mobile routes, showing expected ETA and durations for each county can be found here.

For those of you who do not currently have a logging program, and wish to use one, a version of MNQP logger may be downloaded for free.

ARRL has declared 2009 the Year of the State QSO Party. Details of the rules and certificates are posted on the ARRL web site below. MNQP is a great way to start working towards this award.

Questions? E-mail the MN QP at

I Want to Print My Own ICs

IEEE Spectrum reports that an Illinois company can now print p-type polymeric transistors, making it possible for them to now print CMOS circuits. The article, Organic Semiconductor Breakthrough Could Speed Flexible Circuits, reports:

Although there are already polymer semiconductors that allow the printing of simple electronic circuits, for efficient flexible display screens or complex radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, manufacturers need to be able to print semiconductors that are p-type—conducting positive charge carriers, or holes—and n-type, which use negative charge carriers, or electrons. The combination of the two generally makes for more power-efficient digital circuits because current should flow through them only when their bits are flipping. ?

Several p-channel semiconductors exist, but “polymeric n-channel semiconductors—practical ones—were unknown until our work,” says Antonio Facchetti, Polyera’s chief technology officer and an adjunct chemistry professor at Northwestern University. “If you want to enable high-performance CMOS electronics, you need both p-channel and n-channel semiconductors.”?

I wonder when this technology will be reliable enough and cheap enough to do at home?

Ham Radio Ops Can Help With Solar Research

On the HamRadioHelpGroup mailling list, Bob KE5WZK notes:

While studying for college courses I learned about this upcoming program. Ham operators are participating by receiving data. How cool is that?

The article says:

[On Friday, January 23, 2009,] NASA researchers announced an event that will transform our view of the Sun and, in the process, supercharge the field of solar physics for many years to come.

“On February 6, 2011,” says Chris St. Cyr of the Goddard Space Flight Center, “Super Bowl XLV will be played in Arlington, Texas.”

Wait … that’s not it.

“And on the same day,” he adds, “NASA’s two STEREO spacecraft will be 180 degrees apart and will image the entire Sun for the first time in history.”

…details of the project skipped…

experienced ham radio operators can participate in this historic mission by helping NASA capture STEREO’s images. The busy Deep Space Network downloads data from STEREO only three hours a day. That’s plenty of time to capture all of the previous day’s data, but NASA would like to monitor the transmissions around the clock.

“So we’re putting together a ‘mini-Deep Space Network’ to stay in constant contact with STEREO,” says Bill Thompson, director of the STEREO Science Center at Goddard.

The two spacecraft beam their data back to Earth via an X-band radio beacon. Anyone with a 10-meter dish antenna and a suitable receiver can pick up the signals. The data rate is low, 500 bits per second, and it takes 3 to 5 minutes to download a complete image.

So far, the mini-Network includes stations in the United Kingdom, France and Japan—and Thompson is looking for more: “NASA encourages people with X-band antennas to contact the STEREO team. We would gladly work with them and figure out how they can join our network.”

How Ham Radio Mailing Lists Work

—–Original Message—–
[] On Behalf Of
Sent: Saturday, January 24, 2009 8:44 AM
Subject: [Heathkit] OT: How many list members?

I read this on another list and it reminded me of the recent discussion of Heathkit manuals and copyrights. Please don’t respond to this in any way to the list (lest I be guilty of starting a thread)!

How many list members does it take to change a lightbulb? (author unknown)

  • One to change the light bulb and a second to post that the light bulb has been changed (the first does not have regular email access).
  • Fourteen to share similar experiences of changing light bulbs and how the light bulb could have been changed differently.
  • Seven to caution about the dangers of changing light bulbs.
  • Seven more to point out spelling or grammar errors in the posts about changing light bulbs.
  • Five to flame the spell checkers.
  • Three to correct spelling/grammar flames.
  • Six to argue over whether it’s “lightbulb” or “light bulb”… another six to condemn those six as stupid.
  • Fifteen to claim experience in the lighting industry and give correct spelling.
  • One to post the old joke about “Hams don’t change light bulbs, they redesign the circuit to use LED’s”.
  • Two to post that “LED’s” is incorrect grammar, and that the plural form of LED is LEDs.
  • Three to post that the “LED’s” / LEDs postings are Off Topic as the current discussion is about light bulbs.
  • Nineteen to post that this group is not about light bulbs or LEDs and to please take this discussion to a lightbulb (or light bulb or LED) forum / mailing list / chatroom / whatever.
  • Eleven to defend the posting to the group saying that we all use light bulbs and therefore the posts are relevant to this group.
  • Two to say “I’m having to change lightbulbs tomorrow at work therefore it is relevant to ME”.
  • Thirty-six to debate which method of changing light bulbs is superior, where to buy the best light bulbs, what brand of light bulbs work best for this technique and what brands are faulty.
  • Seven to post URLs where one can see examples of different light bulbs.
  • Four to post that the URLs were posted incorrectly and then post the corrected URL (bracketed inside < and > characters so that word wrap does not break the URLs).
  • Three to post about links they found from the URLs that are relevant to this group which makes light bulbs relevant to this group.
  • Thirteen to link all postings to date, quote them in their entirety including all headers, trailers and signatures, and add “Me too”.
  • Another four that again quote the above “all postings” and add “Me three”.
  • Five to post to the group that they are quitting the list because they cannot handle the light bulb controversy.
  • Four to ask “didn’t we go through this already a short time ago?”
  • Thirteen to say “Google is your friend”, or “Do a Google search on light bulbs before posting questions about light bulbs”
  • Three to tell a funny story about their spouse/cat/dog/parrot/whatever and a light bulb.
  • Neil W2xxx posts and says “I have 20 file cabinets of light bulb manuals here, let me pull the correct one out for you and give you the Motorola part number.”


  • One group lurker to respond to the original post 6 months from now and start it all over again.

Engineers Week 2009, February 15-21

This excellent pocket protector can be yours for only two bucks!Engineers Week 2009 is a collection of events designed to celebrate engineering and get kids interested pursuing an engineering career. You can celebrate Engineers Week by buying one of these excellent pocket protectors, either for yourself or one of your engineering friends. They’re only two bucks!

Send cash, check, or money order to:
Dan Romanchik, KB6NU
1325 Orkney Dr.
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Antennas by the few, the proud, the Marines

Jim, K8ELR sent me a link to the United States Marine Corps Field Antenna Handbook, MCRP 6-22D. I thought that I’d covered this before, but couldn’t find it by doing a search. This manual covers antennas and propagation in a very straightforward way, and you can’t beat the price (FREE!)

Here’s what the manual has to say about antenna impedance:

Impedance is the relationship between voltage and current at any point in an alternating current circuit. The impedance of an antenna is equal to the ratio of the voltage to the current at the point on the antenna where the feed is connected (feed point). If the feed point is located at a point of maximum current, the antenna impedance is 20 to 100 ohms. If the feed point is moved to a maximum voltage point, the impedance is as much as 500 to 10,000 ohms.

The input impedance of an antenna depends on the conductivity or impedance of the ground. For example, if the ground is a simple
stake driven about a meter into earth of average conductivity, the impedance of the monopole may be double or even triple the quoted values. Because this additional resistance occurs at a point on the antenna circuit where the current is high, a large amount of transmitter power will dissipate as heat into the ground rather than radiated as intended. Therefore, it is essential to provide as good a ground or artificial ground (counterpoise) connection as possible when using a vertical whip or monopole.

The amount of power an antenna radiates depends on the amount of current which flows in it. Maximum power is radiated when there is maximum current flowing. Maximum current flows when the impedance is minimized—when the antenna is resonated so that its impedance is pure resistance. (When capacitive reactance is made equal to inductive reactance, they cancel each other, and impedance equals pure resistance.)

This Weekend on the Radio at KB6NU

It was a busy ham radio weekend for me.

On Saturday, there were four of us at WA2HOM, the club station at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. Jim, K8ELR, and I got there shortly after 10am. Also there at some point was Jack, WT8N; Ralph, AA8RK, and Jeff, KD8JAE.

The first thing we noticed was the addition of a poster displaying photos from our Space Station contact and copies of the two newspaper articles. Very cool. All we need is a QSL card and the poster will be complete.

After Jack arrived, the first order or business was to try to get Jack’s PSK interface working. Despite a lot of discussion and swapping of plugs, we were unable to get any audio from the Omni VII into the computer. As we did not have any test equipment, we aren’t sure what the problem is. NOTE TO SELF: at the very least bring a multimeter to the museum next time.

After Jack left, we got down to some serious operating, with Jim and Ralph making a bunch of North American QSO Party (NAQP) QSOs. We made some on 40m, then switched over to 20m for a while. Unfortunately, 20m was dead again, and after a couple of rough contacts, we switched back to 40 meters.

Jeff, KD8JAE, arrived sometime around 1 pm. Jeff is a rather new ham, having passed the Tech test in July. I got an e-mail from him last Thursday and invited him down to the museum. We sat Jeff down at the mike, and he made a couple of NAQP contacts. These may have been his first HF QSOs.

We packed it in about 3:15.

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow.
We’ve been just getting pounded with snow here in Ann Arbor. It’s not like Colorado, or Minnesota, and I suppose that I shouldn’t be complaining, but we already have had nearly four feet of snow fall this year. Last year at this time, we’d only had two and a half feet, and last year was a record year.

On Saturday, it started snowing around 9:30 am and snowed till about 3 pm. Then, it started up again about 5 pm or so. Overall we got about six inches or so.

Since I’m not really big on driving in snow, I decided to call off an expedition to the hamfest this morning. I told them all to sleep in. The only problem is that I failed to call all of the guys, and he woke me up with a call at 6:30 am, saying he would be arriving at my house soon. Since he had a fair drive just to get to my house, I couldn’t really tell him to turn around and go home, so I got dressed, and we drove the 40 miles from my house to the hamfest.

Fortunately, the roads weren’t too bad. A couple of spots were dicey, but the traffic was light and we made it there in one piece.

I ended up buying a bunch of stuff, including some rubber feet, a couple of neon bulbs, and an Autek RF1 antenna analyzer. The RF1 is a bare-bones kind of instrument, but it’s perfect new hams. I got it for $75 and plan to re-sell it to one of the students in my upcoming General class.

Another “bargain” was the Army surplus mitten liners that I got for a buck. The amusing thing about this purchase is that they came with wearing instructions (see below).