ARRL instructor’s newsletter sports new name, look

Radio Waves

It’s been a long time coming—more than two and a half years, in fact—but the ARRL has finally published another issue of the newsletter for  instructors and teachers. It’s now called Radio Waves, and the October 2013 issue contains articles on:

  • teaching amateur radio in elementary school,
  • the new band chart of Tech-only privileges,
  • an exam-prep game modeled on the game show Jeopardy,
  • the upcoming 2014 update to the Technician Class question pool, and
  • 2013 licensing statistics.

Unfortunately, the majority of the issue is devoted to the ARRL’s Education and Technology Program, which sponsors programs for classroom teachers. I may be missing something here, but while I think that these are useful programs, they have little value for instructors teaching amateur radio classes.

At any rate, let’s hope that it doesn’t take the ARRL another two and a half years before they publish another issue of this newsletter.

Thanks to all my customers

extra-class-cover-375x500When I sign into the admin section of my website, I get a summary of how well sales of my No-Nonsense Extra Class License Study Guide are going.  Here are the numbers from the last quarter.

  • July 2013 – 32
  • August 2013 – 39
  • September 2013 – 37

Over the past year, by quarter, I’ve sold the following number of copies:

  • Jul 2013 – Oct 2013 – 112
  • Mar 2013 – Jul 2013 – 115
  • Dec 2012 – Mar 2013 – 133
  • Oct 2012 – Dec 2012 – 73

These are just the sales made from my site, and don’t include the sales on Amazon or Barnes&Noble.

I would just like to thank you all for buying my books. It’s been very gratifying to me to be able to help so many hams get and upgrade their licenses. Please pass the word about my study guides if you found them at all useful.

Looking to the future, the Technician Class question pool will be updated in 2014. You can be sure that I will be updating my study guide well in advance the July 1 switchover date. My goal is to have it available by mid-May 2014 and bring some copies with me to Dayton.

A new way to teach Ohm’s Law?

I’ve been trying to come up with some short videos that I could post on YouTube that would go over the same material that I do in my one-day Tech classes. In my classes, I basically teach the answers to the questions, but I also try to give a little bit of context, so that they get some idea anyway of the bigger picture.

I start out with the day with electrical principles. That means talking about questions in section T5. Obviously, Ohm’s Law is a big part of section T5. So, I searched YouTube to see what other videos are already out there that explain Ohm’s Law.

In doing this, I ran across a video by a guy named Daniel Sullivan. Apparently, he teaches classes for electricians and industrial technicians. Here’s his video, “Teaching Ohm’s Law to Techs – Part 1″:

One of his main points is that we shouldn’t use the notation E, I, and R when talking about Ohm’s Law. Instead, he says, we should use the notation V, A, and ?. These are, after all, the symbols that we use to denote the units of voltage, resistance, and current, and the symbols that  you see on a meter. If you buy that logic, then the answer to question T5D01 which reads:

What formula is used to calculate current in a circuit?

should be:

Current (A) equals voltage (V) divided by resistance (?).

The more I think about this, the more I like it, and I’ve just e-mailed the Question Pool Committee to see what they think about this. I’d like to know what you think, too.

Activity Report: Dayton, General class, Mini Maker Faire, Monroe hamfest

I realized the other day that I haven’t really been reporting on my own amateur radio activities lately. At first, I thought it was because I hadn’t really done much lately, but that’s not really true. So, here’s a report of some recent activity.

U-M ARC celebrates 100 years. The University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club recently celebrated it’s 100th anniversary. I helped them celebrate by operating during their special event on April 14th, 2013. The event was held on the  Central Campus Diag, and recognized the University’s first licensing as station 8XA in June of 1913. It was really cold and rainy that day, and the bands were pretty bad, but they had some hot coffee and donuts, and we had fun anyway.

Dayton 2013

In some ways, Dayton was kind of a washout for me. I came down with some  kind of stomach flu a couple of days before Dayton, and was even considering not going at all, but since I enjoy FDIM, and I was scheduled to speak at the  instructor’s forum on Friday morning, I decided to go.

As usual, FDIM was a blast. There were lots of good ideas being thrown around. I especially enjoyed the talk on receiver design by Rick, KK7B, and the talk on baluns by Rick, W7EL. They were all very good, though. The QRP-ARCI does a very good job lining up speakers.

I even participated in Vendor Night. Between talks, they had asked for volunteers to help set up tables for the vendors. It occurred to me that, if it didn’t cost much, I could show the CD-ROMs that I’d brought with me and pass the word about my free downloads. Well, it turned out that it didn’t cost a thing, so I asked for and they gave me a table.

I didn’t really expect to sell anything, as most of the folks there I’m sure had Extra Class licenses, but I did manage to sell one, and to talk to a lot of people about the study guides. So, overall, it worked out great.

On Friday, the entire morning was taken up, getting my speaker badge and then participating in the instructor’s forum. My talk about conducting one-day Tech classes went pretty well, but the forum didn’t end until noon, leaving me only five hours to peruse the flea market. That’s a fair amount of time, but I still wasn’t 100%, and my heart wasn’t really in it. I ended up buying not a single thing.

Saturday morning, I decided not to go to the Hamvention and just to pack it up and head home. I guess thinking about it, it wasn’t a complete washout, but I certainly didn’t get as much out of Dayton as I have in years past.

General class
I started a teaching a General Class course on Thursday evenings at the Hands-On Museum a couple of weeks ago. It’s a small class, but they’re enthusiastic. I am, of course, using my study guide as the text. Doing this has shown me how I can improve the next edition. I’ll be beefing up the explanations in a few spots and moving some things around.

Mini Maker Faire 2013 a success. This year’s Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire was held about a month ago, and if you ask me, it was a great success. As we have done for the past several years, Dave N8SBE and I anchored the station, and Prem KD8SVR, one of my recent Tech students joined us.

The table they first assigned us was inside, with no clear path for our coax to get outside to the antennas. After some negotiation, we found ourselves relocated outside. Then, once Dave had gotten his K3 gear all set up, they decided to move us again! We finally got settled about 10:45 am.

We got the usual type of visitors:

  • Those who were already hams. They stopped by to ragchew a little.
  • Inactive hams. We tried to get them energized to get back on the air. One of these was KA8ODD. What a great call!
  • Interested people. I passed out my card liberally, pointing them to my free study guide.
  • Not-so-interested people. I at least tried to get them and/or their kids to send their name in Morse Code.

One thing that I found interesting is how some people seem to naturally take to Morse Code while others do not. For those who have a natural fist, I can easily make out their names when they send it by looking up the characters on the code chart. When I do copy a name, I reach out my hand and say, “Hi, John (or Mary or whomever). Nice to meet you.” They seem to be amused that I was able to figure out their name from their sending.

Unfortunately, not everyone is a natural. If I can’t make out the name, I smile and say, “Good job!”

Monroe hamfest
Yesterday morning, I drove town to Monroe for a hamfest. It’s a small hamfest, but fun. Every time I’ve gone, the weather’s cooperated, and this is important because most of the sellers are outside. Yesterday, the temperature was in the upper 60s, and the sky started out overcast, but as the morning progressed, the sky cleared, and it was just beautiful.

I almost bought a Jones paddle for $75, but since I really don’t need another paddle, I put off the purchase until I was about ready to leave. By the time I got back to that seller, he’d already sold it to someone else. I’m more than OK with this. I saved 75 bucks! I did end up buying some PL-259s and some 3.5mm stereo plugs. As Ralph would say, this was the “requisite handful of connectors.”

From my Twitter feed: no code test, Contest U, iPhone sig gen

Jeff K1NSSJeff K1NSS @K1NSS
NO CODE TEST! If that don’t grab ‘em, I argue MIGHT AS WELL! Outreach according to http://www.dashtoons.com  #hamr #qrp pic.twitter.com/vAngtDNmmu

Matt MaszczakMatt Maszczak @rocknrollriter
For the new or newer op looking into contesting: http://www.arrl.org/news/view/dayton-contest-university-videos-available-on-youtube?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=facebook …

Jacob BeningoJacob Beningo @Jacob_Beningo
Turn a Smart Phone into a Signal Generator | EDN http://www.edn.com/electrical-engineer-community/industry-blog/4416138/1/Turn-a-Smart-Phone-into-a-Signal-Generator … via @edncom

I love to hear from readers

Today’s e-mail brought good news from two readers.

Chris, AG6TJ, wrote, “Hi, Dan. Sorry I forgot to let you know, I passed my Extra on the first try! I read it [the No-Nonsense Extra Class License Study Guide] twice, and in between took online practice tests. It was a 50/50 chance I was going to pass, but did only missing six! The nice thing I like about your study material is that it just isn’t memorizing the answers—I actually learned  from it as well.

Diann, KK6BSQ, said, “Became an Extra Class this am about 11:00. Thanks to your great study guide!”

I love to hear that from my readers.

Why you should upgrade to General Class

While getting a Tech license is no small feat, one of the first things you should do as a Technician is to start studying for the General Class license. Oh, I can hear the complaints and excuses already. “I’m never going to get on HF, so why should I get my General?” “I only care about emcomm and public-service communications, so why should I bother?” “I just don’t have the time right now to study for the General Class exam.”

Well, if you ask me, all of that is just hooey. If you don’t upgrade to General (and steadfastly refuse to learn code), then it’s a certainty that you’ll never operate on the HF bands. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why deny yourself that capability before you even try it?

Similarly, saying that all you intend to do with your ham radio license is to participate with your local CERT or SkyWarn group is fine and dandy, but public-service and emergency communications do take place on HF as well as on VHF/UHF. Why limit your usefulness as an emergency communicator by not having HF privileges?

And, if you don’t have time now, when will you have time? It’s a matter of priorities, and while the material on the General Class exam is more difficult than the material on the Tech exam, it shouldn’t take you all that much more time to study for the General Class test than it did for the Technician Class test. Not only that, waiting is only going to make it that much harder to start studying again when you do decide to do it.

Here are three great resources to help you upgrade to General Class.

Here are three great resources to help you upgrade to General Class.

Resources
One excuse that you can’t make is that there aren’t any resource available. There are more than you could ever use. My favorite, of course, is The No-Nonsense General Class License Study Guide. It’s my favorite because I wrote it! A PDF version is available for free from my website. E-book versions are available for $7.99 from Amazon or Barnes&Noble.

Another resource is the ARRL General Class License Manual. When you buy this book, you also get practice exam software. This Windows software allows you to take randomly-generated practice exams using questions from the actual examination question pool.

Also popular is the General Class Manual by Gordon West, WB6NOA. “Gordo,” as he is known in the ham world, has been around a long time and does a great job explaining the answers and highlighting keywords. This study is also available as an audio book.

There are many more resources out there. To find them, simply Google “amateur radio general class license study guide.”

There really is no excuse not to upgrade. Once you do, you’ll be more knowledgeable about our great hobby, be a more effective communicator, and have a lot more fun with amateur radio.

18/19 get Tech tickets at yesterday’s class

Yesterday, I taught another of my one-day Tech classes at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, and I’m happy to report that 18 out of 19 passed the test. And, the one that did fail missed it by only one question.

One thing that I was really glad to see was the diversity of the group. Four of the students were women, and five of the students were teenagers! There were also a couple of 20-somethings in the group.

Three of the teenagers were part of the “Prestin Gang.” The Prestin Gang included twin brothers Bill and Ed, and three of their sons: Danny, Gilbert, and Matthew. Sounds to me as though they’re going to have a lot of fun as a family with the hobby.

At lunch, Ed Prestin told me that he’d been licensed before, and that he still had the Heathkit HW-5400 (!) that he built back in the 1980s. I hope the rig is still working. Some parts are no longer available.

My one innovation this time was to draw the figures on big sheets of paper and then tape them to the wall before the class. This worked out pretty well. The students didn’t have to make sense of my hastily-drawn figures on the white board.

Overall, this session  was an unqualified success. And a lot of fun, to boot.

 

Upcoming amateur radio events

KB6NU teaching the Jan. 14, 2012 One-Day Tech Class

Me making a point (apparently about SWR) at a recent One-Day Tech Class

Here are some upcoming amateur radio events here in Ann Arbor, MI:

  1. VE Testing. ARROW, the club here in Ann Arbor, conducts an amateur radio license test session ever second Saturday of the month at the Washtenaw County Red Cross, 4624 Packard Rd., Ann Arbor (map).

    Preregistration is recommended but walkins are welcome. Contact Mark Goodwin – W8FSA (734-944-0730) mrkgoodwin@comcast.net, Beverley Stoner – K8ZJU (734-424-9446), or Ralph Katz – AA8RK (734-663-1288) aa8rk@arrl.net, for more information, and to register for the test.

  2. University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club’s 100th Anniversary Special Event Station. The University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club is celebrating its 100th anniversary by operating a special event station on Sunday, April 14 on the Diag on central campus. Setup is going to start around 1300Z. We’re hoping to start operating around 1400Z and continue until around 2200Z. If you’re in or near Ann Arbor, please come down and operate with us. If not, listen for us on the bands.
  3. One-Day Tech Class, Saturday, April 27. I’ll be conducting the next one-day Tech Class on Saturday, April 27, at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. Go to wa2hom.org for more details.

This makes me feel good

no-nonsense-header

One of the nice things about writing my “No-Nonsense” study guides is that I get e-mail all the time from folks  who have used them to get their first license or upgrade to General or Extra. This is very gratifying to me. Yesterday, I found two in my inbox, one right after the other:

Mike writes:

Thank you for your license study guides!  I have been studying the Technician guide and took and passed the test today.

After passing the Technician test, they said I could try the General test without having to pay more, so I took it.  Somehow (luck), I passed it even though I hadn’t cracked open your General guide yet.  I’m still going to go through it, though, to make sure I know all the important stuff.

I’m starting to learn Morse code.  I think I want to mainly operate in CW.

I love it that he wants to operate CW. Austin, wrote:

This is just a short note to let you know I took the Extra exam today and passed with a perfect score. Thanks for your Study Guide.  I loaded the PDF on my Kindle and read each night for a couple weeks.  Today was the result.

Congratulations, Mike and Austin!  I hope to hear you on the bands one of these days.