Monday, November 25, 2013

Go WES Young Man

In November, I participated in my first WeekEnd Sprintathon (WES) sponsored by the SKCC Club.

Portable Station ready for WES!

It was a lot of fun, and I hope I get a chance to work many more!
I didn't make many contacts, but four out of the five did QSL via LOTW, so that's good news. While operating portable, I made three contacts, here's a brief account of how that went:

See you in December!

GB Hoyt

Saturday, November 23, 2013

It's True, Ham Radio Always Gets Through

Wednesday, 20-Nov-2013 I pulled one of the craziest ham radio stunts I've ever pulled.
It started when my oldest two kids brought home a sheet of paper that said  something about "The Great American Teach-in." My wife suggested I talk about ham radio.

I accepted, and found myself agreeing to speak to two classes, one full of kindergardeners, and one full of third graders. When I speak to kids, I can't help but smile. They ask questions, tell you stories, and keep you thinking all the time.

I decided pretty quickly on two things:

1. QSL cards would have to be involved. They are a good, quick visual way to show something about ham radio.
2. It's one thing to tell people about amateur radio, but I wanted to go further. I knew that somehow we would have to find a way to do radio.

With this in mind, I concocted a plan to spend about five to ten minutes talking about radio, and the balance of the time trying to make a QSO. I decided to bring several radios, so the kids could see what a built radio looked like, and so that they could understand that making radios is an important part of the hobby (to me). I used my Swan 100MX to attempt contacts because I wanted the power the Swan transmits (100w max). I brought several antennas, and two different ones, one for the kindergardeners, and a different one for the third graders. I did this because I had the ability to set my station up before hand with the kindergardeners, and I had to do the set up "live" with the third graders.

The setup for the Kindergarden class went smooth. Earlier in the week I had my two daughters help me build an antenna, the 2 band HF Groundplane featured in December 2013's QST. They were great help getting it made, and I wanted them to be able to generate some chatter about helping build it after I gave the presentation. I used this antenna for the Kindergardeners. A parent volunteer from the school helped me get things set up. He was a great help, and it turns out his third grader is in my third grader's class, so that was cool. Testing it out, I had some hiccups in connecting the feedline to the antenna, but it shook out after I reseated the connection. I went to get some juice on the air, and discovered three unfortunate things right away. First of all, my phone's battery was depleted. I think it's getting old. Certainly, it doesn't hold a charge like it use to, and it cut off at the absolute worse possible time. Second, the update that happend to the twitter application on my phone broke the application 15 minutes before I needed the application to announce my operating times/frequencies. Third, once I did manage to get my weakened battery to power on, I discovered that the clock was out of sync, and that instead of being several minutes early, I was late. I hate being late. Kids couldn't tell I was that late though. Propagation was strange on 15 and 20, and we made no contacts. Kids still gawked at the antenna and radios though, so that was pretty neat.

Shortly before my scheduled appearance time with the third graders, I tore the station down, packed it up, and trucked it over, making it just in time.
I walked into the class room with RG-8 wrapped around my chest like a bandolleer, and said:
"My name is Mr. Brandon, and I'm here to tell you about the greatest hobby in the world, Amateur radio."
Apparently, I made a great impression, because my daughter relayed later how some of the guys said I was "cool".
We went outside, and I passed out the QSL cards, I had them find the names and locations of the hams on the cards, while I got the station laid out. Then I spent about 10 minutes quizzing the kids about the information they discovered on the cards, and telling where each one originated, and the QSO that went along with it. I then told them how radios take one kind of electricity and turned it into another, and I plugged in the powersupply, and turned the radio on. We didn't hear much, because I hadn't hooked the antenna up yet. I hooked up the antenna tuner, and we still heard nothing. Then I hooked up the antenna. When I turned the radio on, I had strategically placed the dial near the lower end of 20m hoping to hear some CW. That strategy worked. They heard Morse Code. I was using a different antenna this time, for the third graders I wanted to use and easy to deploy antenna, one with a single support. I chose one of the End Fed Half Wave antennas I recently described. It only took one throw to get the line up and the antenna in the air. As it rose, the signal strengths came up, and the morse code got louder. We took a tour of the band, and then I went to 14.330 where I had said I was going to be. I called "Is the frequency in use?" twice, and when I heard nothing, sent out a CQ. BOOM, David, KW1DX comes right back to us. Several jaws dropped, and we started a pleasant QSO. The bands were a little funny, and we could never get over 55, but I did let several of the kids ask David questions. The neat thing was that David has a third grader in his family. The kids in the class made note of that.  We had a QSO on 20, and then we QSY'd to 15 with David, and signals on his end improved a little, but not a lot.

The kids had to go to lunch at 11, so we said our 73's and they went back to class. I got everything packed back up, and went home.

Portable radio is fun, and I'm glad I've had several opprotunities to work stations from the work parking lot. That prepared me to quickly and efficiently get the antennas in the air. For next time, I think I will focus on promoting the event, and try to have multiple ways of getting the word out, perhaps via the local repeater, and maybe even getting a couple of stations on frequency before hand.
I could also stand to lose some weight, trying to carry a box full of radios is hard work.

GB Hoyt

Monday, November 18, 2013

QST QST QST: Great American Teach In

Update: After Action Report Posted here:

I'm speaking to Kindergardeners and third Graders about ham radio Wednesday, November 20th as part of the "Great American Teach In".

For the Kindergardeners:
I'll be doing a brief overview of what Amateur radio is, how it works, and why it's the greatest hobby in the world. Then I'm going to demonstrate ham radio using a semi-portable setup. I want to give these young ones a chance to ask a question to the station we are working.

For the third graders:
Same as above, but with the added element of comparing signal reports on two different antennas. They will keep a tally as to which antenna is reported as creating the stronger signal.

My plan is to work semi contest style if we can get enough people interested. Also, will let the kids get in on the action if possible. Because I will be time limited, I would like to have people waiting on a particular frequency if at all possible. I want to create a great operating experience for them, so please consider being available Wednesday.

TIME: 1400 UTC 20 November 2013 - 1600 UTC 20 November 2013

This is aproximate.

at 9AM Eastern Standard Time, I will begin speaking to the Kindergardeners. I'm not going to spend more than 10-15 minutes actually talking about radio, and the rest of the time I will be doing radio. I'll be on air about 9:10- 9:15 EST (local time) (1410-1415 UTC).

At about 9:45-9:50 local time or so, I will have to QRT to book it over to the other class and get set up. At 10, I'm going to run through my talk again, and should be on air again by 10:10 to 10:15. We will work as many stations as possible.


15m 21.330 USB +- Depending on QRM.
20m 14.330 USB +- Depending on QRM.
I tried searching for nets, and it doesn't look like we'll be interfering on any frequencies with any of the nets, but you never know, so be prepared to move a lil, remember, SEMPER GUMBY.

I will announce via twitter: exactly when I QRV and QSY

1. Let's have fun. Our point with this exercise is to ignite that little spark of curiosity we all had at one point in time when it came to radio.
2. Let's make noise, especially when we call for stations. When we get on the air, I will ask, "Is this frequency in use?" there should be silence. Then I will say, "This is Kilo Golf Four Golf Victor Lima operating Portable from Carleton Palmore Elementary School, are there any radio amateurs who wish to talk to Ms Keller's Kindergarden Class?" BAM, everyone calls at once, Let's wow the kiddos! Then we'll orderly work through the stations we have.
3. Let's be courteous to each other. After the intial noise, I will call for DX first, then I will call for stateside contacts via area. There's been openings this time of day to the northeast, so I will call 1's, 2's and 3's first if there's a bunch. We will give each other RS reports, our name, and then the answer to a question that the kids will determine during the opening session.
4. Let's take turns. I'll be working from two class rooms, the first session with Kindergardeners, the second with third graders, If there's a lot of people waiting on the air, and you get a chance to work the Kindergardeners, please stand by during the third grader's session. Remember, we'll need everybody's voice at first, we really want to wow them with volume on the intial call, but when we begin working stations I'll ask precendence be given to stations who did not get a chance to work the first class.

 if you are available, please respond via email: qrprat77 at gmail dot com, or contact @KG4GVL via twitter and use hashtag #HAMitup .

I think we will really make a great impression on these kids Wednesday!

More Things to Read Over Coffee in the AM

Added VU2SGW's blog to my blog list.

He hasn't posted since October, but I added it because he had posted a link to it on twitter. What I saw there was interesting enough, I figured I wanted to know when he updated, and you might want to know too.

 India has fascinated me lately because even though a billion people live there, I don't know much about the country. I've known several Indians, some from the north, some from the south, and some first or second generation immigrants. It's got fascinating geography and history.  I can't wait to work Sailin, and I can't wait to hear what else he has to say about amateur radio in India!

GB Hoyt

Monday, November 11, 2013

More Fun with Iron Donuts Part 3: Bigger is Better?

Is bigger better?
When talking about icecream and chocolate bars, I'm going with yes!
When talking camping gear and portable radio options, I'm thinking no...

Big Happy Iron Donut
I do own 2 QRO radios, only one of which works, the Swan 100-MX. Because I seem to be digging this EFHW design, I decided to up the ante so to speak, and try my hand at making a setup that was a little more robust, capable of handling 100+ watts.  When it comes to Transformers, that means bigger wire and bigger cores. The largest wire I have on hand is 22 gauge, which is big enough to handle 100w, if the match is good, and there's not a lot of core heating. At least I think it is, that's why we give things the ol' trial by fire so to speak. My thoughts were, get it right at QRP levels, and then go QRO.

I wound up the same transformer as The Micro-Matcher, only bigger. it has a 1:9 turns ratio, and is wound on an FT113-43 core. Poking around in the junque baggie of NP0 caps, I found another 150pf cap.

After wiring up the toroid, I hooked up the half wave 20m wire, and got portable. Well, battery powered at least:

OP ready to go, Rig is SW-20+ rated at around 1 watt on battery output.

We have a match!

Since the match looked pretty good, I figured I would go ahead and call CQ a few times to see if I could quickly scare up a QSO. No luck then, but I checked the RBN and there I was!

Notice the one entry from Nov 2? 

I moved the rig back inside, and hooked up to the bench power supply to give me that little extra bit of RF. Life intervened and I had to wait until my wife got home before really testing out the setup from inside the shack. Tuning around 20m I came across a CQ that lead to a QSO. Noticing a hike in the SWR when going through my tuner (even in Bypass mode), I began to suspect either a problem in the tuner or in the antenna switch.  I looked out the window, and discovered my problem. I was a little pressed for time (had to get ready for work) so I apologize for the brevity:

Funniest thing about it was that the SWR was still less than 2:1.

Testing at QRO levels is still ongoing. Things are promising, especially on 20m so far, but the jury is still out, and I need to buy some connectors, coax and PVC to check some things out.

GB Hoyt