Amateur radio leadership

About five years ago, I joined the Rotary Club here in Ann Arbor, MI. As I had, by this time, served as president of our local amateur radio club, I began comparing how our Rotary Club operating to how our amateur radio club operated. What a huge difference! The members of the Rotary Club were committed and really got things done. The members of the ham radio club, on the other hand, showed practically no commitment at all, had to be coerced into doing much of anything, and when they did, there was all kinds of sniping and complaining. I often thought how great it would be if somehow I could get our ham radio club to act more like the Rotary Club.

About three years ago, our Rotary district started began offering the Rotary Leadership Institute (RLI) course. The RLI course is a three-day course that is designed to prepare Rotary Club members take leadership positions in their clubs. I not only took the course, but I also participated in the facilitator training. From the start, my goal was to adapt the RLI program for ham radio clubs.

So, last year, after taking the final day of RLI training, I began working on the ham radio version.I completed it about a year ago and ran it by our section manager. He thought it was an interesting concept, but never really got behind it. Last fall, he ran for vice director of the Great Lakes Division, and a new guy took his place. When I explained my program to him, he was very enthusiastic about it and helped organize our first workshop, which took place here in southeast Michigan in early March. Last Saturday, we had our first session in southwest Michigan.

Here’s a list of the sessions in the current version of the workshop:

  • Leadership: Characteristics, Team Building
  • The World of Amateur Radio
  • The Amateur Radio Club and its Activities
  • Membership: Recruiting and Retention
  • Leadership: Team Building
  • Leadership: Setting Goals
  • Evaluating Your Club
  • Moving Forward

Overall, this worked pretty well. Most of the participants found the workshop to be valuable, and now our section manager is encouraging me to offer it in other parts of our state.

I think that I can improve it, though

I had originally thought it would take about eight hours to get through these sessions, including lunches and breaks. Well, as it turned out, in both workshops, we finished earlier than I’d expected. I think the biggest reason for this is that some of the later topics were actually covered in some of the earlier session. For example, we talked about how good communications are important the “Ham Radio Club and Its Activities” session, making the latter session moot.

Here’s how I’m thinking about changing the workshop:

  • Leadership: Characteristics
  • The World of Ham Radio
  • The Ham Radio Club and its Activities
  • Membership: Recruiting and Retention
  • Leadership: Team Building
  • Leadership: Setting Goals
  • Evaluating Your Club
  • Moving Forward

For the team-building and goal-setting sessions I’ll have the participants to a class-participation thing. That is to say, actually go through a little exercise getting them to set up a team to do something and getting them to set some club goals.

For the final session, instead of just being a review session, I’ll have the participants do some blue-sky thinking about what they can do with their clubs and perhaps have each come up with a specific idea to take back to their clubs.

We’ve set up a Yahoo Group—AmateurRadioLeadership—to discuss the workshop and other issues of interest to ham radio club leaders. If you’re at all interested in these things, please feel free to join it.

Find new amateur radio operators in your area

It used to be that if your club was an ARRL affiliated club, they would periodically send you a list with the names and addresses of recently-licensed hams in your area. They no longer offer this service, but don’t despair, you can do this yourself by going to the FCC website. Here’s how to do this:

  1. Go to the ULS advanced search page.
  2. Select from the following drop-down menus or fill in the following text boxes:
    Service Group: Amateur
    State or Zip Code: Choose the appropriate state or type in the zip code
    Status: Active
    Date Type: Grant Date
    Date: Select a time period from the drop-down menu or type in the “from” and “to” dates.
  3. Click the “Search” button.
I typed in the zip code 48103 and selected a date period of the last 90 days, and I got the following information:
Call Sign/Lease ID Name FRN Radio Service Status Expiration Date
1 KD8ROJ Elliott, Harvey M 0021439682 HA Active 01/24/2022
2 KD8ROP Pawlowski, David J 0021439757 HA Active 01/24/2022
3 KD8RTO Yanikoglu, Sami I 0021516760 HA Active 02/21/2022

Now, the cool thing is that you can have the FCC website compose a pipe-delimited file for you that has all of the licensee data, including addresses. This allows you to import the data into a spreadsheet or database. (A pipe-delimited file is like a comma-delimited, or .csv, file except that it uses the “|” instead of the comma.) To to that, all you have to do is click on the “Query Download” link at the top of the Search Results page.

Now, you don’t have any excuses for not knowing about new hams in your area.

21 Things to Do: Join a club

Thanks to everyone who contributed ideas for my upcoming book, 21 Things to Do After Getting Your Amateur Radio License. I am going to post chapters here as I write them.  Here’s the first chapter. Please feel free to comment on this chapter.

Join a club

One of the very first things you should do after you get your first amateur radio license is to join a club. There are many reasons why this is a good idea, but perhaps the biggest reason is that amateur radio is more fun when shared with others. The whole point of amateur radio is to make contacts with other amateur radio operators. By joining a club, you start making face-to-face contacts.

All of the other reasons for joining a club stem from this idea of sharing the hobby with other amateur radio operators. For example, you can think of the other members of the club as a vast reservoir of knowledge that you can tap.

Want some advice on what radio to buy? Ask a club members. Need some help installing an antenna? Ask a club member. Have a question about the best place to buy feedline or connectors? Ask a club member. I think you get the idea.

Clubs conduct a variety of activities that you’ll find both interesting and useful. Many clubs, for example, have speakers at their monthly meetings that discuss some aspect of amateur radio. By attending these meetings, you’ll not only learn about the topic, but have someone that you can contact should you decide to pursue that topic further.

Clubs also hold classes and administer license examinations. Being a member of the club will make it easier for you to take advantage of the classes and help you upgrade your license more easily.

Another benefit that some clubs offer is the use of a club station. This station may allow use to use equipment or operate modes that would be impossible to do at your home station. Our club station, for example, has a three-element Yagi antenna up about 70 feet. There’s no way that I could install such an antenna system at my home. Using the club station, though, allows me to experience using this antenna system and learn all about how they work and how well they work.

Being a club member can even help you get a good deal on used equipment. Club members often offer their used gear to other club members at a lower price than they would ask if they listed them online or taking them to hamfests. Not only do you get a lower price, but it’s less likely that there will be a problem with your purchase, and if there is, you know exactly where to find the seller.

Finding a club
If you don’t know of any clubs in your area, go to http://www.arrl.org/find-a-club. Type your zip code into the appropriate box, and soon you’ll get a list of clubs in your area.

The listings will show what services the clubs offer, their specialties, and if the club has a website, the website address. This information should give you an idea of how active the club is and what kinds of things the club members are interested in.

If there are several clubs in your area, visit them all before deciding to join one. Just like people, clubs have their own personalities, and you may find that you fit better with one club rather than another. For example, some clubs emphasize emergency communications and public service. If you’re not really interested in those activities, that club may not be for you.

Whichever club you choose, go to the meetings and participate in their activities. One thing is certain. You won’t get anything out of a club, if you never show up.

Customers or Members?

Three weeks ago, I held the first Amateur Radio Club Leadership Workshop here in Ann Arbor, MI. (I’ll post more about that later.) While we were talking about member retention, one of the attendees said that we need to think of the members as “customers.”

I suppose that I used to think like that, too. Give the customers what they want, and they’ll keep coming back. Now, I’m not so sure that is a good way of looking at things. There are some major differences between customers and members.

For one thing, there is a certain sense of entitlement about being a customer. A customer hands over some money, and in return, expects to receive a product or service. Do you want members like that? Don’t you want to get members to actively participate in your activities and not just consume them? If you have customers instead of members, doesn’t that put a lot of pressure on you to make sure the “product” is as attractive as possible to the “customers”?

A customer is in no way responsible to a business, but a member is responsible for the organization he or she belongs to. He should be, at least. If not, then why be a member?

The challenge is how to encourage that sense of membership, that sense of ownership. I don’t have the answer to that. What do you think?

Get a Google grant for your ham club website

On the ARRL PR mailing list, Allen, W1AGP, the ARRL’s Media and PR Manager, posted this:

Does your ham group have a website?  Is it a non-profit? [Then, sign up for] Google Grants for Nonprofit Group Advertising.

Steve, W5SMP, spotted this option.  While I can’t use it with the main ARRL website (due to advertising – “Your website cannot display revenue generating ads, such as Google AdSense or affiliate advertising links, while participating in Google Grants.”)  many of the section and divisions have their own sites that should fit the requirements.

Being listed high up and getting free ads on Google is a definite plus.

You should have your Public Information Officer (PIO) look into this. It takes some work, but  this program is free, so why not take advantage of it?

And, finally, if your club doesn’t have a PIO, you should appoint one. Not having one limits you. The ARRL has many resources for PIOs, making the job easier.

150 freshmen to get tickets at Cal Poly

From a Cal Poly press release:

A record 150 electrical engineering freshman students from Cal Poly will take their FCC amateur radio technician-class license exam this November in the largest amateur radio licensing event ever held in San Luis Obispo County.

Hosted by the Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club (CPARC), this session may be the largest Amateur Radio License Testing Session ever held at the collegiate level. These 150 potential amateur radio operators will join over 700,000 other hams in the U.S. in providing volunteer and emergency communications support for everything from local bike rides and parades to global disaster relief, including the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Dennis Derickson (AC0P), Cal Poly Electrical Engineering (EE) department chair, conceived the Freshman Licensing Initiative which gives every EE 111 student a chance to get their radio license. As part of the EE 111 curriculum, this test session will be administered during the 50-minute class period and count as one of the midterm exams for the freshmen students.

“CPARC members have been hosting review sessions to help students prepare to pass their exam and get introductory knowledge on a wide variety of electrical engineering topics,” said CPARC member Javen O’Neal. “Getting an amateur radio license is the first step towards many career opportunities in the communications industry, from engineering UAVs and integrating Wi-Fi on the Amazon Kindle, to creating 4G cell phone networks and designing communication subsystems on DirecTV satellites.”

CPARC members learn about radios by retuning filters on radios, building directional antennas for transmitter hunts, and putting together an emergency vehicle tracking network for Wildflower Triathlon using two dozen radios and GPS units, digital repeaters, and internet gateways.

Founded in 1947, the Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club has a long tradition of communications service on campus and in the San Luis Obispo community. The club maintains Emergency Communications Station No. 16 on the Cal Poly Campus for the San Luis Obispo Emergency Communications Council (SLOECC) which is equipped with emergency power and radio equipment to support various public safety agencies in the event of a disaster. More information about the club can be found at www.w6bhz.org.

Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club

Construction night a success

Back when I was ARROW president, I started a tradition of using one of our monthly meetings as a “construction night.” The first year we built a little keyer kit. In subsequent years, we built ladder-line J-poles, Arduino microcontrollers, and other little projects like that.

I’m happy to say that that tradition continues today. This month’s meeting, which took place on Wednesday evening, was the 2011 episode of construction night. This year, we built the Sure PS-LP11111 5~16 VDC Linear DC Voltage Power Supply Kit.

Sure PS-LP11111 5~16 VDC Linear DC Voltage Power Supply Kit

The Sure PS-LP11111 5~16 VDC Linear DC Voltage Power Supply Kit isn't a complete power supply, but the addition of a cheap AC wall wart makes it one.

This kit met all my criteria for a club construction project:

  • It was inexpensive. PartExpress sold me 15 of them for $9 each.
  • It was easy to build. As you can see from the photo above, the kit has less than 20 parts. It took me less than a half hour to build, and most of the club members had theirs put together in less than 45 minutes.
  • Those that built it have something useful that they can actually use in their shacks.  I plan to use mine to power the little QRP radio kits that I’ve built over the years. This thing should easily supply an amp at 9 V or 12 V.

As I said, this was a real success. So much so, that several of our club members said that we should do this more often. We even discussed other projects that might we might want to tackle.

One final note: Only one of our kit builders had any problem with his kit. Despite pointing out that the electrolytic capacitor, full-wave bridge, and the LED were polarized and had to be inserted properly, this fellow managed to insert his electrolytic capacitor in backwards. It worked for about two minutes before the capacitor exploded with a loud bang. We all got a big kick out of this because this fellow happened to be one of most experienced hams. :)

Ham Radio in the News – July 17, 2001

Here’s another installment of “Ham Radio in the News.”

Denver's Inside Out ProgramTeaching radio in the digital age. This is a great article on the Denver school district’s Inside/Out program, which offers additional learning to gifted and talented students. As part of this program, Bob Sterner, the district’s senior telecom engineer, introduced them to amateur radio.

I really liked this article. It makes me wish that I had better skills for working with kids. All of my attempts at implementing kids’ programs have so far fallen flat, but it’s good to know that there are others out there who seem to be able to get kids interested and motivated.

Ham radio users still play vital role in communications. Just one example of the dozens of articles on Field Day activities.

The Sky is Not the Limit for the Fethiye Radio Amateurs Club. A member of the recently-formed club FARAD discusses ham radio and club activities. Even though this interview is in a Turkish newspaper, the article is in English.

 

Ham Radio Organizations, Revisited

About a month ago, I posted some ideas about how we might change the way ham radio is organized locally.  You can read that post, but basically, I think that we need are “real” nonprofit organizations, with paid staff, to promote ham radio and conduct ham radio activities.

I talk up this idea whenever I can, most recently in an e-mail exchange with my friend, Ralph, AA8RK. He challenged me, “What, in simple terms, would be the mission of this nonprofit? What would the money be used for?”

I replied, “A simple mission statement might be ‘to provide opportunities for people to become amateur radio operators and to become better amateur radio operators.’” Thinking about this some more, I think a good mission statement could be crafted around the five bases of amateur radio as spelled out in Part 97.1, “Basis and Purpose.” Each of those are great goals to strive for.

As for how we would use the money, I came up with the following list off the top of my head:

  • Provide more training than just quarterly one-day Tech classes, such as General and Extra classes, basic electronics and antenna classes, and emergency communication training.
  • Provide leadership training and perhaps other types of support services to ham radio clubs.
  • Operate publicly-accessible ham radio stations and workspaces, such as our station at the Hands-On Museum.
  • Run a “lending library” of equipment, such as beginner transceivers, antenna analyzers, and other test equipment.

These are things that clubs or the sections could do, but rarely do because they’re all-volunteer organizations. All-volunteer organizations can only do so much.

Anyone have any thoughts about this? Anyone good at fund raising that might want to join with me and start raising some dough?

 

 

A Downsized Field Day

It seems like everyone (except for maybe Google) is downsizing these days. With that in mind, I thought that I’d downsize my Field Day. Instead of participating in the large 5A ARROW Field Day operation, the guys that hang around WA2HOM, our club station at the Hands-On Museum, decided to set up a much smaller operation.

Our first idea was to set up outside the museum. That seemed like it was going to work out until Quentin, KD8IPF, informed me that he couldn’t attend, as his wife was going to be out of town, and he needed to take care of his kids. I was concerned that without Quentin that we wouldn’t have enough operators to have two people there at all times.

Then, Quentin volunteered his backyard. This turned out to be a great venue. He has a fairly large, with a couple of big trees. Not only that, he lives next door to his mother-in-law, and she’s volunteered her trees as antenna supports. You gotta love a mother-in-law like that!

One of the advantages of downsizing is that you don’t have to spend so much time setting up. Instead of setting up antennas for five HF stations, a GOTA station, and a VHF/UHF station, all we had to do was set up antennas for our two HF stations. And, since we planned on using Quentin’s already-installed, multi-band dipole, we only really had one antenna to worry about.

That being the case, we decided that we really didn’t need to start setting up until noon on Saturday. Jim, K8ELR, and I actually arrived about 11:30 am, and that proved to be more than enough time. Jim brought with him a 40m dipole and a 30m, end-fed half-wave antenna, while I brought my BuddiStick. We quickly decided to put up the 40m dipole, and by 1pm, we were already on the air.

A Tale of Two Antennas
Of course, it wasn’t really as simple as all that. When we started operating, the two stations interfered with one another something terrible. So much so that my KX-1 was even causing Quentin’s LDG autotuner to retune itself when I transmitted.

The problem was that the 40m dipole and the multi-band dipole were running nearly parallel to one another. I should have known that this would occur, having been involved with more than a few Field Days by now, but it never even crossed my mind.

Fortunately, the solution was relatively simple. All we had to do was to take down the multi-band dipole and hang it from two different trees, one of them in the adjoining yard. After we did this, the two antennas were nearly perpendicular to one another, and the interference just went away. The phone station could not hear my little peanut whistle signal at all, and while I could hear the phone station transmit, it really didn’t affect my ability to make contacts.

I really didn’t think that this was going to work, but Ovide, K8EV, was quite confident that it would. I was the one that ate crow.

Did You Really Use a KX-1?
So, I can hear a lot of you asking, “Did you really use a KX-1 for Field Day?” Yes, I did. Our original idea was to run all QRP. The thinking behind this is that if you run all QRP, then you get 5 points for each QSO.

The other reason for doing this is so that we could run off batteries. Quentin had access to two, 66 Ahr batteries, and we’d planned to use these two batteries as our power source. I figured that with the 12V gel cell that I have for my KX-1, that would be plenty of power.

Unfortunately, that didn’t work out. Quentin and Ovide were just not having any luck making any contact at 5W—and consequently not having much fun—so they decided to increase power. That blew our QRP multiplier, but what the heck, it multiplied our fun factor.

Plenty of Power
As it turned out, just one battery provided plenty of power for the phone station, even at 100W. Granted the station was off the air from about midnight Saturday through 9 am Sunday morning, but there was apparently plenty of juice to power that station throughout the entire 24 hours.

Likewise, my little gel cell provided enough power for the KX-1 over the 12 hours that I had it on the air, and I’d guess that the charge would have been good for the entire 24 hours. I have yet to run down that battery so low that it failed to power the radio.

What Did We Learn?
We learned several things from this Field Day:

  1. A downsized Field Day can be as much or more fun than a full-blown operation. Without a big crowd vying for just a few positions, everyone got a chance to operate. Plus, setup and teardown times were a lot shorter.
  2. You still have to pay attention to your antennas. If we’d done a little more planning and thinking about our antennas, we would have avoided the interference we experienced and possibly even been able to run QRP on phone.
    How, you might ask? Well, if I’d thought about rigging up some kind of wire beam or a Moxon beam for the phone station, they may have been able to run QRP and still make contacts. This is certainly something to think about for next year.
  3. The batteries worked great. Not only did they provide enough power for a 100W rig for more than 12  hours, they were quiet. The noise of a gas-powered generator can really get on your nerves over the course of a Field Day.
  4. While I probably wouldn’t want to run the KX-1 in a big DX contest, it worked pretty well for Field Day. I made more than 160 QSOs with it in about 12 hours of contesting.

So, What About Next Year?
Since it’s never too early to plan for next year’s Field Day, we’re already kicking around a few ideas:

  1. Find a campground to have Field Day at next year. The upside is that the scenery might be nicer. The downside is that we might not have the nice antenna supports, errrr trees, that Quentin has in his backyard.
  2. Be more competitive. Joe, N8OY, came by late Saturday evening, and racked up a bunch of points for us on 20m CW. He suggested that we organize some of the local hot-shot CW operators around here and set up a real competitive operation. The upside is that scoring a lot of points is fun. The downside is that being competitive excludes the less-experienced operators.

One thing is for sure. Running a smaller Field Day event in no way diminishes it as the “quintessential” amateur radio event. We still enjoyed all the camaraderie as well as all the technical aspects of  Field Day. Now, I can’t wait until next year.