Tag Archives: Homebrew

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

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.

Feb 18 DSO138 Kit Building Tips

Hi DSO138 kit builders,

I wanted to share some tips to follow for our 18 Feb Kit Build from 1-4pm. As I already built my own kit, I wanted to share some advice.
I know not all of you can attend, but for those of you who can, please read below. I’ll also post on website along with some pics.
  1. Make sure you bring a magnifying glass AND a multimeter. Also might help to bring an LC meter too (though I didn’t have one at the time) The color bands on the resistors are particularly impossible to see, so I had to measure the resistance of every one. I even did it 2-3 times to make sure I was right.
  2. To test your kit at the end of the night, you need to supply it with power. You can do this 2 different ways. The first is bringing a 9V battery along with 9V battery leads terminating at the end of a female port as shown below. The second, is grabbing a power adapter rated for no higher than 12 V again terminating on a female port with pic show below.
  3. You might want to bring a small Phillips head screwdriver (for eye glasses) in order to perform probe calibration.
  4. If you want, bring your laptop so you can download some signal generators (using your sound card) in order to play with the oscilloscope. In order to do this, I ended up using a BNC to audio adaptor which I purchased off of Amazon Prime. I’ll bring mine in case you don’t have one
  5. If you have a standalone signal generator, please bring it, along with BNC wire connections for the oscope.
DSO138 power supply port
9V battery adaptor
12V power supply (stolen from a Linksys router) with port (top-middle)

In order to do some testing, we are going to want to use either signal generators that club members graciously bring in, or you can use your laptop’s sound card. To that end, Mike (K1WVO) suggested a really nice link to do this.

I’ve tested most of these and they work fine on my scope.

If I have any other thoughts, I will update this post.

Thanks and 73,

Brian, AB1ZO

Home Brew Your Own Arduino UNO

The first question you may ask is, Why would I want to build my own Arduino UNO?  Economically speaking it does not add up in your favor after you acquire the parts and consider the time it takes to put it all together.  This is especially true when you consider that a Nano “clone” could be purchased for around $3!  You might have a permanent use application that makes building one your best option?  Maybe you just like to learn and do stuff just because you can!

The unit below is built on a prototype shield that has become the main board.  For my keyer application I have no need of USB communications and I can keep the wiring down to only what is needed.  The 5v regulator will soon have a small heatsink as it gets warmer than I would like.

Below is the other side of this board.  I used #4-40 screws as “legs”.

Instructions for building one yourself on a solderless breadboard can be found at https://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/Standalone

Instructions on burning the bootloader with another arduino can be found at

https://www.arduino.cc/en/Tutorial/ArduinoToBreadboard

and

https://www.arduino.cc/en/Tutorial/ArduinoISP

If you run into trouble like I did by getting the “wrong” ATmega328 microcontroller you can get work around instructions at http://www.crash-bang.com/resource/bootload-atmega328/

73,

Mike AB1YK