A great idea to engage new hams

Every once in a while, you hear an idea, slap yourself on the forehead, and think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” This morning, I came across one of those ideas. Dave, W8RIT, is a friend of mine here in SE Michigan. He volunteered to review the new edition of my Tech study guide, and when he replied, he snuck this in:

On another note, I have an idea for getting new hams involved in the hobby. I think clubs should regularly hold simple VHF contests that make new hams the “stars of the show.” For example, those who have been licensed under 1-3 months (or even more recent) are worth X amount of points, and those 3 months to a year are worth a somewhat lesser amount of points, and those 6 mos. to a year are worth just a little bit less. Make it a simplex VHF contest, maybe run periodically, with the intent of making new hams feel welcome and maybe learn more about how far their signal may travel, (maybe improving it also). Keep the rules simple, simplex only, name and callsign, maybe a serial number. Just specify the date and time to run the ‘test’.

I like this idea a lot, but it needs some fleshing out. Have any of you run or participated in a contest like this? If so, how did it turn out? What rules did you use? Do any of you have other kinds of activities to engage new members and encourage them to get on the air more?

ARROW News, circa 1999

A local ham, Wallace, WA1TFW, recently passed, and his daughter donated some of his things to the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum. While looking at what she donated, I ran across the September/October issue of the ARROW News. ARROW is the club here in Ann Arbor.


There are several items to note here:

  • Very few of the amateurs mentioned or listed in the newsletter are still members of the club. In fact, most of the calls I don’t recognize, as I wasn’t very active in 1999. I’m not even sure I was an ARROW member at this point.
  • KT8K is the one notable exception. He’s still an ARROW member and very active on the air. N8ZLR is still in the area, and a club member, I believe, but I don’t know how active he is these days.  According to QRZ.Com, N8REG is still in Ann Arbor, but I haven’t seen him for quite a while.
  • Several of the callsigns are now SKs.
  • There is a new product announcement for a Radio Shack (!) 440 HT. The announcement notes that it costs a “reasonable” $300.  In today’s dollars that would be about $420. There were no Baofengs in 1999!
  • Speaking of QRZ.Com, there’s a small item on the Internet Ham Radio Callbook. To access the callbook, you had to telnet to callsign.buffalo.edu 200. Anyone remember telnetting to places on the Internet?
  • The upcoming swaps noted on the first page are still going, if not going strong. Findlay is still a good one for sure.

Amateur radio in the news: School Club Roundup, Berkeley ARC turns 100, Morse Code wall

For Two Rivers School students, amateur transmission brings a window on a wider world. Two Rivers School in North Bend (WA) became a ham radio station for a day, Feb. 12 during the nationwide School Club Roundup event. Middle school teacher Joe Burgener, with assistance and equipment from parent volunteer Stephen Kangas, introduced students to the world of amateur radio, from the science of radio waves, to the regulations for amateur operators, to the hands-on work of hanging antennae, and finally, to the actual operation of the radio equipment. Students spoke with several operators in California and one at the North Pole during the day.

Students at Two Rivers School in North Bend, WA participate in the School Club Roundup.

UC Berkeley Radio Club going strong at 100The Bay Area might be a hotbed of high technology, but low technology has its fans, too. Just ask the UC Berkeley Amateur Radio Club. It’s been around 100 years, and its members don’t mind a little dust and rust on their tech. “I think the old equipment is really cool and retro,” says club member and electrical-engineering major Andy Hu. “I’m still fascinated by the profundity that an electrical signal can leave the radio in front of me, travel up a wire to an antenna outside, and someone halfway around the world with an antenna outside connected to their radio can hear my voice and talk with me,” says club member Bill Mitchell, a chemistry graduate student.
Union Station Wall Represents Song Lyrics in Morse Code. An interesting-looking bumpy, yellow structure inside Union Station in D.C. represents a lot more than the naked eye might notice. As it turns out, the bumps are morse code representations of the lyrics from Death Cab for Cutie tune “Soul Meets Body.”

Delta Division survey provides insight into clubs

In a LinkedIn discussion about grant writing for amateur radio clubs, I learned about a membership survey done by the ARRL’s Delta Division. There’s a big section on clubs and club activities. Here are a few bullet points from the executive summary:

  • Clubs and the experiences that League members have in them constitute important elements shaping both amateur’s behavior and assessments of membership. Almost two-thirds (65%) say they are a member of at least one local club. The median distance to their nearest club is 9 miles, irregardless of their membership status. By comparison, the average commute to work in the US is almost one hour. Comparing ARRL Affiliated Club locations with those of the survey respondents using GIS methods, the objective distance to a club does not appear to have an important relationship to membership even though it was the second highest reason given for non-membership.
  • What does affect membership appears to be the availability of time to participate and the quality of club leadership. Life cycle demands involving work and family obligations are tied to age and marital/parental status. These periods reduce the potential for many to seek membership in clubs. Leadership which allows or even fosters a hostile political environment and which does not plan and conduct interesting educational activities sponsored by the club are the most reported signs of poorly-evaluated leadership in the Delta Division.
  • Club leadership is rated very positively by many Division club members. There appears to be a segment of clubs, however, who have lost members due to poor leadership and perhaps a lack of leadership training for succession in club leadership roles. 

For the full report, go to http://www.arrldelta.org/2013final.pdf.

From my Twitter feed: club resources

arrl's avatarARRL @arrl
ARRL Atlantic Division Adds Resources to Aid Amateur Radio Clubs: The ARRL Atlantic Division leadership has cr… bit.ly/1gB2ptw

Atlantic Division director Bill Edgar, N3LLR, is truly one of the directors that knows what he’s doing.


qrparci's avatarQRP ARCI @qrparci
The Rockmite is back ! A HF transceiver with built in keyer for $40 – qrpme.com/pages/RM%20][.… #hamr #hamradio #qrp

The Rockmite is a classic. If you haven’t built any kits lately, consider picking up one of these and doing so.


AlanAtTek's avatar

Alan Wolke W2AEW @AlanAtTek
Lots of folks liked my “how to test BJTs” video, and asked for a similar one on MOSFETs. Here it is: youtube.com/watch?v=gloikp…Another great W2AEW video. I don’t know how he has time to do these, but they’re certainly worth watching.

Amateur radio in the news: HS ham club, hamfest (rally) in Harwell

Brad’s Beat: Joplin High School Ham Radio ClubStudents at Joplin High School are embracing a technology more than 100 years old. More than 20 students have enrolled in the Ham Radio Club. They’re all studying how to get their license to broadcast. Their teacher is Richard Banks, who has been broadcasting (sic) for more than 25 years. He says many students tend to embrace technology, even if it’s a bit older. The students say talking on ham radio is a lost art of communication, which is better than texting. 

Headwaters Amateur Radio Club makes air waves. Technology is a great thing, but of course, sometimes it can have its flaws. For instance, what if your car breaks down, but you can’t call a tow truck because there is no cell phone service? What if a large storm knocks out all power and there are people who need help? The solution to the problem, and many other communication related issues, is an easy one, and one that may not be on the top of everyone’s minds: amateur radios.

Radio hams put faces to voices at electronics rally (that’s what they call a hamfest in the UK). More than 500 radio fans better used to speaking to each other over the airwaves met face-to-face in Didcot. The radio enthusiasts from all over the UK gathered at Didcot Leisure Centre in Mereland Road for an amateur radio and electronics rally on Sunday.

Creating Strong Clubs

Being a member of both an amateur radio club and a Rotary club, I often compare the two. One of the things that Rotary International does that the ARRL fails to do is to actually provide their clubs with training and materials on how to make the clubs stronger.

The January 2014 issue of the e-mail newsletter Rotary Leader includes the article “Creating a Strong Club.” It suggests that you should treat your members as customers. While I’m not totally sold on that particular idea, the article does include a list of common mistakes that clubs make with regard to membership. They are:

  • Focusing on recruiting new members, while neglecting engagement.
  • Forcing new members to adapt to the club and not thinking about how the club can adapt to new members.
  • Failing to understand the needs of new members.
  • Blaming new members for dropping out rather than evaluating what the new members need.

I do like this list, although I’d probably change #1 to read, “Failing to proactively recruit new members.”

Newsletter of the month: LCARC’s Tuned Circuit

Every month, I send out a column to more than 325 amateur radio club newsletter editors. It just occurred to me that I should feature some of there here on my blog. This month, I’ve stayed close to home (Ann Arbor, MI) and am featuring The Tuned Circuit of the L’Anse Creuse Amateur Radio Club.

L'Anse Creuse Tuned Circuit

This sixteen-page newsletter features a lot of club news, including items on their upcoming swap on Sunday, December 8,  their Christmas party, recent repeater maintenance, and a schedule of club nets. The LCARC seems to be quite an active club!

There’s also news of other local amateur radio events. There’s a column listing test sessions around Southeast Michigan and another listing upcoming swaps in the area. That’s great news for LCARC members.

If you would like to get my column for your newsletter, simply click here and fill out the form. That will get you on my mailing list. I generally send out the column the last week of (almost) every month.

The Logger’s Bark

As many of you know, I write and send out a free monthly column for amateur radio club newsletters. One of fun things about doing this is that I get to read newsletters from all over the country, as many put me on their electronic mailing lists.


This month, Mike, W7MWF, sent me the latest edition of The Logger’s Bark, the newsletter of the Radio Club of Tacoma (WA). In his “From the Editor” column, Mike explains how the newsletter got its name:

An interesting (to me, anyway) tidbit came along a few weeks ago. How did The Logger’s Bark get its name??

As it was explained to me, way back in the olden days before computer logging, contesting was a bit more different and hectic. A crew of folks were on duty supporting the operators by maintaining old- fashioned paper logs. Since during contests penalties were sometimes assessed for duplicate entries, an important function of the logger was to advise the operator when his or her contact was a “dupe.”

Upon hearing a call sign that had already been recorded, the Logger would bark out loudly “DUPE” to the operator, thereby passing on the information that the QSO could be curtailed. Thus arose the term “Logger’s Bark.”

Well, Mike, I found that tidbit interesting, too.

Mike also mentioned that his club is celebrating its 100th anniversary in October of 2016, and I gleaned from their newsletter that their membership is right around the 300 mark. Sounds like a great club to me!

IRTS Promotes Clubs

IRTSI forget exactly where I found out about the EI8IJ Fund, which promotes amateur radio clubs in Ireland, but when I did read about it, I thought, “What a great idea!” Here’s how the Irish Radio Transmitting Society (IRTS) website describes the EI6IJ Fund:

Each year, in order to promote Amateur Radio to the public, the Committee will consider the awarding of a number of grants to Affiliated Clubs. These grants will primarily be funded by a kind donation by the late John O’Riordan EI6IJ. The grants will be of around €300, usually not exceeding a total of €1000 in any one year, and are to assist with the mounting of public special event stations by clubs affiliated to IRTS. The stations should have significant public exposure with the specific intention of demonstrating Amateur Radio to members of the public. The funds may be allocated in one or more grants, or not at all, depending on the nature of applications received.

The ARRL continually pays lips service to clubs, but rarely do they ever put their money where their mouth is. Perhaps instead of spending so much time and effort to raise funds for W1AW, they should spend some of that loot on a program such as this which will reach many more people.

If your club could apply for such a grant, how would you use the money?