WA2HOM Introduces Cub Scouts to Ham Radio

Yesterday, down at the museum, we got a whole pack of Cub Scouts on the air, thanks to Ovide, K8EV, my ever-ambitious “kid wrangler.” No sooner had I managed to make a decent contact than he lassoed a group of five Cub Scouts from Detroit. Fortunately, conditions held out so that I could give them all a turn at the mike.

They must have liked it and told their buddies. About a half hour later, another group showed up. Fortunately, I was already in another QSO (with W3BEE), and he was gracious enough to talk to everyone in the second group.

W3BEE is a very interesting guy. As his vanity call implies, he’s a beekeeper as well as a ham. I’ve often thought about trying beekeeping—especially because of the bee crisis. He encouraged me to look into it further, noting that now is the time to start preparing for next year.

This Weekend on the Air at KB6NU/WA2HOM

This weekend, I got sucked into two contests. The first—the MI QSO Party—I operated on Saturday down at the Hands-On Museum.

I got to the museum around 10 am, and the contest didn’t start until noon, so I fiddled around a bit, trying to figure out how the bands were. I made three contacts on 40m and a couple of contacts on 20m, so it looked like band conditions were going to cooperate.

When noon hit, I was off and running. Switching back and forth between 40m and 20m, I made a total of 90 contacts in the next two hours, including three DX contacts. Not stellar, but not bad, either.

Having my WinKeyer certainly helped. As I’ve mentioned, the Omni VII doesn’t have a built-in memory keyer, meaning that in previous contests, I had to bang out the CQs myself. The WinKeyer improved the process immensely.

When Pigs Fly…
Sunday evening, I participated in the Flying Pigs QRP Club’s monthly “Run for the Bacon.” This is a two-hour “sprint” that takes place on the third Sunday of every month. Since my KX-1 was already set up (my IC-746PRO is still in the shop), it was easy enough to get into this contest.

Band conditions on 40m were great! I was able to camp on a frequency and even run stations for a while. I worked as far west as Nebraska and South Dakota and all up and down the East Coast. In just more than one hour, I made 18 contacts, scoring 616 points.

Scoring is on the honor system and is done online. You enter your data into a Web page on the Flying Pigs website. Contacting members of the FP-QRP Club counts for three points, while contacting non-members counts for one point. After you’ve entered your data, the website automatically calculates your score and ranks you. As of 2 pm this afternoon, I’m still in the top ten, even though I only operated the first hour, and because my KX-1 doesn’t have 80m capability, only 40m.

I really like operating in these smaller contests. They’re way less chaotic and intense than the big contests, and can be just as much fun.

WA2HOM Operating Notes – April 10, 2010

Yesterday, it was just me down at the museum. I made a couple of great contacts, though.

The first was with Fred, KI4XH. Fred was operating his Collins S-Line gear, and keying it with a bug. About halfway through the QSO, he switched over to a VibroKeyer single-lever paddle, keying a Hallicrafters HA-1 keyer.

The HA-1, or T.O. Keyer, was a commercialization of the vaccum-tube keyer designed by W9TO. in the 1950s. It occurred to me that maybe building one of these things is something that I could do with al the tubes that I have. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the schematic on the Net. There is an an article in the May 1959 issue of QST by W9TO, but this is for the first transistor keyer. If any of you have a schematic and can scan it for me, or can point me to where I can find it, I would appreciate it.

Titanic Duo
After making a couple of CW contacts, I thought I’d try making a phone contact. Tuning to 7220 kHz, I found our favorite frequency occupied by W0S, a special event station commemorating the sinking of the Titanic. W0S was operating from the Titanic Museum in Branson, MO. According to their website, “This event will commemorate the heroic efforts of Harold McBride and John ‘Jack’ Phillips as they sat at the Marconi radio in the Titanic sending the first ever SOS.” They’ll be on the air until 2200 UTC Sunday, April 11.

My last QSO was with W1T, a station that was also commemorating the sinking of the Titanic. I made the contact on 14.050 MHz. W1T was operating from somewhere in Maine. At first, I thought that perhaps this was a CW operation from W0S, but it was a completely separate operation. I was unable to find any information on the Net about this station, but they did give me QSL info, so I can get a card from them.

In searching the Net, I found a third special event station commemorating the Titanic. This is an operation of the Titanic Historical Society, which is located in the Springfield, MA area. If I’d known about this, I bet that I could have worked them. Maybe next year.

A Man After My Own Heart

In addition to the first packet of QSL cards from the W2 bureau (see previous post), I received a card from Hugh, NT5O. Hugh writes, “Hello, and thank you very much for the ‘wrong number’ QSO in the 2009 Texas QSO Party.” That confused me for a second. I thought, “Did we send him the wrong serial number? And, if we did, why was he thanking me?”

Well, he went on to say,

You are my first 2-call from the 8-state of Michigan. I am trying to work and confirm all the ten numbers from each state—no mobiles or portables. I have 253 of the 500 confirmed so far, and a wrong number from every state except Wyoming. (I guess nobody ever moves there.)

Once I figure out what he meant by “wrong number QSO,” I smiled. I’m not the only one who has a weird QSL collection. In fact, after figuring out what it is that he was trying to do, I asked myself why didn’t I think of that! Hugh is certainly a man after my own heart.

WA2HOM Gets First Pack of QSLs from Buro

WA2HOM, the club station at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, of which I am station manager, received its first pack of DX QSLs from the W2 incoming bureau. There was one card from the Bahamas (C6AGU), one from Spain (EE5E), and two from Germany (DL7ON, DL3YM). EE5E claims to have the “shortest CW callsign in the world!”

By the way, WA2HOM now has its own website. Go to WA2HOM.Org or look in the right-hand column of this blog to see the latest posts there.

Library Patrons to Experience Shortwave Radio

This is an interesting idea. This might be something we could do at the Hands-On Museum when we’re not operating the rig there….Dan

From NorwalkPlus.com, Sep 29, 2009

Experience the adventure of shortwave radio at the Norwalk Public Library

NORWALK, CT – SEPTEMBER 29, 2009 – In the midst of today’s electronic gadgetry and communications innovation little is either known or remembered about shortwave radio – sending and receiving. But the Norwalk Public Library, in partnership with the Greater Norwalk Amateur Radio Club (GNARC) is offering an opportunity to experience the thrill and adventure of “ham” radio.

With a 66 foot-long inverted “Vee” antenna mounted on the Main Library’s roof, radio signals from all over the world can be heard on the shortwave receiver in place on the Main Level. The receiver is available for public use. The headset attachment is located at the Information Desk.

The receiver and antenna was installed by Jay Kolinsky, Gus Hedlund and Curt Seaton of the GNARC and Collin Pratt of the Library staff.

Kolinsky explains “Very few people under 40 have ever seen a shortwave receiver much less heard what the actual signals sound like.”

Interestingly, amateur radio operators, also known as “Hams”, are credited with the discovery of long-distance communication. Radio ‘Hams’ conducted the first successful shortwave transatlantic tests in December 1921. For years, shortwave radio was the only, and a popular method of hearing broadcasts from Europe and most all other parts of the world. It has always played an important part in communicating news, information and helping coordinate emergency efforts – it being a “wireless” way to send and receive spoken words, Morse code, and teletype. “The shortwave signals go through the air,” Kolinsky continues, “and are not dependent on telephone lines, internet and other physical connections.”

If the public begins to show interest, the GNARC will conduct shortwave orientations to explain and demonstrate shortwave radio, foreign broadcasts, and talking to people – other amateur operators – across the globe right from the Library without connecting to any wire communications grid.

The GNARC, founded in the 1930s, has about 100 members from all walks of life and meets monthly.

“Hams” in the United States are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission. They are authorized to use thousands of radio frequencies for transmitting. Besides making friends worldwide, “Hams” continue to handle emergency radio traffic during times of severe disasters when electricity, phone, commercial and government communications systems fail.

For more information about Ham Radio, visit the GNARC website – www.gnarc.org- or contact Jay Kolinsky at ne2q@arrl.net.

For use of the shortwave receiver installed at the Main library inquire at the Information Desk, Norwalk Public Library, 1 Belden Avenue. Corner of Mott Avenue and Belden Avenue.

New QSL Cards for WA2HOM

wa2hom_qsl_card

We finally got some new QSL cards for WA2HOM, our station at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. Yesterday, Jim, K8ELR, and I spent a lot of our time there making out cards to send out via the ARRL’s Outgoing QSL Service. I’ve also signed us up for service via the Second District QSL Bureau.

We have actually worked quite a bit of DX lately. Jim has worked a lot of these stations on PSK31, and we’ve participated in some contests, which make working DX a bit easier. Yesterday, for example, we made a couple of contacts in the Scandinavian Activity Contest. This contest was very much like a regional QSO party here in the states. We worked stations in Finland, Norway, and a couple in Sweden.

With all this activity, we should be able to make our QSL card display a lot more interesting.

Meet Hamlet, the Newest Member of the WA2HOM Team

hamlet

Meet Hamlet, the newest member of the WA2HOM team. Mostly he just sits around and chews the fat, but I’m trying to teach him CW.

Ham Radio at the Hands-On Museum – Update

I know you are probably getting tired of reading about our adventures at the museum, but since I’m using this blog partly to document my ham radio activities, I guess you’ll just have to put up with me. :)

Here’s the update:

  • Tower project. A week and a half ago we met with the museum folks about putting up a tower on the roof. (You may recall that the ARRL Foundation granted us $3,000 for the project.) The upshot of this meeting was that we decided on which tower to purchase (a 30-ft. Universal Tower) and where to locate the tower on the roof. Our next step is to get a city building inspector over to the museum and educate us about grounding requirements.

    In addition to the tri-bander that’s been graciously pledged to the project, we’ve also been given a 2m vertical antenna.

    I’m still hoping that we can complete this project by the end of the summer.

  • Operating. We continue to operate the station two or three times per week. Last Saturday, we made a bunch of contacts in the 7th Call District QSO Party, working all of the states in that district except for Wyoming.

    Jim, K8ELR, continues to work a lot of 20m PSK31, and has racked up quite a few DX contacts. Now, we need to get our Logbook of the World account squared away and send off for some paper QSL to bolster our QSL card display.

  • New Modes. James, W8ISS, has been coming down to the museum regularly. One week, he brought in his ATV gear, and we set up an ATV demo.

    Last week, he brought in an old Kenwood TS-520. The receiver seemed to be working OK, but alas, the rig didn’t want to transmit.

    After testing out the rig, we started talking about how we could make ATV a more permanent part of our operations. We discussed how to mount the camera and perhaps putting a monitor down in the lobby to draw people up to the station.

    James suggested that we purchase the VM-70X video transmitter module from P.C. Electronics. I’m going to be purchasing this module today with the donations I collected from our last one-day Tech class and the sale of a 2m radio, which had been donated by the family of a Silent Key.

Last Weekend in Ham Radio at KB6NU

Friday night, I played Elmer. One of the guys who was in my General class last year built a Norcal 40 and needed some help aligning it.

We got the receiver portion going quite nicely, but the final amp didn’t want to work for us. Unfortunately, we ran out of time before we could debug the thing. We did narrow it down, though, to the few components in the final amp circuit, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for my friend to finish the debug.

The Norcal 40, by the way is a nice little rig, if a bit on the pricey side. It costs $140, but the VFO covers a decent range, and that price includes a nice enclosure.

Saturday, I didn’t do any ham radio at all. Instead, my wife and I went down to the Detroit Institute of Arts. They just opened a new wing and have reorganized the exhibits. If you’re in the Detroit are, it’s worth the trip.

Sunday, I spent three hours down at WA2HOM, our museum station. I was joined there by Jim, K8ELR and Ralph, AA8RK.

I made a couple of 40m CW QSOs, and then a few 20m NM QSO party phone QSOs. We also got one U-M EE grad student interested in the station and perhaps getting his amateur radio license.