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.

Space Station QSO a Success

Thanks to Ig, N0EFT, and his crew:

  • Tim, WA8VTD, back up radio operator;
  • Steve, KB9UPS, ARISS mentor and antenna and az/el rotor operator;
  • Olivia, KC8VGH, who handled the microphone and kids; and
  • Candy. KD8IPC, who made the initial contact and helped with the kids;

yesterday’s Space Station contact from the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum was a success. Despite the low orbit (21 degrees), the contact lasted nearly nine minutes and they were able to ask 14 questions.

I hope to post video later, but in the meantime, here are a couple of news stories:

Hands-On Museum Project Makes QST!

On page 95 of the January 2009 QST, there’s a short article on three recent grants by the ARRL foundation. The third one describes the grant give to our Hands-On Museum project. It reads:

A grant of $3,000 have been awarded to the Hands-On Museum that offers experiences in the wonder of science, math, and technology with interactive, informal educational opportunities for more than 200,000 visiitors annually. This grant will provide the resources for a permanent amateur radio station in the museum lobby [[we've actually moved out of the lobby and into a permanent space already...Dan]], using callsign WA2HOM and supported by local radio operators. The exhibit will include a visible rooftop antenna, a QSL card display, and real-time demonstrations , including Morse Code and radio-controlled operations.

In fact, we plan to use the bulk of the money to put up a tower on the roof. The other parts of the exhibit were funded by the $10,000 grant from the IEEE.

If you are working on a project like this, please do contact the ARRL Foundation. Their website has information on other projects they’ve helped fund and application forms.

Yet Another Museum Display Idea

As I was going to the museum yesterday, another idea for a display hit me. Perhaps we could do something with antennas. The display could explain the different types of antennas (dipoles, verticals, beams) and why some are longer and some are shorter (the concept of wavelength).

If we had a computer screen big enough and accessible to the public, all this could be on-screen, and if the display was some kind of touch screen, it could even be made interactive somehow. This is something that could be running when we’re not there.

This is just a partially-baked idea, so please feel free to chime in with other ideas.

This Weekend on the Radio at the Hands-On Museum

This weekend, I spent several hours at the museum getting the station up and running (and playing around a bit. On Saturday:

  • I brought a keyboard, mouse, and power cord and got the computer all hooked up. It seems to be running OK, but since I forgot to bring the password with me, all I could do is to get it to boot up to the log in screen.
  • I made a few phone contacts with the new Omni VII. Once I got the mic gain set properly (18%), I got some very good audio reports. One guy said it could use a litttle more bass, so I’m going to play around with the audio filtering a little bit more. There are some comments about this feature on the TenTec Wiki.
  • The Omni VII’s antenna tuner seems to work as advertised, i.e. being able to handle an SWR of up to 10:1. I don’t remember what SWR I measured last week on the 40m phone band, but the tuner tuned without a problem.
  • I forgot to bring the paddle on Saturday, so I didn’t get a chance to try out the internal keyer. I was surprised, though, to learn that it doesn’t have an memories. That’s really strange for a radio from a company whose radios have always be well though of as CW rigs. So, I’m thinking about buying an external keyer for the station. Any suggestions?
  • There are still no graphics to draw attention to the station, but the AAHOM people are working on that. Hopefully, we’ll have something by December 27, the date that the space station contact is scheduled.
  • On Sunday, I was joined by Jim, K8ELR, and we:

  • installed Ham Radio Deluxe, ACLog (from N3JFP), and MultiPSK on the shack’s computer. Jim used Ham Radio Deluxe to log our single contact for the day.
  • had a QSO with AD5WI on CW using the paddle that I brought with me. AD5WI is in Pea Ridge, AR. Gotta love the name of that town.
  • talked at length with one of the museum’s docents. He expressed an interest in what we were doing and asked about the origin of the term “ham radio.” After noting that it came from the days of telegraphy, we got into a discussion of telegraphy and radiotelegraphy, including the use of abbreviations and Q-signals. He got it right away, noting, “That sounds a lot like instant messaging.”
  • told the docent that we were enjoying the permanent space, but the layout wasn’t very inviting. My XYL, Silvia, said that we should keep the half door at one end of the space open, but it’s spring loaded, so that it automatically closes. That didn’t deter our docent. He got a big roll of tape and taped the door open! That did the trick. We got several visitor to wander in and talk to us. We’re going to have to find a more permanent way of keeping that door open.
  • tried tuning the antenna on 20m, and the radio did indicate that it was able to tune it, but, when I transmitted, the “HIGH CURRENT” light came on. That didn’t seem like a good thing , so we didn’t do that again.

Working With the Museum is Great!

It’s such a pleasure to work with the people at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. Here another example—a professionally-done version of the ham class flyer:

12/6/08 Class Flyer


We operated from our new station location yesterday, Saturday, 11/22/08. Thanks to Jim K8ELR, Pat W8LNO (who’s now our head crimper), Michelle KD8GWX, Ovide W1GXE, and Steve WB8WSF for helping out.

Of course, we had some problems. For example, something’s fishy with the antennas. The SWR on the 40m antenna was 3.0:1 at 7.000 MHz and went up from there. The SWR on the 20m antenna was even higher. So, we’re going to have to organize an antenna party to get up on the roof and see what’s going on.

We also don’t have an Internet connection yet, either, and we need more signage as well. But, all of these things are being worked on, and in due course, we’ll be all set up.

Here are a couple of pictures:

Steve, WB8WSF at the HF operating position. That’s our new Ten-Tec Omni VII on the desk.

Jim, K8ELR, holding down the fort.

A Pretty Good Day for Ham Radio at the Hands-On Museum

I’ve written before about Ham Radio at the Hands-On Museum. Well, today has been a pretty good day for this project.

First, I got an e-mail saying that we received the Ten-Tec Omni VII transceiver (the rig pictured in the header above) that we ordered. Then, about a half hour ago, I received an e-mail from Ann, the museum’s development director. She worte:

“I guess we got the grant — a check for $3,000 arrived today!”

The grant that she’s referring to is the one we requested to help us put up a tower at the museum.

Thanks, ARRL!

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 Weekend on the Radio at KB6NU

It was a very busy ham radio weekend:

  • Operated from the museum Saturday morning from 1400Z – 1800Z. The best DX was KL7WP/7 from Portland. I got a little excited when we first made contact because I was hoping to get the Alaska contact.

    We had two very cool visitors. The first was a little girl and her mother. We got the girl to send her name in Morse Code, and the kid really enjoyed that. The two seemed genuinely interested, especially when we told them that we were going to put up a station at the museum.

    The second was a middle school teacher from Oakland County. He was interested in the no-solder, code practice oscillator as something he could get his students to build.

  • As if that wasn’t enough ham radio for me on Saturday, I got on the air that evening while waiting for Silvia to get home from work. I worked VK4TT on 20m CW and IK1RLI on 30m CW. There was quite a bit of activity on 20m, and I probably should have stayed there.
  • To top off the evening, I worked K1FIR, another card to add to my collection of QSLs from stations whose callsigns spell words.
  • Sunday morning, after a short QSO with KA1VRM, I went to help a friend with some tower maintenance.
  • Sunday evening, the propagation gods once again smiled on me. I just worked 7X4AN, Med, in Algeria (a new one for me) on 20m and IW0GXY, Max, on 30m.

All in all, quite a good weekend for ham radio here at KB6NU.