Vote for the next Radio Scouting Emblem

Radio Scouting EmblemAre you involved with Scouting and ham radio?  Then, vote for the next Radio Scouting Emblem. The one at right is my favorite.

JOTA gets scouts on the air

At the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum Saturday, we participated in the 54th Jamboree on the Air (JOTA). As the website says, “The Jamboree-on-the-Air, or JOTA, is an annual Scouting event that uses amateur radio to link Scouts around the world, around the nation, and in your own community.”

We didn’t have a big turnout, but we had a lot of fun. The hams that turned out included Pat, W8LNO; Quentin, KD8IPF; and Mark, W8MP. Pat and Quentin are both involved in the Scout leadersip; Mark’s 14-year-old son, Brian, KD8EEH, is an Eagle Scout. In addition to Brian, we had four Cub Scouts, whose names I didn’t write down (sorry!), and via 2m FM, Stuart, KD8LWR.

They all were able to talk to other Scouts, all on 20m phone.

The highlight of our operation was our QSO with XE1L in Mexico City. XE1L is the station of Luis, a friend of W8MP. This was not a scheduled contact at all. We just happened to run across them.

Brian, KD8EEH, made the contact, and spoke in Spanish with the two Mexican Scouts, Stephanie and Alex, for more than 45 minutes. I was certainly impressed with Brian’s Spanish skills. I don’t think that I could have kept up the conversation so long.

In addition to the HF station, I set up our 2m radio and connected to several EchoLink nodes at which hams were participating in the JOTA. One of them was in California, the other in Ontario. Stuart talked to several of the Scouts in Canada.

Next year, we might think about being a bit more organized. That might make the experience a little more educational for the Scouts, but just getting them on the air was a lot of fun.

JOTA 2011

Ham radio in the news – Jamboree on the Air 2011 edition

Here are three news items on this weekend’s Jamboree on the Air. More on JOTA at the Hands-On Museum later.

Local Boy Scouts Take To The Airwaves To Communicate With Other Scout Groups. This is a story about the operation at K3BSA. We worked them yesterday.

Scouts Dial into Past with Ham Radios. Ugggh. Yet another article calling ham radio antiquated. Maybe some members of the Magic Valley Amateur Radio Club can reply to this article and set readers straight.

Boy Scouts communicating through two-way radio. Here’s a TV spot on the same JOTA operation in Magic Valley. This report is much better than the newspaper article. The accompanying video shows the Scouts were very interested in the operation.

A ham radio Halloween story

On About.Com, Mary L. writes about her experience with “haunted ham radio.” She writes,

The next day, sometime in the early evening, I plugged the radio into the wall and began tinkering with it. Then, the most terrifying thing happened. The static faded completely. The silence came back on as did the sound of breathing. Suddenly, the creepy voice of a man came on and said, “Hello, little girl.”

Yipes! :)

In My Inbox – 9/13/11

I had a couple of interesting items in my inbox this morning:

  1. Free PRO membership to Instructables.Com. Normally, PRO memberships cost money, but Instructables offers free PRO memberships to teachers. When I asked if I qualify because I teach ham radio classes, they said I sure do, and I’m now a PRO member. Very cool. Thanks, Instructables!
  2. A request from Nestoras, 5B4AHZ, secretary of the Cyprus Amateur Radio Society to reproduce my Parent’s Guide to Ham Radio. He writes, “Over the last 3 years or so, be it by pure chance, 3-4 very active hams got together and are trying to re-energise interest in amateur radio within Cypriot society. Given our small number, we rely heavily on help provided by other clubs and societies, who provide us with lots of material that is modified and translated in Greek, for the local population here.  I would like to ask for your permission to recreate the parent’s guide to amateur radio you have created, on behalf of our society.”
       How cool is that? Of course, I gave him permission to do so. I would also be happy to send it to any other ham radio society that would like to have it translated into their language.

Ham Radio at the Detroit Maker Faire

This Saturday, I was part of the ham radio booth at the 2011 Detroit Maker Faire. What a blast. As I’ve preached before, Makers are our kind of people. That is to say they are people interested in actually doing stuff. And that includes both the exhibitors and the attendees.

KB6NU @ 2011 Detroit Maker Faire

Yours truly at the 2011 Detroit Maker Faire. Seated is Dave, N8SBE, enjoying lunch. Photo courtesy of Roger Rayle.

To be honest, I didn’t get to see much of the Faire myself. If you take a look at the website, though, and some of the pictures taken by Roger Rayle, you’ll get an idea of what was being exhibited, and how much fun it was.

As far as ham radio goes, we had quite an operation, thanks in no small part to  James, W8ISS, who was our organizer. It included two HF stations, my Morse Code display, and a satellite station. The real coup here was that James got museum personnel to erect two antennas for us up on the museum roof. One was an R8 vertical; \;the other a multi-band dipole.

We were so lucky with radio conditions. Conditions on both 40m and 20m were really good on Saturday afternoon, and we generated pileups on both CW and phone. It was a real blast to be on the other side of a pileup and get to work stations one right after the other.

As I mentioned, my contribution was a Morse Code setup. I had my touch keyer, a bug, my J-37 straight key with leg clamp, and my Kent paddle all on display. As I usually do, I tried to induce people to step up and send their names in Morse Code. With this crowd, it wasn’t too difficult to do.

What I would do is ask them the initial of their first name, and then show them how to send that using the touch keyer. Then, I’d encourage them to look up the other letters of their name on the chart I had on the table. If they were able to successfully do this in a more or less understandable fashion, I would extend my hand and say, “Nice to meet you, Lindsay (or Julius or Aidan or whatever their name happened to be).” That would usually get a surprised smile out of them.

Perhaps even more important than teaching people something about Morse Code or ham radio, the “send your name in Morse Code” display gave me a chance to make contact with people. I passed out a lot of cards at this event, and invited many to attend our next one-day Tech class.

One interesting contact I made was with a woman who was home-schooling her two children. While the boy and girl played with the keys, I had a discussion with her about why I thought ham radio was a good fit with home schooling. I noted that it not only taught kids something about science and technology, but also about geography and social skills.

She agreed and noted that she thought that many other home schoolers would be interested in getting their kids into ham radio. She gave me her e-mail address and said that she would be willing to plug me into the home schooling movement. Stay tuned for how that goes.

In nearly every way, the Detroit Maker Faire was a great event. We made lots of contacts, both on-the-air and in person, we taught a lot of people about ham radio, and had a lot of fun in the process. The only thing that could have been better was that it could have been about ten degrees cooler, but that’s something we could deal with.

Operating Notes: 5/7 – 5/9/2011

I worked parts of three contests this weekend:

  • the 7th Area QSO Party
  • the New England QSO Party, and
  • the Indiana QSO Party

Jim, K8ELR, and I had planned to work the New England QSO Party, but oddly enough, it didn’t start until 4pm EDT. Instead, we worked the 7th Area QSO Party. We just pointed the beam west and racked them up. We only worked it for about four hours, so I doubt we’ll be winning any awards, but it was fun to hand out some Qs.

Later on, here at home, I fired up the rig, intending to work just the New England QSO Party. There were so many Indiana stations still pounding in, though, that I decided to work both of them.

The funny thing is that I ended up using N1MM for the Indiana QSO Party and the N3FJP software for New England QSO Party. I couldn’t figure out how N1MM wanted me to input the exchange for the NEQP, so I just downloaded the N3FJP software and used that.

I didn’t make a lot of contacts in either contest, but I had fun working them.

My First GAL
Last Friday, I got a card from W4GAL. That’s my first QSL from a GAL. In the New England QSO Party, I worked N2AT, while in the Indiana QSO Party, I worked W9GO. More cards for my collection, I hope.

Finally, I wanted to mention working KD8HES Saturday afternoon. Zeke’s a 16-year-old ham who lives just down the road in Jackson. It was great working another kid using CW. He told me he only operates QRP CW on 40m. I joked that he was breaking a rule, and that if you look closely, you’ll see that you need to be at least 50 years old to work CW–at least it seems that way.


No More “Leap Into Ham Radio”

Leap Into Amateur RadioFor at least the last five years, the ARRL has produced a brochure aimed at kids called “Leap Into Amateur Radio.” I don’t know that the frog theme is all that great, but it’s simple and direct and colorful. We’ve passed out hundreds at Field Day and down at our club station at the Hands-On Museum.

Last week, I tried to order a new supply, but when I went to the ARRL website, there was a message, “No items available.” I contacted the sales department, as to when they might be available again, and was told, “The LEAP brochures are in the process of being updated and we do not have a set date as to when they will be ready.” “Great,” I thought, “just in time for Field Day, there will be no literature to hand out to kids.”

Then, I got to thinking that this may be an opportunity to improve on the brochure. Or, come up with something other than a brochure that kids would remember as much or more. Some of the ideas that came to mind, include:

  • a “QSL card” with information about ham radio,
  • a handout with some kind of game with a ham radio theme that kids could play
  • a handout that kids could cut and paste into a paper “ham radio,”

What do you think? Anyone else have other ideas?


More Ham Videos

Here are a couple of videos whose links were sent to me via the many ham-radio mailing lists that I’m on:

A Ham’s Night Before Christmas. KN4AQ’s version of the Christmas class “Night Before Christmas.” Thanks to John, W8AUV, for sending me this link.

Six year old ham on Letterman

Sorry about the quality of this image, but the video itself isn't all that good.

Six-Year-Old Ham on Letterman. Gary, KN4AQ, who posted this to the PR List says, “I was putting my “Ham’s Night Before Christmas” video up on Ham Radio Tube ( and I came across this video from the Dave Letterman show back in 1993.” Veronica, KC6TQR, (now 26) responded on YouTube. She says she’s not very active – just talks to her family.”

International Morse Code, Hand Sending. This is a Morse Code training film produced by the Army in 1966. The lessons are still applicable today, even when using a paddle and keyer to send Morse Code. It has a sense of humor, too. Thanks to Don KA9QJG, for posting this to the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list.

A2 Mini-Maker Faire Was a Blast…..But Tiring

Yesterday, was the second annual A2 Mini-Maker Faire. It was a blast, but man, was I beat afterwards.

One reason I was so tired, is that I stayed up kind of late Friday night working on my display. The thing I brought was an updated version of the code practice oscillator that I’ve been hauling around for the last couple of years.

Instead of the No-Solder Code Practice Oscillator that I had been using for this demo, I built a touch paddle and connected that to my WinKeyer. Since the sidetone on the WinKeyer is just a wimpy, little piezo transducer, I added an audio output to the keyer and plugged in the amplified speaker that I use with my KX-1. When I was finished with that, I had enough amplitude to compete with pretty much anything at the Faire.

I got there just a little after 8am to set up, but that was way too early. It didn’t open to the public until 10am, and way before 9am, I had my Morse Code demo set up, the literature out, and my QSL cards displayed. Dave, N8SBE, arrived about 10:45 am with his K3 and panadapter and set up a nice display on his half of the table. He ran a coax cable out to the screwdriver antenna on his car, which he parked just outside the door we were next to.

Racking Up Some Points
At one point, I just couldn’t help myself. Dave was tuning through the CW portion of the 20m band and ran across the Alabama QSO Party. This made a good demonstration of the panadapater as there were quite a few signals in a relatively small bandwidth.

I told Dave that he should work some of those stations. Instead, he invited me to sit down and work them, which I proceeded to do. I made about ten contacts before I quit. It was kind of amusing trying to explain to people about contesting, and about the Alabama QSO Party in particular, but hey, that’s what we do. :)

More Than Worthwhile
Overall, I was kind of surprised at the level of interest, to be honest. I wasn’t able to attend last year’s event, so the only point of comparison I have is the folks who come to the Hands-On Museum. At the museum, we occasionally get someone to show some interest, and even more occasionally, someone who’s really interested.

Yesterday, was a completely different experience. Just about everyone who came up to our table yesterday had a real interest, and it was a pleasure to tell them about ham radio, demonstrate the touch keyer and K3, and talk to them about our classes and station at the museum. I’m sure that as a result, we’ll have a couple more folks—including several kids—getting their licenses. I’d been kind of dubious about participating earlier in the day, but I’ve changed my mind completely on this. It was more than worthwhile.

By the time 4pm rolled around, I was pretty tired. So, even thought the Faire was supposed to be open until 5, I packed up and headed home. Dave stuck around, though, and even though the crowd had noticeably thinned, he told me this morning that our booth attracted a fair number of visitors during that last hour.