I Need Some Help…

…with fundraising ideas.

A couple of weeks ago, a guy offered to donate a bunch of stuff to donate “many thousands of dollars worth of 99% new electronic parts” to WA2HOM, our club station at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. This almost sounded too good to be true, and as it turned out, it was too good to be true. He did graciously donate quite a few parts, but the current value is nowhere near the thousand dollar mark.

That got Jim, K8ELR, and I thinking about what we might do to raise more funds for our station. One thing I’m going to do is to not just suggest a donation when I teach a class there, but require a $10 donation. Some other things we’ve come up with include:

  • solicit donations directly, on a continuing basis, like that club station in New York or New Jersey does,
  • have more fund-raising kinds of things down at the museum, like kit-building or soldering lessons
  • do a simple “trunk sale” hamfest, charging perhaps $5/car for every seller. I’ve been to one of these, and it seemed to work out pretty well.

At that point, we kind of exhausted our thought process, so I thought I’d throw it out to my blog readers. What other ways have you or your clubs raised funds?

Class Notes – January 9, 2011

This Saturday, I held the latest version of my one-day Tech class. This is the second time I’ve run a class with the new question pool. (The Element 2 question pool was updated on July 1, 2010.) Here are a few observations:

  • There is a bit more material to cover in this version of the question pool, but it’s still doable in a day. My class runs from 9am – 3pm, with a half-hour break for lunch. I’m considering adding a half hour next time, but the problem with that is that is student fatigue. There really is only so much that you can cover no matter how long the class is. After I think about this for about ten minutes, I’ll probably decide not to do it.

    Another option would be to hold two three- or four-hour sessions, say one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Or, just brainstorming a bit, maybe you could do two hours on Friday evening, and then five or six hours on Saturday, followed by the test. That would allow for a more leisurely pace, but require that students make time to attend the class on two separate days. That might not be so easy for some people.

  • The key to success with this format is getting the students to at least read through the study guide a couple of times and take some online practice tests before coming to class. I stress this in every e-mail that I send students and prospective students. In nine out of ten cases, those that fail the test after the class do so because they came to the class cold. It’s just too much to absorb all at once. If they pre-study, it’s more of a review session than a class.
  • 20 people pre-registered for the class, but only 14 showed up. I was very disappointed with this turnout, especially as I e-mailed folks a couple of days before the class and asked them to tell me if they couldn’t make it. I don’t mind if they have to cancel for some reason, but it’s just good manners to actually cancel.

    Anyone have any ideas as to how to encourage people to actually show up? I’ve thought about requiring payment beforehand, but that might discourage people from even signing up. Maybe I could require the payment and then have coffee and donuts when they arrive

  • 11 students passed the test. When I asked if they had read through the study guide, those that failed said that they hadn’t had time to do that. Well, I’m sorry, but there’s nothing that I can do about that. They can’t say that they weren’t warned.
  • Two of the students that failed the test were kids—one 10 or 11, the other 13. What I find is that kids have a harder time with this format than do adults. Heck, it’s hard enough getting adults to sit still for six hours, much less kids. :) On the other hand, some kids have successfully taken the class and passed the test. Maybe it’s a question of motivation. Some kids are there because their parents want them to get a license, not necessarily because they want to get a license.

One more thing. One of the students told me that he got serious about getting his license about a month or so ago. He went to the ARRL website and searched for clubs in this area. The search returned 22 clubs within a 25-mile radius of his zip code. He said that he tried contacting every single one of them, but I was the only one who replied to his inquiry.

I think you’ll agree that it doesn’t say much for amateur radio. Your club is hopefully a better job of responding to inquiries from non-hams, but it might be worth checking on the procedure just to make sure.

The Michigan QRP Club is What the Hobby is All About

Saturday morning, I had the good fortune to have breakfast with members of the Michigan QRP Club.

I’d always meant to get to one of their monthly breakfasts (held the first Saturday of each month), but they normally take place in Flint, which is about an hour away. Only when they decided to hold one here in Ann Arbor did I actually make it. Now, I’m sorry I didn’t make one earlier. A great time was had by all.

One aspect of the breakfast that I enjoyed was the “show and tell.” One of the things that sets most QRPers apart is that they’re builders, and the breakfast gives them a chance to show off their handiwork. This Saturday, there was a fellow who had built a sideswiper key and another who brought in his end-fed, halfwave antenna tuner. A couple of other folks also brought in things they’d been working on, but I don’t remember them.

After eating, there was the “junk box swap.” Everyone brings stuff from their junk boxes to swap for stuff from others’ junk boxes. I brought some GE222 light bulbs that I doubt I’ll ever use, some relays, and a bunch of pots. In return, I got some crimp terminals, a bunch of 10 uF electrolytics, and a half dozen or so panel-mount BNC connectors. Everyone was very generous, and I felt a little guilty about leaving with more than I brought.

The Michigan QRP Club is what ham radio is all about. I had so much fun at breakfast that I joined the club! It’s only $10/year ($12 for new members for the first year), and that includes a quarterly newsletter. They also sponsor several CW sprints each year.

I’m looking forward to going to breakfast again sometime soon, meeting more members, and showing off some of my projects. If you’re in Michigan, you might want to consider joining, too.

Why you should join an amateur radio club

Tom, W3ROK, has compiled the reasons one should join an amateur radio club and posted them to the Mason County Amateur Radio Club website. Some of the reasons include:

  • It provides contact with local radio amateurs.
  • You can get help building a station.
  • Clubs often sponsor license exam classes.
  • Clubs make ham radio more visible in the community.
  • Clubs organize activities such as hamfests, scout radio merit badge sessions, and Field Day.
  • You can often borrow infrequently used test equipment instead of buying it.
  • It’s fun!

Website Aims to Unite College Clubs

CollegeARC.Com is a place for college clubs to share information and get ideas for new projects and activities. It looks like it was started by two brothers: Bryce Salmi, KB1LQC, and Brent Salmi, KB1LQD. Currently, the site has articles on repeaters, installing a vertical antenna, and the club competition feature of the November Sweepstakes.

Here’s what the About page has to say:

College Amateur Radio Club Association provides a unique opportunity to the amateur radio community. We have been established to provide a way for the college amateur radio community to interact not just as individual college clubs, but as a community of campus stations who interact and support each other in many ways. In recent years there has talk of a decline in amateur radio but there have been successes too! CollegeARC.com is here to show that amateur radio is still growing strong. We are also here to showcase how amateur radio is used for fun and as a way to experiment with today’s cutting-edge technology. While some college clubs have seen a diminishing amount of activity, others have enjoyed a surge in members and activity. We believe that by providing a way for clubs to interact with each other, a strong foundation for amateur radio activity on college campuses can be poured for years to come!

I like the recent upsurge in college clubs, and I think we should do what we can to support it.

How to Give a Lousy Presentation

Part of what makes ham radio so special is the spirit of sharing. Unfortunately, many hams are hesitant to share because they’re not confident in their presentation skills. This article, “How to Give a Lousy Presentation,” on BusinessWeek.Com just might help. Communications skills coach Carmine Gallo lists 15 of the worst things to do when giving a presentation. Here are the eight that I found the most appropriate:

  • Misspell words.
  • Create distracting color combinations.
  • Use a really small font size.
  • Look completely and totally disinterested.
  • Look disheveled.
  • Read every word of each slide.
  • Don’t practice.
  • Open with an offensive or off-color joke.

Make your next club presentation a really good one. Read the complete article on the BusinessWeek.com website.

Stuart’s First Kit

Many of you are familiar with Stuart, KD8LWR, my newest Elmeree. Since visiting us at Field Day, he’s gotten his ticket and made many contacts on 2m FM and EchoLink, and we’re working on how to get him on HF CW.

Well, yesterday was another milestone. He attended his first ham club meeting and built his first kit. Yesterday, we built things at the ARROW meeting.

We started Stuart out with a Wee Blinky kit from DaleWheat.Com. This is a great little kit for beginners. It consists of 11 components—two LEDs, four resistors, two capacitors, two transistors, and a 9-V battery snap. There are only 24 solder joints to make.

I had to show Stuart how to form the leads and insert the components, and I also showed him how to solder them to the board. These steps were a bit awkward because I didn’t think about providing some kind of fixture for holding the board. That really would have been a help for someone building his first kit.

Even so, Stuart did a great job, and when we connected the battery, it worked! That’s more then I can say about the first kit I built.

Plug for Dale Wheat
Since Dale Wheat donated a bunch of the Wee Blinky kits to the recently-held A2 MiniMaker Faire, and ARROW benefited by getting passed a few of the extra kits, I thought I’d give Dale a plug here. Thanks, Dale!

Dale has another kit that may be of interest to radio amateurs. His Smart Battery Meter “measures the ‘state of charge’ of a 12 volt or 24 volt sealed, lead-acid battery system. It uses a multi-color array of LEDs to give an instant visual indicator of the remaining charge, sort of like a gas gauge.”

Another FB Construction Project

RevEBreadboard800Last night, my ham radio club, ARROW, held its annual construction night. As reported earlier, we built Bare Bones Board Arduinos, the cute, little microcontroller shown at right.

A dozen guys built one, and all but one got them working. I’m not sure why, but he decided to troubleshoot his Arduino at home.

Perhaps the most challenging part about building the kit was mounting the surface-mount inductor. The technique that I, and most of the other guys used, was to tin the pads, hold down the component with either a tweezers or needle nose pliers, and then reflow the solder. One guy had a heckuva time doing this as the component markings were slightly misprinted on his board, with the ink covering those pads. Carefully scraping off the ink with an X-acto knife remedied that situation.

Several people commented, “They’re cute, but what can you do with one of those things”? Well, the latest issue of QEX has an article that uses the Arduino as a keyer. As I noted in the previous blog post, I have an idea to use mine to interface a paddle to my computer, so that I can send code to the computer instead of typing on a keyboard. Another crazy idea I had was to hook a solenoid up to one of the outputs and key a straight key connected to a rig.

Of course, there are a bunch of other possible uses, including controlling a remote antenna switch and monitoring power supply or battery outputs. There are dozens of other applications outside the shack as well.

Of course, being ever vigilant for topics for future club meetings, the answer to the question, “What can you do with an Arduino”?, is now on our schedule. Next January or February, we’ll have a talk about a) how to program the Arduino and b) what one ham did with his.

Is Your Website Safe for Kids?

On the ARRL PR mailing list, Woody, K3VSA, writes:

One thing almost all ham radio groups have prided themselves on is that we’re open to all ages, a fact I always stress in my PIO work. In fact, kids have always been a major source of recruitment of new hams. That being the case, we may be cutting ourselves off if our web sites are not specifically rated as being appropriate for all age groups.

I’m not a professional web developer, so forgive me if the information I’m giving here is already old news to everybody but me, but I just found out about this and think it’s important enough to pass along. It’s my understanding that some search engines can be configured to prevent displaying web sites that have not been certified as not containing “objectionable content.”

Such certification is free and easily done. The tool I used to certify the web pages I maintain is called “SafeSurf ” (http://www.safesurf.com/). You answer some questions about your site, and it generates code which you insert into the header section of your page(s). This code lets some search engines know the appropriateness of your site. You can also download an image of their logo to add to your page body. The site gives you urls to several web site listing services that your being registered with might increase your chances of being found.

As a parent myself, I would certainly feel better knowing my daughter is looking at a site that’s been certified as containing no “adult oriented” material. Just FYI, I am not associated with SafeSurf in any capacity other than as a user, and I receive no remuneration from them of any kind.

When I asked if I could post this to my blog, Woody replied:

By all means! If you want to include an example of what it looks like on a website, go to Triangle ATV Association website, which is one of the websites I maintain. At the bottom is the SafeSurf logo (including hot link), and you can look at the source code for the page and see the META statement in the header that the search engines can see.

FD PR

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.