Taking My Show on the Road

It’s always flattering when someone asks you advice. That’s how I felt when a ham radio club here in Michigan asked me about the one-day Tech classes that I teach from time to time.

In the course of the discussion, the club’s president asked, “Do you ever take your class on the road? Would you consider doing the class for us here?” I was even more flattered. He went on to say that if I would consider teaching the class, then he would try to get the club to pick up my expenses.

After swapping a couple more e-mails, we agreed on a date and that they would pay my expenses. Sounds like it will be fun.

So much fun that I’ll make this offer to other clubs out there. If your club is willing to pay my expenses, I’ll come and teach a one-day Tech class for your club.

E-Book Version of the Tech Study Guide Now Available

The No-Nonsense Technician Class License Study Guide is now available in an Amazon Kindle edition. and a Barnes & Noble Nook edition.  It will also soon be available for the iPhone and iPad from the iTunes store. (You can, of course, purchase the Kindle version and read it with the Kindle app for the iPhone and iPad.) If you like you can e-mail me, and I’ll then e-mail you when it finally becomes available on iTunes.

Whatever you do, DON’T buy the paperback edition that’s still available on Amazon. That edition is now obsolete. I’ve contacted the publisher of that edition, and hopefully, they’ll pull it soon.

I Was 2 for 3 Last Saturday

Last Saturday, I went two-for-three. No, I’m not talking about my performance on the softball field, but rather what happened at the last one-day Tech class I taught.

This was a very strange class. First of all, I only managed to get five people to register for this class. That’s odd because in nearly all of them to date, between ten and twenty signed up for the class.

Someone suggested that the low turnout was due to the fact that I’d already taught everyone within driving distance that was interested. I don’t think that’s the case, since I still have nearly 60 names on my mailing list.

Another possibility is that it was a football Saturday. Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan, which has the largest American football stadium in the world. The “Big House,” as they call it, accommodates nearly 110, 000 fans, and the traffic gets really bad. There’s some merit to this argument, but while we didn’t have a class in September last year, the one that we ran in September 2008 had 13 students (12 passed).

Whatever the reason, only five people pre-registered. One pulled out a few days before the class, and one didn’t show up , so there were only three in the class.

None of them, as it turns out, did any pre-study. That wasn’t a problem for one of the students, who works as an electronics technician. He only missed two questions on the test.

It was more problematic for the other two, but one of them still managed to pass the test. She scored 29/35. The third student missed by three questions, scoring only 23/35.

This class was also notable in that it was the first time that I got to be a Volunteer Examiner. The three of us administering the test were Mark, W8FSA; Jim, K8ELR; and yours truly. That was an interesting experience, but it’s too bad that we had to tell our third examinee that he failed the test.

Ham Radio at This Year’s National Jamboree

The ARRL recently posted the article, “K2BSA: Amateur Radio Fun in the Warm Virginia Sun,” which discusses amateur radio activities at this year’s National Scout Jamboree. It reports:

…nearly 6000 youth scouts — 13 percent of the total Jamboree attendance — received thorough exposure to ham radio, touring the K2BSA station and getting on the airwaves. Six lucky scouts conducted a memorable contact with astronaut Doug Wheelock, KF5BOC, aboard the International Space Station (ISS) before a crowd of Jamboree participants.

ARRL Rocky Mountain Division Director and K2BSA Station Coordinator/Manager Brian Mileshosky, N5ZGT said, “We held Technician license classes and two VE exam sessions daily, resulting in 147 new Technicians, 33 Generals and 8 Amateur Extras. 210 scouts earned their Radio merit badges, too.”

They used my study guide, so I’m going to claim some of the credit for the 147 new Technicians.

Help With the Next General Class Question Pool

The item below is from the June 2009 issue of the ARRL’s e-newsletter for registered instructors:

As part of its scheduled review of the General Class question pool, the Question Pool Committee of the National Conference of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (NCVEC) is accepting suggestions for changes or deletions to the current pool of questions used for the FCC amateur radio General License Class exam. New questions are also being entertained. Members of the QPC shape the pool of questions to fit some basic objectives of preparing licensees to operate within the rules, safely and appropriately for the license class. They also view the 3 levels of amateur radio licensing as an opportunity to prepare licensees with an underpinning in electronics and radio science that starts with a very basic foundation at the Technician level and increases in complexity with each level of license achievement. Each question pool is reviewed on a regular cycle to include any changes in FCC rules and operating privileges and also to align question pool content with current operating activities and technologies. Roland Anders K3RA, QPC Chairman, requests that any changes or new questions be submitted to the QPC mailbox at qpcinput@ncvec.org before October 1 to allow time for consideration. Please be sure to include an explanation of the reason the change/addition is being requested.

New Version of Tech Study Guide Released

I’m happy to announce that release 1.0 of my No-Nonsense, Technician-Class Study Guide for the latest question pool is now available. The question pool that this study guide covers will take effect on July 1, 2010, so if you’re planning to take the test, or know of someone who’s planning to take the test, after this date, then you’ll want to get this new version of the study guide.

As I noted earlier, this question pool is a little more technical than the previous question pool. There are, for example, questions on components and their functions and schematic symbols that were not on the previous test.

I want to thank the hams who helped me produce this study guide by proofreading the draft and offering some helpful comments. They are: K2MUN, KD8IXP, KC8ZTJ, N6QXA, N5IUT, N6KZW, AK5Z, and KE4KPC.

Finally, I’d like to note that I plan to add an appendix to the study guide with links to websites that cover the different topics. If you have a favorite site that covers Ohm’s Law, schematic symbols, contesting, satellite operation, antennas, or any of the other topics for which there are questions, please e-mail me the URL so that I can include them in the appendix.

Thanks!

Download the new study guide.

Repost: Tech Test Gets More Technical

This is the column I sent to more than 240 ham radio club newsletter editors. If you’d like to get this column for your club newsletter (free of charge, of course), all you have to do is fill out a form………Dan

Tech Test Gets a Little More Technical

By Dan Romanchik, KB6NU

Ever since the FCC dropped the code requirement and the Novice license exam, the Technician Class license has really been misnamed. Being the first license that most hams obtain, it really should have been called the Novice license. The question pool was arguably at the appropriate level for newcomers to amateur radio, being heavy on rules and operating practices, and perhaps a little light on technical topics.

That’s about to change. On July 1, 2010, the question pool for the Tech test changes, and this version has noticeably more technical questions than the previous test. You could say that the Tech test is getting, errrr, a little more technical.

For example, the new question pool contains more questions about electronics components and their functions. In addition to that, examinees must also be able to identify the symbols for these components on a schematic diagram. This is a big change from the previous test, which had no diagrams at all. There are also more detailed questions about transistors and how they work.

There are also questions on how to make basic measurements with a multimeter how to troubleshoot basic problems that Technicians are likely to encounter. One question asks, “What two measurements are commonly made using a multimeter”? Answer: voltage and resistance. A follow up question asks, “What is the correct way to connect a voltmeter to a circuit”? Answer: in parallel with the circuit.

To make room for these questions, the committee dropped questions on operating practices and rules and regulations. In general, these are not big losses, but two questions that I was sorry to see go are the questions on the “basis and purpose” of amateur radio. I think these are very important for new amateurs to learn and keep in mind. (If you don’t recall them, go to http://www.arrl.org/part-97-amateur-radio and review them.)

By the time you read this–or shortly thereafter–the new version of my No-Nonsense, Technician Class License Study Guide should be available. You can download it free of charge from my website, www.kb6nu.com. Look for the link in the right-hand column. It’s currently in the hands of more than two dozen reviewers, who are proofreading it right now.

While it may not be in the initial release, I plan to include a section that contains links to websites that cover topics included in the study guide. That way, students can find more information on a topic, if they choose to do so. If you have any favorite websites that discuss making measurements with voltmeters or how to read schematic diagrams, I’d love to hear from you.

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When not updating his No-Nonsense amateur radio license study guides, you’ll find him on 40m, 30m, 20m, and if we ever get any sunspots to stick around, 15m and 10m pounding brass. You may even hear him trying to get the hang of using the bug he bought at Dayton this year. You’ll find his blog at www.kb6nu.com, and you can e-mail website suggestions to cwgeek@kb6nu.com

Friday at Dayton Was Forum Day

  • Friday at Dayton was “forum day.” By that I mean that I attended a slew of forums and could have attended several more. That left little time to actually scour the flea market or visit vendor booths.

    I started out in the TAPR forum, but only spent a couple of minutes there. I quickly switched over to the ARRL Public Relations forum. There I got to meet Diana Eng (see previous post). I also:

  • learned about the PR resources on the new ARRL website,
  • received a “Talk on a Disk” CD that includes materials to help you prepare a presentation on ham radio for non-technical groups, and
  • received free materials from Gordon West, including an instructor’s guide for both Tech and General classes, and CD-ROMS with a number audio clips on a variety of topics.
  • En route to the Teacher’s Forum, I passed by the Antenna Forum, which looked to be very popular. There were guys standing out in the hallway trying to hear the presentation.

    The Teacher’s Forum has been moderated by Carole Perry, WB2MGP, for as long as I can remember. She always has good speakers. This year, the lineup included Gordon West and Bob Heil.

    One idea that I picked up is to use a flashing light or LED to demonstrate the idea of duty cycle. By hooking it up to a variable duty cycle oscillator, you could vary the amount of on time versus the amount of off time, and this would make a very good visual demonstration.

    This year’s presenters mostly talked about teaching kids. This fall, I plan to teach a class for seniors. If it goes well, I’m thinking that I could talk about that class at next year’s teacher forum.

    In the afternoon, I attended the Software-Defined Radio Forum. This forum was also packed. We first heard about the new FlexRadio 1500, which is a $650 SDR. Its output is only 5W, but this looks like a real bargain.

    Next up was Lyle, KK7P, from Elecraft. He gave us the Elecraft perspective on what an SDR is and what it’s not. It was interesting, but not very technical.

    After Lyle, the TAPR VP (whose name and call I forget) talked about developments with the SDR projects at TAPR. My initial impression is that while all of these developments are well-done, it’s still much less expensive to simply buy a Flex 1500. I haven’t checked the specs, though, to see if they are comparable.

    Finally, there was a talk on MacHPSDR, a native Mac implementation of a receiver for OpenHPSDR hardware. I wish that I’d been able to stay, as I am a Mac person, but I had to leave. Despite the availability of this software, you really do need to have a PC to run a software-defined radio. I don’t expect this to change in the near future.

    Well, that was certainly enough for one day. On Saturday, there were some equally interesting forums, including forums on RTTY, SSTV, antenna-modeling software, and the AMSAT forum. Despite this, I decided to not attend a single one and walk the fleamarket and visit vendor booths. More about that in the next post.

    Yesterday’s One-Day Tech Class: Everyone Passed!

    Yesterday, we held yet another One-Day Tech Class, and just like last time, we scored 100% again. We had twelve students, with all twelve passing the test!

    What was notable about this class is that we had two of our youngest students ever—two brothers, aged ten and twelve. Normally, kids don’t do well in the one-day format, and I mentioned this to their mother. She turned to the kids, who quickly told her that they were sure they could pass.

    As we got into the material, it was evident that they had been studying. They had a little trouble doing the math—at one point one of them exclaimed, “We haven’t had fractions yet!” I slowed down a bit, though, and I think they got the idea.

    They did have the other material down, though. As we covered the other sections, they were quick to answer the questions.

    I was very impressed that the kids were able to stick with us through the whole six-hour session. They did get distracted from time to time, but I tried to keep them involved by asking them questions and speaking directly to them. In the end, it paid off. They both passed the test!

    While we were waiting for their tests to be scored, I spoke briefly with the parents. As it turns out, it was their mother who encouraged their interest in amateur radio. As a girl, she’d built a crystal set and learned Morse Code. Now, I’ve got to get her into my next class.

    Getting a License in Uganda

    Jack Dunigan, 5X7JD, is my first guest blogger. He is the Senior Management Leader of Aidchild, Inc., a project providing a home for orphans living with AIDS in Uganda. His ham radio blog is called Ham Radio Safari. Thanks, Jack!

    5X7JD QSL CardI came to Uganda in October from the the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean where I had earned callsign NP2OR, a U.S. General Class amateur radio license. I made a pre-move trip here in June and began the license process then, filing application and associated paperwork then. It turned out to be a waste of time. When I moved here in October, I checked with the Uganda Communications Commission with whom I had filed and discovered they had lost the paperwork. “Would I mind starting over?”

    Well, I didn’t really have any choice and sharp rebukes at those personnel who might have mislaid the application would have only delayed everything. So, I began again. I had to write a cover letter, which must contain the over-the-top courtesies and deferential language most Americans find artificially sweet and out of place in business correspondence. Nonetheless, its goes a long way here to recognize the authority and position of the officers who will expedite your application. They also asked for specifics of the radio gear. So I provided make and model info, a description of the antenna, and the power output requested.

    The most difficult part was the requirement to supply geographic coordinates. I had no idea what they might be. I knew I could find it on the Internet, but Internet access is so excruciatingly slow it seemed a daunting task.

    No one I could find had GPS and I am doubtful anything other than a very sophisticated sytem will work here anyway. So I logged on and began the search. It was actually harder than I thought. Were I in the U.S. or Europe, I could have nailed it down in a hurry. But Africa is tougher. After some searching I found a website that specified the coordinates for Masaka, the city where I live. It wasn’t precisely on the dot where the station would be but here in Uganda, close enough is close enough. So I wrote them in, filled in the other details, and took in all the paperwork.

    The clerk who helped me was very efficient and friendly. He shot a photocopy of my U.S. license and asked what callsign I would like. This took me by surprise. He suggested I could have my initials to which I readily agreed. He told me there would have to be a site inspection of the radio shack and antenna installation. I didn’t actually have the antenna up yet, but figured I could do so before the inspector arrived. I left the paperwork there, and hoped for the best. I hoped I could get a license within a month.

    Three days later I was in the car on my way out of Kampala, the capital city, driving back to Masaka when my mobile phone rang. The young lady on the line told me I could come in and pick up my license. I wondered about the site inspection, which had not happened, but did not ask. Its better not to confuse things with procedures. I was a licensed Uganda Amatuer Radio operator—callsign 5X7JD!

    The promised inspector has never showed up and it is extremely unlikely one ever will. I guess because Masaka is 125 kilometers from the Communications Commission office and no one has a car. The license fee is $63 USD a year so there’s not enough money in that for the commission to pay for transport to the site, so they just won’t bother.

    There was one apparent complication with the license. When I received it, there was a specification that I was authorized to use code only. I must confess I do not know Morse code. My license in the States came after the code requirement was dropped and I did not, have not learned it. So, we made another trip to the Commission office to see if it could be changed. I discovered that no one there—not even the Chief Commissioner himself—had any idea that the designation they had entered into my license limited me to code transmissions.

    In fact, they weren’t familiar with the idea of emission types. It became a delight to educate those in the office, and they have asked me to return and conduct a seminar for the staff on amateur radio! I will be going to the office this week to set it up. I would like to teach more Ugandans about amateur radio. I have already started corresponding with a local engineering student who saw my blog and has asked for help. I am pleased to offer it. We are all Elmers as we are being Elmered.