Category Archives: Club Activities

Nashua Area Radio club member activities

Our January Visit to MakeIt Labs!

The highly publicized event — the event of the month — went off with a bang! On Jan. 28th, the Nashua Area Radio Club paid a visit to MakeIt Labs to promote Amateur Radio with maker folks. It’s a natural union, if you think about. Technologists/scientists/engineers/self-taught DIY’sters and amateur radio folk are essentially one in the same beast. So why shouldn’t they be interested?

Brian (AB1ZO) and Mike (AB1YK) discussing details of Mike’s homebrewed transceiver

We had a super great turn out from many in the club and those external to the club or from MakeIt Labs itself. Representing the Nashua Area Radio Club, we had Fred (AB1OC), Anita (AB1QB), Jamey (KC1ENX), Abby (KC1FFX), Connor (KC1GGX), Brian (AB1ZO), Mike Struzik (AB1YK), Bill (W1TWO), Mike Ryan (K1WVO), Mike Rush (KU1V), and Tom (AB1NS) (Forgive me if I forgot you).

Fred (AB1OC) explaining the nuances of digital operation to a young, budding HAM.

The idea was to set up the every-popular GOTA station, but also demonstrations of other amateur radio technology to hook the masses with. As a result, we had Fred’s digital amateur TV station, a table-top satellite station, and Mike Struzik brought along his homebrewed BitX20 transceiver complete with plans, schematics, and a demo keyer. (Talk to Mike for further details/websites. He’s awesome about answering questions and exposing people to what they need to do to get started.)

A view of the satellite station

We spent a solid 6-7 hours at the facility, even roping in some new interest from folks who happened to see our advertisements for the event both online and in stores/businesses around Nashua. It’s clear that word is spreading about the work that the Nashua Area Radio Club is trying to do; we are engendering interest slowly, but steadily. Essentially, the trend is upwards.

Close-up of Mike’s (AB1YK) homebrewed BitX20 transceiver

We hope that down the road, we can enjoy a lasting partnership with MakeIt Labs and encourage more members of our club to drop in, see the facility, hang-out for a bit, and explain to new folks about how this hobby is damn close to one of the best hobbies out there!

Fred’s (AB1OC) DATV station

So, until next time, and until my next posting (and hopefully that one will be a bit witty’er — didn’t have enough coffee today), make sure you eat, sleep, “repeat”! (That’s what my t-shirt says that my wife bought me)

Brian, AB1ZO

Our Latest “Tech Night” – A DSO138 Oscilloscope Kit Build

Our latest Tech Night became a Tech Day this past weekend. We got together on Saturday afternoon to build another kit – the DSO138 Oscilloscope. We had a great turnout with over 15 kit builders and helpers present.

Finished Scope Kit
Finished DSO138 Scope Kit in case

Brian, AB1ZO choose this really cool kit for us to build. Here are some specifications for the finished DSO138 Oscilloscope kit:

  • Analog bandwidth: 0 – 200KHz
  • Sampling rate: 1Msps max
  • Sensitivity: 10mV/Div – 5V/Div
  • Sensitivity error: < 5%
  • Vertical resolution: 12-bit
  • Timebase: 10us/Div – 50s/Div
  • Record length: 1024 points
  • Built-in 1KHz/3.3V test signal
  • Waveform frozen (HOLD) function available

The kit came with all Surface Mount parts pre-installed.

The kit included a very nice case to finish off the project. This was a pretty big project to complete in a single afternoon but quite a few of our builders completed their kits and got them working!

The gallery below contains more pictures from our kit build. Everyone was very focused on the building process as we all wanted to get our kits to work in the time we had together.

Some folks did not quite get their kits completed and are planning to finish them at home. The following are some links and videos to help.

Here are some videos which show the assembly of the kit and its enclosure and the operation of the completed scope. The first video shows the kit in operation.

 

 

 

 

I know that Brian is planning to do more kit builds throughout the year so be sure to keep an eye on our Tech Night page to see what is coming!

Fred, AB1OC

A Portable Satellite Station Part 1 – A Simple Station for AO-85

Our club has quite a few members who are interested in space communications. We decided to build a simple portable satellite station last year for our 2016 Field Day operation to learn about satellite communications and to create something new for folks to work with during 2016 Field Day.

Simple Portable Satellite Station
Simple Portable Satellite Station

Our 1.0 Portable Satellite Station was a relatively simple setup built around an HT, an Elk 2m/70cm satellite antenna, and some gear to improve the receive performance and transmit power output of the HT. All of the gear was mounted on a board to make it easy to transport and it is powered from a LIPO rechargeable battery. The gear in our 1.0 station is made up of the following:

Improved Satellite Antenna Support
Improved Satellite Antenna Support

Our first contacts with our 1.0 station were made using the Elk Antenna hand-held. Later, we created a “plumber’s special” setup with a camera tripod to make pointing the antenna easier. Note the angle meter from a local hardware store which measures the elevation angle of the antenna.

AO-85 (Fox-1A) U/V Mode FM Cube Satellite
AO-85 (Fox-1A) U/V Mode FM Cube Satellite

This setup worked great for making FM contacts through AO-85 (Fox-1A), a  U/V mode FM EasySat. We used the 1.0 station on multiple occasions including Field Day 2016 and several of our club members used it to make their first satellite contacts. The Full-Duplex HT allowed us to hear our own signal coming back from the satellite which was an important tool to help with aiming the antenna properly. The ELK Dual-Band antenna is also a good choice because it uses a single feed point and a single polarization for both the 2m and 70cm bands.

1.0 Station Team Operating Approach
1.0 Station Team Operating Approach

We used the team operating approach outlined above. This worked especially well for new folks who had not made a satellite contact before as it enabled each of the three team members involved in making the contact to focus on a specific part of the contact. We used orange plastic tent stakes to make AOS, Time of Closest Approach, and EOS to mark headings for each satellite pass. Small flashlights used at the stakes made them glow for night-time passes.

We certainly had a lot of fun with our 1.0 Satellite Station and I expect that we’ll continue to use it. As we gained a little experience with AO-85, we decided that we wanted to build a more capable Portable Satellite Station which we could use to operate with linear transponder satellites and which included a tracking system and better antennas. I know from experience with our home satellite station that DX contacts are possible using higher altitude linear transponder satellites like FO-29.

We would also like to be able to use APRS and other digital modes through satellites as well as receive SSTV pictures from space.

These goals have become the basis for building our Portable Satellite Station 2.0. More on the new station in Part 2 of this series.

73,

Fred (AB1OC)

Why Ham Radio?

Fred's Truck Antenna
Fred’s Truck Antenna

Every so often, I drive Fred’s truck into work and people ask me what that big antenna on the back of the truck is for. I explain to them that it is for Ham Radio.  But the reply is usually, why ham radio – isn’t that outdated technology?  We have cell phones and IM, etc…what do we need Ham Radio for?  So I thought I would put down my thoughts as a relatively new Ham about why I enjoy spending so much of my time with Ham Radio.

Amateur Radio for Public Service

Public Service

The number one reason we still need Ham Radio along with all the other technology we now have is for public service.  When there is a disaster and cell phones, television, etc are all not working, Ham Radio operators provide the critical communication.

Ham Radio operators help locally to keep hospitals and first responders in contact with each other to help those affected by the disaster.

Hams also use our ability to communicate around the world on HF bands to help family members around the world to get in touch with loved ones affected by a disaster.

Ham Radio operators have been on the scene helping in every disaster from the earthquakes in Nepal to the recent flooding in California.

Amateur Radio Cube Satellites

Technology and the Maker Movement

I only became a Ham 5 years ago but many of my fellow Ham Radio operators got their license when they were in their early teens and used what they learned to launch their careers. Many have had very successful careers in STEM fields, all launched by their interest in Ham Radio at a young age.  As technology advances, so does the technology used in our hobby.   We even have a nobel laureate, Joe Taylor K1JT who is a ham. Joe has developed weak signal digital communication modes that let us communicate by bouncing signals off the moon!

As technology has advanced, so has the use of it in Ham Radio.   Most Ham Radio operators have one or more computers in their shack.  Many also have a software designed radio (SDR), where much of the radio functionality is implemented using Software, we use sound cards to run digital modes, which are a lot like texting over the radio, and we use the internet extensively as part of operating.  We can also make contacts through satellites orbiting the earth and even the International Space Station.

Most hams love do-it-yourself technical projects, including building a station, home brewing an antenna, building a radio or other station component.  In my day job, I am a program manager for software development projects, but its been a while since I have built anything. As a Ham I taught myself how to code in Python and about the Raspberry Pi and I built the DX Alarm Clock.

QSL Card from VK6LC in Western Australia

International Camaraderie

One of the coolest things about being an amateur radio operator is that you can communicate with other hams all over the world. Ham Radio is an international community where we all have something in common to talk about – our stations and why we enjoy ham radio.    The QSL card above is from a memorable QSO with Mal, VK6LC, from Western Australia, who was the last contact that I needed for a Worked All Zones award.  I must have talked to him for 1/2 hour about his town in Australia and his pet kangaroos!

Amateur Radio Map of the World

Geography Lesson

I have learned much about geography from being on the air and trying to contact as many countries as I can.  There are 339 DX Entities, which are countries or other geographical entities and I have learned where each one is in order to understand where propagation will allow me make a contact.  I have learned a great deal about world geography. Through exchanging QSL cards often get to see photos from so many areas of the world.

DXCC Challenge Award Plaque

Achievement – DXing and Contesting

DXing and Contesting provide a sense of achievement and exciting opportunity for competition. Many Hams work toward operating awards. You can get an operating award for contacting all 50 states, contacting 100 or more countries, contacting Islands, cities in Japan, countries in Asia, or anything else you can imagine.  Each of these operating awards provides a sense of accomplishment and helps to build skills.  Contesting builds skills through competition among Hams to see who can make the most contacts with the most places in 24 or 48 hours. Contesting also improves our operating skills and teaches us to copy callsigns and additional data accurately.

Teaching a License Class

Teaching Licensing Classes – Passing it On

Recently I have joined a team of club members who teach license classes to others who want to get licensed or upgrade their existing Amateur Radio licenses.  Teaching provides a way to improve my presentation skills and also helps me to really understand the material that we teach about Amateur Radio.  It is always a thrill at the end of the class to see so many people earn their licenses or upgrades.

There are so many interesting aspects of Ham Radio which is what makes is such a great hobby.  Getting your license can open up a world of possibilities.  Upgrading to a new license class provides more opportunities to communicate over longer distances.  Our club provides many resources to help you get your first license, upgrade to a new license class, and learn about the many aspects of our hobby.