Dont Be a “Dit”-to Head

A recent news story on the ARRL website, “ARRL Official Observers Team with FCC to Solve Rogue Keyer Problem on 17 Meters” caught my eye. It reads:

On July 15, Walt Bilous, K3DQB — an Official Observer (OO) in ARRL’s Eastern Pennsylvania Section — notified ARRL Headquarters of a keyer continuously sending a series of dits on 18.0855 MHz. According to ARRL Field Regulatory Correspondent Chuck Skolaut, K0BOG, Bilous kept hearing the dits throughout the night.

Skolaut asked Bilous to alert other OOs to monitor the frequency, but the signal was proving hard to locate via direction finding due to changing propagation and fading conditions on the band. “We alerted OOs across the country to monitor and collect additional information for us including bearings and signal strength reports,” Skolaut said. “We had a great response from quite a number of Official Observers.” But the signal was still proving elusive, so Skolaut contacted the FCC for assistance.

“By Monday evening, July 18, the FCC indicated that the dits were originating in California, ruling out speculation that it might even be coming from outside the United States,” Skolaut explained. “On Tuesday, we received word that the FCC had pinpointed the exact location of the dits. They visited the radio amateur’s home, found the cause and the transmitter was immediately shut off.” According to the FCC, an amateur in Northern California had unintentionally left his keyboard too close to his keyer paddle, and the paddle somehow got pushed against the keyboard, making it send continuous dits.

“We appreciate the efforts of all the involved Official Observers and the prompt follow up by the FCC in pinpointing the source of the transmissions and getting them stopped to prevent further interference on the band,” Skoluat said. “Since signals on 17 meters may travel long distances, we received a number of reports from stations overseas who supplied signal strength reports along with bearings. This incident prompts a very important reminder to all amateurs to always be vigilant when operating and if leaving your operating position, to turn off or secure your transmitters to avoid situations like this from happening.”

I heard this signal over at least a 24-hour period, and was kind of amazed that it went on for so long. I learned two ham radio lessons from this story:

  1. If I hear something like this again—and I have heard transmissions like this before—contact the MI section Official Observers.
  2. Make sure that my own transmitter is secure when I’m done operating for the day.

N8M to be QRV from the Detroit Maker Faire

N8M will be active on the amateur radio satellites and HF this weekend Juy 30-31 from the Detroit Maker Faire at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. Operating modes will be HF/VHF/SAT/EME CW/VOICE/DIGI conditions permitting. We hope to work as many Satellites as possible with the special call.

For more info, e-mail N8NWA at

Get ARRL Board of Directors Agendas and Minutes by E-Mail

This from the July 27, 2011 issue of  “Weaver’s Words,” from ARRL Great Lakes Division Director, Jim Weaver, K8JE:

+++ Want to Receive BoD Agendas and Minutes? +++

In response to requests from members, agendas and minutes for its meetings, the ARRL Board of Directors voted to make these available automatically.  Agendas and minutes have been available on the website for some time; however, it is now possible to receive them automatically as they become available.

To be  added to the list of automatic recipients, go to the ARRL website and click on EDIT YOUR PROFILE.  At the next screen, click on EDIT EMAIL SUBSCRIPTIONS.  Check the box for ARRL BOARD MEETING AGENDAS AND MINUTES.

There are quite a few different e-mail newsletters that you can sign up for that can be very useful.  You do, though, have to be an ARRL member to sign up for these e-mails..

Hack a Day: Use an Arduino to Measure Inductance

It’s been over a year since I built an Arduino microcontroller at our club’s annual construction night, and I still haven’t done anything with it. I’ve had a couple of ideas, including a keyer that would actuate accept paddle inputs and actuate a solenoid that would open and close a straight key, but just haven’t had the time or inclination to actually put something together.

Well, here’s a cool idea as to how to use an Arduino to measure inductance.

Measure inductance with an ArduinoA signal in from the Arduino excites an LC circuit. The L in the LC circuit is our unknown inductor. The output of the LM339 is a square wave whose frequency is proportional to the L of the LC circuit. Measure that frequency with the Arduino and you know the unknown inductance. Of course, calibrating this thing could be a bit tricky, but it might be fun to play with.

A Real Craftsman Builds a Regen Receiver

If you want to look at some nice construction work, see The WBR: A Simple, High-Performance Regen Receiver for 40m by N1BYT. Dave, AA7EE, has done a wonderful job building this radio. He even made the case from PCB material.

Check out some of his other postings, too. You’re bound to pick up lots of hints about building things.

NRC Releases Framework for K-12 Science Education

The National Research Council last week released a report that presents a new framework for K-12 science education and identifies the key scientific ideas and practices all students should learn by the end of high school.

The new framework is designed to help students gradually deepen their knowledge of core ideas in four disciplinary areas over multiple years of school, rather than acquire shallow knowledge of many topics.  And it strongly emphasizes the practices of science – helping students learn to plan and carry out investigations, for example, and to engage in argumentation from evidence.

The overarching goal of the framework, the committee said, is to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science, the capacity to discuss and think critically about science-related issues, and the skills to pursue careers in science or engineering if they want to do so — outcomes that existing educational approaches are ill-equipped to achieve.

Here’s the outline of the framework:

  1. Scientific and Engineering Practices
    1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
    2. Developing and using models
    3. Planning and carrying out investigations
    4. Analyzing and interpreting data
    5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
    6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing
      solutions (for engineering)
    7. Engaging in argument from evidence
    8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
  2. Crosscutting Concepts
    1. Patterns
    2. Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation
    3. Scale, proportion, and quantity
    4. Systems and system models
    5. Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation
    6. Structure and function
    7. Stability and change
  3. Disciplinary Core Ideas
    • Physical Sciences
      • PS 1: Matter and its interactions
      • PS 2: Motion and stability: Forces and interactions
      • PS 3: Energy
      • PS 4: Waves and their applications in technologies for information transfer
    • Life Sciences
      • LS 1: From molecules to organisms: Structures and processes
      • LS 2: Ecosystems: Interactions, energy, and dynamics
      • LS 3: Heredity: Inheritance and variation of traits
      • LS 4: Biological evolution: Unity and diversity
    • Earth and Space Sciences
      • ESS 1: Earth’s place in the universe
      • ESS 2: Earth’s systems
      • ESS 3: Earth and human activity
    • Engineering, Technology, and the Applications of Science
    • ETS 1: Engineering design
    • ETS 2: Links among engineering, technology, science, and society
The Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) decried the lack of computing-specific content, but I think the NRC pretty much has it right. I like the section on scientific and engineering practices a lot. It seems to me that teaching critical thinking is a lot more important than teaching the technology du jour.
An electronic version of the entire report is available for free on the National Academies Press website.

Ham Radio in the News – July 24, 2011

Here’s this week’s Ham Radio in the News:

Strong signal: At 89, former NASA worker still coming through loud and clear. 89-year-old Anna Folsom passes her Extra Class exam. Unfortunately, the report says, “Folsom doesn’t really use the radio…She’s only chimed in once, when the radio club asked for a roll call. For her, the Extra Class License exam was a way ‘to see if I could still think.'” C’mon, guys, get this lady on the air.

Retransmission dates back to Apollo 11 days. For more than 30 years, this group of amateur radio operators, calling themselves Launch Information Service and Amateur Television System, have been relaying the NASA Mission Control audio, making it accessible to anyone with a radio.

Kids launch questions into space to connect with U.S. astronaut. Students at the University of Alberta’s Space Camp make contact with the Space Station.

ZLW a “Communication Lifeline” for Ships Serving New Zealand

On the 100th anniversary of the establishment of ZLW, the Wellington maritime radio station, Radio New Zealand broadcast this documentary. It features an interview with Clyde Drummond, One of the first operators. Drummond reminisced about ZLW’s role in World War I.

It also includes interviews with Peter Baird, Graham Turner, and Alan Burgess, operators who worked at ZLW from the 1960s through the 1990s. They discussed the HF setup that ZLW had during that time period. One interesting segment had to do with how telegram traffic to and from ships at sea was handled.

GB4FUN Looks Like It Would Be a Lot of Fun!

While surfing around earlier, I happened across the Web page of GB4FUN. What a great project this is! According to the website:


GB4FUN is a mobile fully self-contained communications centre that is already visiting schools and events up and down the country. The project is primarily aimed at supporting those studying for GCSEs and inspiring them into science based careers.

And, as the website points out:

It should also be remembered that GB4FUN not only teaches communications science but also can be used to assist in language studies, increase geographical knowledge and develop social skills.

I really love this idea. Anyone have any ideas about how we might do  something like this here in the U.S.? Do you think we could convince telecom and electronics companies to pony up some funding?

Connect with ARRL and Amateur Radio via Social Media?

This from the latest ARRL Letter. Do any of you follow the ARRL on Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter?  What do you get out of it?

ARRL participates on many of the popular social networking sites to share news, photos, events and videos. Check out these sites for communities of ARRL members who share your interests in Amateur Radio. We’ll share everything with you — and you can share with us, too!

Find Us on Facebook

  • — With almost 20,000 fans, the ARRL’s Facebook page is the largest Amateur Radio site in social media.
  • — A nifty way to follow the latest LoTW news. LoTW is an exciting way for radio amateurs to confirm two-way contacts they have made and use the confirmations as credit toward various ARRL awards.

Follow Us on Twitter

  • arrl — Find all of the latest information in the Amateur Radio community with this Amateur Radio newsfeed.
  • ARRL_EMCOMM — Interested in Emergency Communications? Then be sure to follow all the latest EmComm and ARES® happenings.
  • ARRL_PR – Geared toward the ARRL Public Information Coordinators and Pubic Information Officers in the League’s Field Organization, this Twitter feed focuses on public relations and media issues involving Amateur Radio.
  • ARRL_DXCC — The Twitter home of the ARRL’s DXCC awards program.
  • ARRL_Youth — For the young and young-at-heart, this Twitter feed delves into how youth can have fun with Amateur Radio.

Watch Us on YouTube

  • — Catch the latest videos from the ARRL – including monthly Product Reviews and event highlights — on the League’s YouTube channel.

Listen to Us on iTunes

  • — Listen and download the latest ARRL news, uploaded as a podcast to iTunes. Click here for instructions on how to subscribe to this weekly feature.