One of the purposes of Field Day is to get some PR for ham radio. As usual, Public Information Officers (PIOs) all across the country worked hard at getting us some attention from media and government. Here are some links:

Governors Show Support for Amateur Radio as ARRL Field Day Approaches
Governors across the United States have shown their support for Amateur Radio, with many proclaiming Amateur Radio Week in their states. Coinciding with ARRL Field Day, these proclamations show citizens that these states value the contributions made by radio amateurs.

A radio dish at Stanford is powerful enough to bounce signals off the moon, a tricky endeavor.
A radio dish at Stanford is powerful enough to bounce signals off the moon, a tricky endeavor.

A Ham Radio Weekend for Talking to the Moon
In a worldwide event, amateur radio operators will talk to each other by bouncing their messages off the craggy face of the moon.

Amateur radio operators sharpen emergency skills
For 24 straight hours on Saturday and Sunday, local ham radio operators are putting their skills on display by communicating with others across the nation under basic emergency type conditions.

Ham operators hone their skills in nationwide radio event
The veteran CBS audio engineer was hunched over a ham radio for hours yesterday, beating out regular rhythms on a Morse code transmitter, trying to help his team win a contest that was more about practice than taking home a trophy.

PRC Radio Club hosts Field Day
HENLEYFIELD — The Pearl River County Amateur Radio Club hosted their annual field day event over the weekend demonstrating their abilities …

Ham radio operators communicate with world
Belen At 17 years old, Phil Shaw of Tierra Grande already has a sprawling network of contacts around the world. Shaw isn’t your typical teenager who is always on his cell phone texting his friends, or on the Internet using Facebook or MySpace to contact his “network.” He’s one of many amateur radio operators, also known as hams, who participated in this year’s National Field Day for Amateur Radio on Saturday.

Ham radio comes to Riverfront Park for a day
For 24 hours at Riverfront Park in River Grove, the gazebo, which normally hosts concerts, resembled an electronics sale. People sat at wood picnic benches speaking into microphones, adjusting dials and writing down codes.

There are many, many more. Go to Google News and search for ‘Field Day.’ You’ll find lots of good PR for ham radio. Thanks to all the PIOs out there that worked so hard to get us in the news.

K0GQ–Raytown Amateur Radio Club–on Fox4 Kansas City
A compilation of various short TV spots on Fox4 News, Kansas City.

Field Day!

Field Day is just two weeks away. Part emergency-preparedness exercise, part contest, part PR opportunity, part club party, this is one of ham radio’s greatest events.

Wednesday evening, my club, ARROW, made its final plans for the event. We’re going to run 4A again this year, with two phone stations, two CW stations, one VHF/UHF station, and a GOTA station. I’m the captain of the GOTA station, but I’m pretty sure that I’ll be operating one or both of CW stations at some point.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Meeting

On the way to the meeting, I passed a car with the license plate “KTZ 73″. The funny thing about this is that my first callsign was WN/WB8KTZ.

After the planning session, Tim, KT8K, our Field Day Chair for many years, walked us through a slide show presented at Daytonby a couple of the top Field Day clubs. One of the presentations was by the Rochester DX Association. They were #1 in classification 3A and #4 overall in 2008, scoring 17,978 points.

Part of the secret to their success is that they review everything, including station allocation (bands and modes worked), station setup, and antenna layout. They also noted that an active GOTA station was key to their success. They maxed out the bonus points earned by their GOTA station in 2008. Page through the PDF if you want to get a feel for how a real top-notch club does it.

Suggestions Abound
As you might expect, the mailing lists have been abuzz with talk about Field Day. Subscribers to the PR mailing list have been especially forthcoming with suggestions. Here are a couple:

  • Jim, KB9LEI, suggests printing out some “first QSO certificates” and awarding them to anyone making their first contact.
  • Susan, AF4FO, says, “One thing I believe to be very helpful, particularly for the larger, more well-attended field day operations, is to have a supply of stick-on name tags at the welcome table. Club members should wear their usual name badges or club shirts with name and call sign, if possible, but if not, they get one of those stick-ons (whether they like it or not)!

    To differentiate members from visitors, tags for non-members can be of a different color. This paves the way for club members to easily identify visitors ( and former or inactive club members) so they can make an extra effort to make all visitors feel welcome…. i.e. be public relations ambassadors for amateur radio, in general, and for the hosting club, in particular.

    Also, the sign-in sheet have space for folks to write in their mailing addresses. Following field day, the hosting club can follow-up by sending a thank you card to each of the visitors… and invite them to come to the club meetings, join club nets, participate in club activities, etc. If the visitor is a non-ham, information can be sent to them about possible upcoming classes, as well. This “personal touch” goes a long way toward promoting good will and increasing club membership.

  • Angel, WP3GW, suggested having a video playing on a spare laptop for visitors to watch. He created one by combining a .jpg with an audio public service announcement available from the ARRL website.
  • Walt, W4ALT, suggests.” Google ‘famous hams’ to find a number of sites displaying names and calls of Kings, actors, heroes, inventors, astronauts, famous, infamous, politicians, musicians…. a list of real names from all walks of life. Makes a nice display especially if you add some eye candy photos of a few of the notables.

Operating Notes

Here are some miscellaneous observations from my operations over the past week or so:

  • W1MX Turns 100. The MIT Radio Society, whose callsign is W1MX turned 100 on April 30, 2009. There was a great article on the history of the club in the April 2009 issue of QST. I had just read that article last Sunday, when I got an e-mail from KA8WFC, saying that he was going to be operating W1MX that evening. I got him on his cellphone around 8:30, and we made contact a short time later.

    It was a great thrill to work a station with such a cool history. And to think that I used to live in Somerville, MA, probably only five miles from W1MX, and never thought to visit the station.

  • Short Skip. I’ve noticed lately that the skip on 40m can be very short right around sundown. A week ago, I worked WA8JNM, near Cleveland, less than 150 miles away from me at 8:30pm (0030Z). Tonight, I worked KZ9H, near Indianapolis, not more than 230 miles away, at 9:00pm (0100Z). Both stations were 599 here. Can any of you propagation experts explain this to me?
  • Long Skip. I’m also working DX on 40m. Last night, I got on just after 10pm (0200Z). The band was kind of quiet, so I started calling CQ on 7033 kHz. After a couple of CQs, Alex, SP8ERY called. I quickly looked him up on QRZ.Com, and found a very interesting Web page that included a picture of his grandfather (right). Alex writes, “He was a radio operator during I World War. He worked on simple crystal RX and spark TX and in 1960′s when I was a young boy, he taught me first few letters of Morse code.” Since it was apparent that he knew quite a bit of English, we had a nice chat, not the usual 599/599 TU kind of DX contact.
    After working Alex, I heard IY8GM booming at 10 dB over S9. He was an easy catch. I then tuned upband again and called CQ around 7027. There, I got a call from another SP station. When we finished our short QSO, I got a call from OM3CDR. Juraj, as it turned out, also knew some English, so I was able to tell him that I am Slovak-American and had visited his home town, Bratislava.
    All in all, it was quite a good night for DX

Go to the Next Hamfest!

Don, KB9UMT, the moderator of the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list recently asked the following questions:

Do you support or go to your local area Hamfest(s)?

If you go then why do you go?

If you don’t then why don’t you?

If you go what do you see at them?

What kind of equipment?

What kind of prices?

Do you buy that $5 hotdog or take your own….

Here’s my reply…

There are quite a few hamfests within an hour or so drive from Ann Arbor–there were two last weekend alone! Since that’s the case, I can’t say that I get to all of them every year. I do try to make as many as I can, though.

Why do I go? Well, mostly because they are fun!

Meeting people is the most fun. At most hamfests nowadays, I always meet someone I know, either because I’ve spoken to their ham club, or they were in a ham class of mine. I also try to organize carpools, and it’s a blast to talk ham radio to and from the event.

I also go to check out the gear for sale. At a recent hamfest, I picked up a Lafayette HA-600 shortwave receiver, a radio that I bought as a kid with $100 I earned delivering newspapers. And there’s always supplies to buy. My friend Ralph, AA8RK, says that you should never leave a hamfest without a handful of connectors and adapters.

The hamfest I attended Saturday—the Crosssroads Hamfest in Marshall, MI—had a great assortment of radios for sale. There was a lot of vintage gear as well as more modern radios. There were also a couple of bugs for sale. I should have snapped up that Speed-X bug for $75, but by the time I had decided to do it, it had already been sold.

I never buy the $5 hot dog, but I do often buy a donut and coffee.

I think everyone on this list should go to at least one hamfest this year, even if it’s a bit of a hike. Find people that are near you to carpool with to keep down expenses. When you get there, make an effort to speak to the hams selling stuff about the stuff they’re selling. Make an effort to speak to the other hams while you’re having a coffee or while you’re wandering the aisles. If the hamfest has an ARRL table, check out and pick up some of the literature. Do all this, and you’ll not only have a lot of fun, but learn something in the process.

Marshall Hamfest a Blast!

Last Saturday, there was a hamfest in Marshall, MI, sponsored by the Southern Michigan Amateur Radio Society (SMARS), called the Crossroads Hamfest. It’s in a perfect spot to draws hams from both southeast and southwest Michigan as well as northwest Ohio and northeast Indiana. Consequently, it’s a really great hamfest.

I had a blast as always. Accompanied by my sidekicks, Zoltan, KD8ABX and George, K8GEO, we got there just as the doors were about to open. Even before I could get in the door, however, I was accosted by Charlier, KB8SFR. What a way to start the day!

Although it looked like the number of sellers was down this year, the quality of “stuff” being offered for sale was excellent. Many folks had trasceivers for sale, and there were lots of little “gadgets” for sale, too. Zoltan, for example, scored an Autek audio filter for $25.

A couple of guys were selling bugs, and I almost bought one, but was beaten to the punch both times. One of them was a Vibroplex for $150, the other a Johnson Speed-X for $75. I really should have snapped up that Speed-X when I saw it, but decided to take a walk around the cafeteria first. When I got back, it had already been sold. It’s just as well, I guess.

I did manage to get a couple of bargains, though. One guy was selling ladder line for 20 cents/foot. Zoltan and I both bought 100-ft. rolls, and in fact, we bought the last 200-ft. that the guy had. The only other vendor selling ladder line was selling 100-ft. rolls for $35, almost twice as much.

I felt a little bad about buying the last of this vendor’s stock. As he was measuring out our 100-ft. rolls, a guy comes up to me and asks me about how to use ladder line. I go into my spiel about how it’s better to use ladder line when the SWR on a feedline is high because coax gets very lossy when the SWR is high. I’m happy because he’s getting the idea and decides to purchase a roll, but that doesn’t last for long when we find out that Zoltan’s 100 feet is the last of it.

I also picked up a 900 MHz beam for $30. This wasn’t the greatest deal, as it looks like new they’re selling for only $50, but this one is in pretty good shape. I doubt that it’s ever been outside.

I also bought some parachute cord from a vendor selling army surplus stuff. This is the same vendor from whom I bought the surplus mitten liners at this year’s Hazel Park hamfest. I got a 1000-ft. roll for only $20.

I was going to sell stuff, but got lazy and decided not to load up the car. I really should have though. Attendance was good, and I could have unloaded a bunch of stuff. Plus, it would have been a lot of fun. Next year, though, I’ll be there with junk stuff to sell.

I had one experience that was really heartening. As I was puzzling over one seller’s offerings, a ham came up to me, put his arm around my shoulders, and said that he was sorry that I’d lost the election. This was such a surprise to me that I forgot to get his name and call. If you’re the guy who offered his condolences, please e-mail me.

What Would You Do at a Farmer’s Market?

On the ARRL’s PR mailing list, someone asked, “I’m thinking of suggesting a Amateur Radio Display at the local farmers market. Does anyone here have any experiences to share on this type of display?”

There were many responses:

  • I replied, “Hang a big banner, making it obvious that you’re there demonstrating amateur radio.”
  • Jim, KB9LEI, said, “My suggestion would be a battery-operated emergency setup with natural antenna supports–if possible,and use speakers instead of headphones, so those standing around can hear what’s going on.” He also suggested that they have a display of QSL cards.
  • Steve Sanders (no call mentioned) said, “I took some articles from QST (Katrina, Boy Scout Convention, etc.) and blew them up to 11″ x 17″ and laminated them. “
  • Dawn, KC9LQS, noted, “As a former Farmer’s Market manager, I know that displays are a big draw. You might consider some form of audience participation in addition to your demonstration — perhaps letting guest operators make contacts under your direction.”

Some other suggestions I’d make include:

  • Set up a base station, and have one or more rovers reporting on the wares of the various vendors.
  • Have a variety of brochures, including the “Hello!,” “We Do That,” “When All Else Fails,” and the “Leap into Ham Radio” brochures.
  • Also make up and distribute a brochure that describes your club and its activities.
  • Set up a little code practice oscillator, along with a chart of the characters and encourage people to pound out their names.
  • Offer to send radiograms. Of course, you have to find someone in your club that still knows how to pass traffic!

The Care and Feeding of Newbies

I write web applications in PHP for a living, so in addition to a ton of ham radio mailing lists, I also subscribe to PHP mailing lists and RSS feeds. While reading a blog post on PHP user groups, I found a link to an article on Linux.Com called, “The care and feeding of newbies at LUG meetings.”

Much of this article applies to how we should treat newcomers to ham radio meetings. I especially like the suggestion to recognize visitors. This is something that’s very simple to do and could pay big dividends.

I also like the idea of planning activities for newcomers. In our club, we are going to be starting a series of short talks on really basic topics for beginners. We’re going to do these before the regular meeting.

Taking Your Show on the Road

Grant, KC0VTY, posted this to the ARRL Public Relations mailing list, but since we’re in the process of setting up our station/display at the Hands-On Museum, this struck a chord with me:

While this marketing professional’s tips about display booths don’t apply to a club’s budget, there are good points made. But you say you’re visual-design-challenged? Seek out people in your community who are design-inclined and willing to do resume-building work for reduced cost.

Fortunately for our museum project, we have the luxury of having the museum’s professionals design our displays. Your club is probably not so lucky, but if you’re going to go through the effort of putting together a special events station, you still want it to have as much impact as possible.


This morning, I drove over to Utica, MI to attend the General Motors ARC “Trunk Swap.” They charged $5/car, whether you were selling anything or not. They were also selling donuts for a buck apiece. the thing started at 7am and ended at 10am.

I didn’t count exactly, but I’m guessing that there were maybe 15 or 20 sellers and approximately 50 buyers. I’m also going to guess that they took in about $125. It wasn’t a big event, but it wasn’t hard to organize, and it was fun.

I liked it so much that I’m thinking of trying it here in Ann Arbor. We could commandeer part of a parking lot–perhaps the Pioneer High School lot or maybe a grocery store lot and run our own “trunk-fest.”

Have you attended one of these where you are? What did you like about it? What didn’t you like?

Field Day 2008

Field Day 2008, although a little wet, was a blast as usual. I say a little wet, but we really got a lot of rain this year. In fact, I thought we were going to be late in getting things all set up because it started pouring about 9:30 am, just as we were in the process of setting up the last of the masts and antennas. Fortunately, we had set up the GOTA tent the night before, and it was easily big enough to seat four of us while we waited out the storm.

The rain really came down for about 45 minutes, but that didn’t dampen our spirits too much. As soon as it stopped, we got back out there and finished the antenna work. We actually got most of the stations on the air by 2pm.

Get on the Air!
This year, I was in charge of our Get On The Air (GOTA) station. I was one of three co-captains. My cohorts included Jim, K8ELR, and Brian, K8MIO. We all did our part to make the GOTA operation a big success.

Jim provided the shelter–a big Eddie Bauer tent– and his Icom IC-746PRO transceiver. I provided the antenna system, including my fiberglass mast set, a 40m/20m fan dipole that we actually built on site, and the coax to connect it all together. Brian brought his son, Kieran, who did a lot of logging and operating.

Overall, we had quite a few operators at the GOTA station, including many new hams from our recent Tech class, including Lisa, KD8IPA; Candy, KD8IPC, and Quentin, KD8IPF. Matt, KB1PXO, showed up, kind of out of the blue, and helped not only helped us set up, but made some of the first contacts. Some of our operators were unlicensed, including Kieran. For many of these operators, this was their first HF contacts. And if their enthusiasm was any indication, they certainly will not be their last.

I’m not sure of the final counts, but we had more than ten operators make more than 150 contacts. How great is that?

Pounding Brass (well at least a computer keyboard)
Of course, I also got to operate a little in each of the two CW tents. We were using N1MM software, set up to key the rigs automatically. So, often, transmitting was simply a matter of hitting the correct function keys. Pounding the calls of stations we worked into the computer was also part of the chores.

What I usually do on Field Day is to help set up, operate a little after 2pm (this year, I coached in the GOTA tent), have dinner, then go home and get some sleep, with a plan to arrive back on site around 2:30 am. I got back just after 2:30 in the morning this year, and after surveying the operation, spelled Jim, WB0KWJ, at one of the CW stations around 3:00 am.

I operated 80m CW for about four hours, making about 160 QSOs.  Not a great result, but not too bad, I don’t think. When the call came for breakfast at 7 am, I was ready.

After breakfast, I operated the 40m CW station for a while, but band conditions were pretty lousy, and the stations we could hear we’d already worked, so I didn’t do too well in the short time I worked 40m.

Scoring high on Field Day is all about gathering bonus points. There are bonus points for a lot of different things, including getting an elected official to visit your site and getting kids to visit your site. Not scoring these points

I did my part in scoring First of all, I wrote and submitted a press release to the Ann Arbor News. This did not garner any news stories, but we did get listed in their events calendar. Second, as our club’s educational committee chair, I came up with an educational activity–the aforementioned presentation on how to make a fan dipole. Third, I set up a public information table. They were all worth 100 points, so I joke that I scored 300 points before Field Day even started!

Food, Glorious Food
Food has become an important–not to mention enjoyable–part of our Field Day event. This year, our chef, George, K9TRV, did not disappoint. He prepared slow-cooked beef brisket, pork shoulder, and salmon, as well as hamburgers and hot dogs, for Saturday dinner. But wait! There’s more!

We had waffles and bacon for breakfast on Sunday, and if that wasn’t to your liking, there was cereal and fruit. That really hit the spot after operating all night. And for lunch on Sunday, there was brats and cold cuts. What a feast!!

Well, that’s about it. I ended the event in the GOTA booth, just hanging out. About 1 pm, it started raining again, and it looked for a while, like we were going to be tearing down in the rain. The ham radio gods smiled on us, though, and it quit about 1:50. Not only that, the sun came out, and tearing down wasn’t as much of a chore as it looked like it would be. My feet were wet, but at least the rest of me was dry.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to do it again next year.