Category Archives: ARRL

ARRL Delta Division Survey Sez….

UPDATE: Complete report in PDF is now available at the ARRL Delta Division website at this URL: http://www.arrldelta.org/2013final.pdf

I’ve completed the report for the semi-annual Delta Division Survey of ARRL members! It should be posted on the Division’s website (arrldelta.org) by Director Norris K5UZ soon. In the meantime, here’s a map of 2013 ARRL (licensed) members, survey respondents, and Affiliated Clubs in the four state Division:

73 de Frank K4FMH Assistant Director

Delta Division Members, Survey Respondents, and Affiliated Clubs

Delta Division Members, Survey Respondents, and Affiliated Clubs


ARRL Life Membership….

As a late-in-life ham (my terminology), the price comparison of paying the freight for Life Membership in the American Radio Relay League may not seem like it’s worth it. Financially, at least. But, for various reasons that many late-in-life amateur operators understand, it took me from eight years of age in getting the bug to my late fifties to get licensed (Thanks to Ga Tech’s Bootcamp Program). With life expectancy for men who don’t smoke, drink, or even use bad language (much any more) reaching into the eighties, a 30 year span of Life Membership is more of a financial bargain that it used to be.

But for me, it’s more important to enjoy amateur radio and the League to the fullest. That means different things to different hams. I’m honored to be serving the League through a second appointment as Delta Division Assistant Director under two different Directors. That means a lot to be able to give back to amateur radio. I’m a life member of one of my professional (academic) societies and the Executive Director tells me that the Society loses money on its Life Membership Program but it’s important to have it for symbolic and intangible reasons. That is why I just completed paying for Life Membership in the ARRL: because I wanted to be committed to serving the League “for life,” whatever that means!

Life Membership ID
ARRL Life Membership Card & Pin

Titans in Space

It’s really amazing what young people can do….IF you give them the right leadership and the opportunities. Bill Richardson, N5VEI, is a science teacher at Old Towne Middle School in Ridgeland, MS. He’s an avid ham (on the Board of the Jackson ARC) and the faculty sponsor of the Science and Technology Club at his school. His Club members do robotics and amateur radio kind of things, among other science and tech stuff. I ran into Bill at the Capital City Hamfest this past January at the Jackson Trade Mart, with his kids in tow. He was selling some things at a table to raise money for a near-space weather balloon launch by the Titans (school mascot). I thought to myself: what would I have done for a science teacher like this when I was in the eighth grade? To borrow a Harry Carey phrase, Holy Cow! Bill told me that he needed some assistance by Mississippi State University’s Engineering College but was unsure about how to approach them. Since I’m a Professor Emeritus, I thought, hey this is something I can take on! President Mark Keenum was very receptive to learning of this opportunity for MSU to promote science and technology among middle school kids…so off the Bulldogs went!

Last Saturday, I attended the launch of this weather balloon project, called Titans in Space. It was recorded by school officials and the guys from Amateur Logic TV (who live in the area). I took my iPhone 4 camera and took a few pics and movie clips. The launch went very well and the payload included redundant systems for balloon telemetry, tracking, and scientific experiments designed by the students. They had 2M simplex, APRS, and HF tracking on board. Based upon some simulation runs, Bill N5VEI guessed that it would land somewhere in western Alabama unless something went very different. There was an air show a the Meridian MS Naval Air Station that day so that was a concern but he had filed an FAA permit request so they would have the “Titans” balloon in their tracking database. No UFO sitings here!

Student Scientist about to Apply MSU Logo to Payload

Student Scientist about to Apply MSU Logo to Payload

 

The on-board APRS system gave the three tracking vehicles sent out for the recovery operation fairly easy access to the remains of the Titan Balloon payload. The balloon itself burst, as planned, at an altitude of over 94,000 feet above the Earth and parachuted back to the ground. It was located near Livingston, AL. The predicted flight path and return location was within 25 miles of the actual location as I am told. Here’s a picture visualizing the flight path, as created by Bob Bullock, K5RWB.

Titans in Space Flight Path with Altitide Visualization

The student scientists are now beginning to assemble and study the results of both the flight and the science experiments on the payload. For instance, since water boils in a vacuum, a test to see if kernels of corn would “pop” while in a vacuum provided by near-space altitude was tested. The Club website will give details about these results; see http://www.madison-schools.com/18912081810027520/site/default.asp.

See the following video that I shot and edited regarding the staging and launch of the Titans in Space baloon:

Here’s one of several hundred pictures taken by the on-board camera, sent to me by Bill N5VEI. Viva la amateur radio!

Near-Space Picture of Cloud Head

Near-Space Picture of Cloud Head


Mississippi QSO Party

I’ve never participated in a DX contest. I’ve listened; a bunch! In Georgia, the QSO Party was fairly serious business with Atlanta Radio Club members having rovers head out to counties without active ham radio operators. Heck, a couple even flew a plane around the North part of the State with both VHF/UHF and HF antennas hung outside!

Since I moved back to Starkville, this is the first Mississippi QSO Party for me. I still do not have my Flex 3000 up and running. Don’t have my Ameritron 811 fired up yet either. However, I took my Icom 706 with the matching LDG IT-100 auto-tuner and placed it on my Levenger lapdesk, a semi-circle thin piece of board with a silicone cover. (It was originally purchased when I had to grade lots of papers as a college professor.) I got out my W2ENY headset with the hand-switch and plugs to match the Icom 706 (incredible value). Took my Samsung NC10 notebook and bit the bullet on going back to Windows XP for the ham radio software (I’m a Linux and Mac OS X guy, but that’s another blog post….). Got things installed alright and announced to management that I was going to be “contesting” from 9am to 9pm that day (Saturday, February 26th local time).

Got up, cleaned up, got breakfast, and headed down to my shack to try my hand at contesting. Was I going to win? Hell no! But I did have a great time. Folks from all over were very hospitable. I couldn’t do the full-tilt 12 hours of contesting. A couple of college basketball games drew my attention during some periods but I was there at the beginning (on 75 meters), there at the end (again on 75M), and in between (40M and 20M).

Worked ham at top of this lighthouse in Cuba!

In all, I only had 49 contacts, all by SSB phone, working 17 Mississippi counties, 19 other states, and two countries (my first international contacts!). The VE in Manitoba was cool but the way-cool one was a ham at Windward Point Lighthouse in Guantanamo, Cuba.  I had a great time and talked to some fine folks. One was a ham en route from WA and in NM where I worked him on 20 meters with a report of my 100 watts (at best) and G5RV antenna coming in 40db over 9 on his mobile rig! His WA buddy who was in a QSO with him said I was knocking down his door, too. Late in the day I worked an AM station (K5IIA) from LA who had a terrific signal, both in terms of audio and strength. He’s also a relatively new ham and loves old rigs and AM. I grew up hearing the old AMer’s on my grandmother’s RCA radio…it had a “green eye” at the top of it that would “wink” when the signal peaked! The speaker in it was the size of a large salad bowl at Olive Garden. Anyway, what’s surprising is how I can still recall many of those QSOs a week or so later.

Let’s see, that’s 49 QSOs X 38 entities = 1,862 points. I submitted my report to the Vicksburg ARC who sponsors the MS QSO Party. I’m like the kid who got an F on his report card with the defense that it makes the As others got look good!


Oh My! You’ve Asked Me to Do What?

I must say, two recent opportunities have made me wonder about the state of leadership in amateur radio. OK, that’s tongue-in-cheek and I hope to keep it that way!

My local amateur club, the Magnolia ARC, here in Starkville, MS asked me to serve as President for this year. On top of that, I have been appointed Assistant Director of the Delta Region for the Amateur Radio Relay League. I am humbled on both counts but it means that I’ve got to focus on the organizational aspects of ham radio which will take some operating time away, I am sure.

The Magnolia ARC now has a website (www.magarc.org) that I’ve assembled using Google Sites. It’s working and giving us a means to communicate and be visible to others. I took the FCC ULS data and extracted licenses to clubs and individuals in MS. It was easy to process them using SPSS software to a workable number of data fields, geocode them to their location, and embed an interactive Google Map into the Club website. Now, visitors can click and find out what clubs are nearby as well as where licensed hams are located. I found two others in my neighborhood alone, along with one who recently let his license expire due to age and infirmity. As we get more pictures of members and an agenda of programs to be presented each month, the Magnolia ARC will be in good shape.

The Club has maintained two repeaters; one on 2 meters and one of 70cm. Both are “down” and have been for a number of months. Without repeaters, nets, and good old rag-chewing, the life of a club tends to ebb away. After being a member of the Atlanta Radio Club—and still am—I learned the value of the informal group that emerges on VHF especially. The ARC repeater system is a very active one but it’s based on much larger number of hams. The MARC group has over the past few months passed the hat to raise funds for a new 2M rig, a Vertex 9000, and, last week, an Icom FR4000 for 440 mhz. These two rigs replace venerable GE Mastr II machines converted over to the respective ham bands. RF leaching tends to win over time and it’s more difficult, I’m told, to find the replacement transistors than it is to buy another similar rig on eBay. So, MARC decided to modernize a bit and donated the 2M GE Mastr II to our neighbor, W5YD at Mississippi State University. They plan to repair it and convert it into a digipeater for local APRS activity. Alas, the old CAT-1000 (not “B”) controller will not work with the Vertex 9000 so we’ve donated it to W5YD. We both win!

The 2M repeater is located on top of the Oktibbeha County Hospital on the north side of town in Starkville. One MARC member, Mark Carruth KC5AKY, used his MFJ 269 Antenna Analyzer to detect a short in the coax about 10 feed out. We will replace that coax cable with actual hard-line after testing it with a replacement length of coax. The Vertex 9000 will have to be reprogrammed to use the internal controller with a CW ID until we can purchase a new controller board. The OCH emergency response folks (Mike Shelton) are very glad to have us located there as they have a new command center and want to get a few staff members licensed as Technicians to work with us. We replaced the power supply for the Vertex with an MFJ model known for it’s stability. The 2M repeater should be back on the air, at least in rudimentary form, once we reprogram the Vertex to use the internal controller with our CW ID and replace the shorted coax.

The 70 cm machine was purchased via eBay from Dick WA6NSR who had it for three years on a project that never materialized. He had Emmett WA6COT program it for us to our 440 mhz frequency pair and tone, shipping it from California in fine shape. It arrived last Friday. Our 440 mhz repeater is located a the main tower facility of the Starkville Metrocast Cable Television company. MARC Past-President Audie Hughes KE5EXK and I recently inspected the old GE rig in the secured cabinet. We’ll just remove the power supply, repeater, and older (I mean ancient) controller board, leaving the duplexers. We’ll get a local technician to check and re-tune them if they’re off frequency. With that, we will install the Icom FR4000 440 mhz rig with it’s internal controller to get back on the air.

Job One on MARC activity is almost completed thanks to the great spirit of the Magnolia ARC membership! I am not a repeater expert but I’ve learned a bunch over this past month. I suspect that I will learn a lot more before we are on the air.

On the Delta Division ARRL activity, working with Mickey Cox K5MC, Division Director, has been super. I am helping design this year’s survey of Delta Division amateur radio members. More on that in a later post.


Field Day?

ARRL Logo

Tomorrow is Field Day for 2010. I’ve had a Miracle Antenna MMD ordered for a week….the MMD 17 so it will tune several bands….but nothing in the mail box yet! Robert at Miracle Antenna wrote me this morning that it should make it from Canada today. If it doesn’t, I’ll revert to a hamstick dipole using an MFJ dipole mount. It’s my first Field Day so I would like to get on from either the Atlanta Radio Club site or from a local area with some SHADE!

I bought a World Pack II with the battery power supply for this kind of thing. I’ve been testing it with my daily commute from Buford to downtown Atlanta where I work. I bought a Yaesu FT-2800M from an eBay auction and run it into an MFJ HT antenna mount that clips onto the passenger window. I have a Smiley Antenna HT that I screw into this mount…Smiley Antenna says it is rated to 50W, unlike most of the ratings that I’ve seen with other HT antennae. I run the power on the 2800M anywhere from 5W while I’m downtown to the full 65 watts as I near Buford while connecting to the ARC 2M repeater, W4DOC. Thus far, I can do a week’s worth of commuting QSOs on a single charge. I trickle-charge it overnight from a walwart in my garage. The Power Port Store’s product line seems to be what they say it is.

So, if the weather’s not too hot (and I’m not too lazy), I’ll try to get on tomorrow with my Icom IC-706 using portable power and the LDG IT-100 auto-tuner and try out the Miracle Antenna MMD end-fed dipole. See you on 20M or 40M tomorrow!

73s, K4FMH