Field Day 2014: Smaller, but funner

This year, the two local clubs, ARROW and the University of Michigan ARC, once again joined forces to do Field Day. It was smaller than Field Days we’ve done in the past—we were 2A this year instead of 4A or 5A—but it was a lot of fun, nonetheless.

Our club banner hanging on the public information tent at the entrance to our Field Day site.

Our club banner hanging on the public information tent at the entrance to our Field Day site.

For a while there, it almost looked as though Field Day wasn’t going to get off the ground. One of the reasons was that we had to find a new venue. For some reason, which I never quite understood, and to be honest, didn’t want to get too involved in, our old venue didn’t want us back.

An alternate site was suggested, and seemed like a good idea, until someone pointed out the controversial nature of the conservative political views of the owner, the local chapter of a national nonprofit organization. After some heated debate on the club mailing list, this choice was nixed.

Finally, someone suggested the Ann Arbor Airport. In addition to hangars and runways for the local general aviation crowd, it’s home to a couple of soccer fields, and since the soccer season is over here, they were available for our use.

The administrators were at first somewhat hesitant to give their permission, thinking that our operations might cause interference to the airport’s radio communications. Dave, N8SBE, this year’s Field Day coordinator, allayed their fears, however, by working with their technical people. They sent Dave a spreadsheet that they use for evaluating the possibility that a radio system will cause interference to their radio system.

Dave took that spreadsheet, and by plugging in numbers from the data sheets of the radios that we were planning to use and making some assumptions regarding the antenna layouts, he was able to show them that interference wasn’t going to be a problem. He even went so far as to make some spurious emission measurements on the IC-746PRO that we used for the GOTA station. Overall, it was quite an interesting exercise, worthy of its own blog post.

2A, plus GOTA
We operated 2A, with one SSB station, one CW station, and the GOTA station. Going to 2A, instead of trying to operate 4A, meant that we could man each of the stations continuously for the entire 24 hours.

The CW was captained by Tim KT8K. The other operators included Stuart W8SRC, Arun W8ARU, and yours truly. I’m not sure if we set a club record or not, but we easily surpassed 1,000 QSOs.

The SSB station captain was Jim, WD8RWI. I won’t try to list all of the operators that worked that station, but stalwarts included Jameson, KD8PIJ, our lone University of Michigan ARC participant and Mark, W8FSA. I think that they made over 600 QSOs this year.

That's me on the right coaching the first of eight newcomers in the GOTA station.

That’s me on the right coaching the first of eight newcomers in the GOTA station.
Photo: Dinesh, AB3DC.

I captained the GOTA station. While we only managed about 30 QSOs this year, I was quite happy with the turnout. I was able to get eight newbies on the air, including one fellow who showed up Sunday morning. After making a couple of contacts, he said that he had to try to get his son to come out and try it.

It took some cajoling, but eventually he did. The son wasn’t quite so thrilled as the father, though, once he got in front of the radio, and he shortly took off to walk their dog. The father stuck with it right up until 2 pm. I even got him to call CQ FD and run a frequency. We weren’t real successful doing this, but we did manage to get one station to reply to our CQ.

Burgers and hotdogs
The food was handled this year by John, WA8TON. He did a fine job, serving up hot dogs and hamburgers for lunch and dinners and bagels, donuts and coffee for breakfast on Sunday. For dinner on Saturday, we asked everyone to bring a salad or dessert, and that worked out pretty well, too. Certainly no one left hungry.

I’ve left out a lot, but there aren’t really any stories that stand out like in year’s past. We didn’t get a hotshot kid CW operator to show up like we did five years ago, nor did I run over any laptops like I did seven years ago. It was just a lot of fun.

Field Day media hits

Here are some Field Day “media hits,” i.e. coverage of Field Day from different media around the country as reported on the ARRL Public Relations mailing list.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Radio operators can be a big help in a serious emergency. This weekend, HAM radio operators showed just how much of an impact they can have when disaster strikes. The Austin Amateur Radio club held a field day this weekend at the Central Texas American Red Cross, training people how to get emergency messages out when cell phones are down and power is out.

WISCONSIN RAPIDS (WSAW) Wisconsin Rapids HAMS are ready to prove, once again, they’re prepared for a national emergency. Today, the Amateur Radio Relay League sponsored the annual U.S. and Canada Amateur Radio Field Day Contest.

When all else fails, we rely on ham radio. “Amateur radio operators don’t need an infrastructure because we have antennas,” said Mary Joseph, a member of the Ak-Sar-Ben Amateur Radio Club. “If everyone picks up the phone at the same time, the cell towers are overwhelmed and you cannot communicate, but we can.” Joseph and her husband, Pat, were among about 25 club members participating Sunday in the annual American Radio Relay League Field Day. They joined thousands of ham radio enthusiasts all across North America in attempting to contact as many other operators as possible.

Hams that write books

www.amazon.comwww.amazon.comLots of amateur radio operators have written books. Gordon West, WB6NOA, has his line of license study guides, Ward Silver, N0AX, has written a number of different books, most notably Ham Radio for Dummies, and Dave Ingram, K4TWJ, wrote many books.

There are some hams who have written about topics other than amateur radio, though. Recently, I worked Jack Sanders, K1IFJ. During the course of our QSO, I discovered that he had been the editor of the Ridgefield Press, a newspaper in Connecticut and the author of The Secrets of Wildflowers. I enjoy wildflowers, so I purchased Jack’s book, and am enjoying it a lot.

Another ham who has written a book unrelated to amateur radio is Jim McCulloch, WD7H. His book, Fracture Gradient, is about the technology of “fracking.” The cover describes it as “a heroic tale of discovery and greed that fractures a critical economic paradigm, threatens the international balance of power and challenges the concept of rugged individualism.”

Of course, there is also Art Bell, W6OBB. He’s penned a number of titles on paranormal phenomena. The latest appears to be The Coming Global Superstorm, which was published in 2001. I haven’t actually read any of his books, but I would imagine that they are as entertaining as his radio show.

Now, I’m curious about other hams who have written books. If you know of any please let me know by commenting below or by e-mailing me. Thanks!

ARISS to go quiet this winter

From Weaver’s Words, the e-mail newsletter of Jim Weaver, K8JE, Great Lakes Division Director.

Charlie Sufana, AJ9N, of the ARISS program reports there will be no amateur radio operations from the International Space Station beginning 10 November through 7 December this year. The reason for the quiet hours is there will not be a radio amateur on board. Amateur operations continue until 10 November and will resume after 7 December when a new crew comes on board the station.

From my Twitter feed: wire splicing, SDR, BCB loop

kd0bik's avatarJerry Taylor @kd0bik
How-To: Splice Wire to NASA Standards fb.me/3BMl1CsL0

 

rtlsdrblog's avatar<b”>rtl-sdr.com @rtlsdrblog
Using and RTL-SDR and RTL_433 to Decode Various Devices rtl-sdr.com/using-rtl-sdr-…

 

ke9v's avatarJeff Davis @ke9v
@AA7EE goes mad scientist with his Tuned Loop for BCB –> aa7ee.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/a-t…

Cheat sheets for Field Day

2014_Field_Day_Logo_333_X_220On our club mailing list, a guy who doesn’t get on HF very often suggested that each Field Day station have a cheat sheet containing the following:

  • a list of bands for that particular station,
  • a band plan showing the frequencies that can be operated,
  • a list of the antennas are connected to the radio in the station,
  • some simple instructions on how to setup and operate the radio at that station, including how to tune the antenna if a non-resonant antenna and tuner are being used, and
  • instructions on how to use the logging program, including how to change the operator.

In addition, I would suggest for the Get on the Air station (GOTA), if you’re running one, a script that operators simply have to read when making contacts.

Any other thoughts?

Tech instructor manual available for free download

This from the June 19 issue of  The ARRL Letter. I haven’t downloaded it yet, but there’s bound to have some useful info. You do have to be a registered instructor to download the manual.

The sixth edition of the ARRL Technician Instructor Manual — an electronic publication — now is available for free download by ARRL registered instructors. This latest edition of The ARRL Instructor’s Manual offers a course syllabus that addresses all of the topics covered by the FCC question pool that becomes effective on July 1 for the Technician license exam. The syllabus follows the topic presentation sequence in the ARRL student study guide, The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual (3rd ed).

The Instructor Manual is available in four sections for online download, and it includes PowerPoint modules to enhance classroom presentation. The Teacher’s Guide to Amateur Radio Instruction by Pete Kemp, KZ1Z, is incorporated within the Instructor Manual as well. Users may download each section, each lesson, or each PowerPoint module as needed.

Updated and edited by Ward Silver, N0AX, the new Instructor Manual has been condensed into 18 lesson modules and includes additional suggestions for demonstrations and instructional activities. Silver is the author of all three ARRL license manuals and the Q&A study guides.

The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual for students is organized to explain some basic concepts of radio science and electronics at an introductory level, providing sufficient background for students to gain a fundamental understanding of radio technology. It moves from foundation concepts to specific details that build upon those foundations.

The student and instructor materials are intended for an in-depth class series running about 20 hours in all. Topics may be selected for classroom discussion and lessons abbreviated and adapted to meet time constraints.

Resources for License Instruction also are available on the ARRL website.

From my Twitter feed: new EchoLink for Mac, SDR

dusty_s's avatardusty_s @dusty_s
EchoHam (formerly EchoMac) update in Mac App Store” <- glad to see an update! feedly.com/e/G5x1odQW

 

dangerousproto's avatarDangerous Prototypes @dangerousproto
OHM2013: Hacking the radio spectrum with GNURadio goo.gl/krngx7

 

VA3BCO's avatarBrian (VA3BCO) @VA3BCO
Are we Getting Closer to a Touchscreen SDR HT? >#hamr #hamradio wp.me/p4GMgg-28

Amateur radio in the news: emergency communications in FL, Museum Ships Weekend

This TV report highlights the emergency preparedness of hams in Tampa Bay, FL.

This TV report highlights the emergency preparedness of hams in Tampa Bay, FL.

Amateur radio operators ‘vital’ to emergency response. They’re some of the most critical people for a hurricane response, but you may be surprised, even concerned, when you first hear who they are: amateurs. 10 News looked at the people our rescuers rely on when the power goes out and the phones go silent.

Master of the airwaves. John Sluymer has been social networking since 1972. There was no Twitter or Facebook when the Grassie resident first picked up a radio unit a little more than four decades ago. Instead of hashtags and status updates, Sluymer would either talk into his mic or tap out his message in Morse code. Just like today’s social networks offer users a chance to interact with people on all sides of the world, Sluymer’s hobby has allowed him to reach — both physically and through radio waves — even the most remote areas of the planet.

Museum Ships Radio Weekend USS Lexington (video). They say its like finding a needle in a hay stack. All weekend long volunteers on board the USS Lexington are reaching out and talking to other museum ships around the world.  Its part of the annual Museum Ships Weekend. It’s a competition where the point is to make contact with at least fifteen other Museum ships by using a ham radio.  Those museum ships who are actually able to contact at least 15 other ships by using a Ham radio receive a certificate.

New hams are different

This is going to be a bit of a ramble, but I need to get some thoughts down about new hams, and maybe get some feedback on these ideas from both new hams and guys that have been around for a while.

On Thursday evening, I visited the All Hands Active (AHA) makerspace here in Ann Arbor. Many of them have recently gotten their ham licenses—most of them in one of my one-day Tech classes. I was down there trying to get them interested in attending Field Day, and in particular, in operating the GOTA station.

AHA is one of Ann Arbor's cool makerspaces.

AHA is one of Ann Arbor’s cool makerspaces.

There were four of us sitting around, talking about amateur radio, the projects they were working on, Field Day, and other stuff. They have expressed an interest in doing something with WA2HOM, our station at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. While it was a great discussion, it was apparent to me that selling them on Field Day was going to be a stretch.

It dawned on me that these new radio amateurs were just not interested in the “old” amateur radio. Sitting in front of shortwave radios and exchanging fake signal reports with other guys sitting in front of shortwave radios is just not their idea of a good time. I think that if you take a step back and try to look at it through their eyes, you’ll see where they’re coming from.

What are they interested in? Well, one guy is having a blast playing around with RTL SDR dongles. He’s also trying to figure out a way to rig up wireless link to light a light at bus stops around his house when a bus is approaching.

Another is working on a Hinternet-type project. I helped him out a little bit last summer setting up a wireless node at his house.

This is perhaps one reason why there are so many more licensed radio amateurs these days, but yet there seems to be less activity on the HF bands these days. HF is just not where it’s at for these new guys.

One consequence of this is that the old amateur radio clubs don’t have much to offer the new guys. In fact, one of them told me that the one time that he attended the local club meeting, he got such a hostile response that he decided not to return.

I’m finding this all quite interesting. I do intend to pursue some kind of joint activities between AHA and WA2HOM and see where that goes. They may not be interested in working DX on 20m, but they did seem to be interested in the IRLP node that we’re in the process of installing there.

I’m not sure where this is all headed, but what I do know is that these folks have a lot of energy and creativity. If we can couple that with our knowledge and experience, then I think that we’ll be a good fit for one another. It’s going to take open minds all around, though.