Last Sunday brought us some warm weather and a good opportunity to inspect our coax runs out to the antenna. We currently have two runs out into the trees to the south our station. In February we set off the fire alarm twice and it got us to wondering about the condition of the coax. Evidently the alarm system likes 40m as well as we do! This was curious because we hadn’t had that problem in quite awhile. We took advantage of the warm weather and did some troubleshooting. Our suspicions were confirmed–at least one of the runs is waterlogged. We were able to switch to another run that fared better, but only a little. The winter has been rough on the antenna, too. We spied a rubbed spot on one end of the antenna where it’s been across a tree. Spring time is definitely a good time to plan some maintenance. Tom’s antenna analyzer greatly helped with the troubleshooting process.
As we’ve been building the station, we’ve taken advantage of whatever was available. The coax runs are made up of several pieces spliced together. We’re looking forward to receiving a 500′ spool of LMR- 400 equivalent coax soon. Now we’ll be able to improve our signals quite a bit. Our other plans include tweaking our current multiband fan dipole to be more up and in the clear. We also plan to do some trimming so the resonance points are in better locations on each band. Our Spring 2014 plans include not only this, but also adding more antennas to the Camp Belzer antenna farm.
All work and no play is no good. Even with our marginal antenna situation we were able to make some contacts. Two DX contacts to South America and several stateside contacts were made on 10m. Jacob was able to operate the club station using his personal callsign. He’s the first Boy Scout to earned his license by testing with our VE team. He’s well on the way to DXCC and WAS with his Tech privileges and hopes to upgrade to General Class soon. We also assembled part of an am/fm radio project kit and performed a few electronics experiments, too. We’re looking forward to a lot of fun Scout Radio activities this year.
2014 has been a banner year so far for the WD9BSA station. The month of February, in particular. We’ve had some great participation in spite of record cold and snowfall. The month of January kicked off with the monthly open hours and a presentation at the University of Scouting leader training event. Hopefully this will bring more awareness to our station in the coming months. Our VE team had a full house at Golden-Burke for our quarterly license test session. After the end of the weekend we’d tested eleven individuals for various licenses and upgrades. In attendance were Scouting youth, adult leaders, and Purdue students. We were pleased to have one of the Purdue students from the W9YB Purdue Amateur Radio Club who is an Eagle Scout. The crew made a long trek down from W. Lafayette!
Our Sunday open hours was awesome! We had two dens of Tiger Cubs visit to earn their Achievement 4G: Go See It! This activity is all about communications and requires the boys to visit a newspaper, TV, or radio station. What better place than the Council amateur radio station. The young Scouts have so much energy and enthusiasm. I hope this little bit of exposure to radio and technology will pique their interest in the future. These young boys might be the future of our station just a few years down the road. I think we really made a positive impression on them. They sure enjoyed taking on the radios to each other. A new activity for us was operating D-Star. We were able to link up with a distant reflector and let the boys talk to a ham in another state. And, as usual, we had a lot of visual aids for all to look at.
Finally, we look to the future. It’s still cold outside, but we really have some antenna maintenance in store for the spring. The old gremlin of setting off the fire alarm has re-surfaced. This may be contained to the 40m band, but it’s still an issue we need to resolve. I think it’s been over a year since we’ve had this problem. Future plans include new outside antennas up on the hill and away from the building. We also suspect that some moisture has gotten into our feedline in some of the various connections. This is likely the culprit, however, the alarm company hasn’t really done anything to better protect their system from stray RF. We’re in the process right now of securing 500 ft. of new LMR-400 type coax so we can make new, continuous runs out to the antennas. These two items should make a great improvement.
Let’s all think warm thought for March. If anyone has blog ideas or wishes to be a blog contributor let me know and I’ll setup credentials for this site. Let’s all stay radioactive!
Okay, so it’s too cold to get out there and hang any antennas. Heck, even my shack is chilly. Unfortunately, Spring is still months away. Until better weather prevails, here are a couple videos to watch that will help remind you those warm days last Summer. The K2BSA crew is constantly working on providing top quality amateur radio opportunities to Boy Scouts across the country. As the official amateur station of the BSA national council they are active with Field Day, JOTA, and countless other activities. These videos showcase some of the prep work required for last year’s National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve. The second video shows a lot of prep work as well as general interest activities that went on. Both were very well produced and I think they’re worth spending a little free time watching. It would be a dream to visit the next National Jamboree and work as K2BSA staff! Thanks go to Randy for forwarding me these videos. They’re too good not to share here on our webpage. Pop some popcorn and grab a beverage…and think warm thoughts.
Even though it’s nearly the end of January I’m just now releasing the last of 2013 blog posts. We’re only two weeks away from February open hours but the last two months have been busy with holiday activities and work.
Our station open hours are really just that–open agenda. The format changes from month to month depending on who comes to visit. We have everyone from Tiger Cubs on a Go See It! trip to visit a radio station to older, Boy Scouts working on the Radio merit badge. We’ve had an enjoyable year of activities participating in such events as University of Scouting, ARRL Field Day, Space Jam, and the BSA Jamboree On The Air. We’ve taught Radio merit badge, hosted numerous dens of Tigers, and enjoyed meeting many random visitors to the station. Our VE licensing team has newly licensed one Boy Scout and upgraded the license class of four existing radio amateurs.
One of the most important parts of amateur radio is to actually use the radios. This could be recreational or public service communication. It can be using voice or digital modes capable of communication with hams locally or over a long distance. But it can also be one way communications like radio direction finding. At the December open hours we assembled a tape measure beam antenna for hunting hidden radio transmitters. It was really fun and only cost about $12 in parts. There are plans all over the internet and numerous videos on Youtube.
The body of the antennas is made of PVC pipe. The pieces are cut and just slide into the fittings. No need for glue in this setup. We made the actual radiating elements from cut up pieces of a cheapo tape measure. This really aided in building the antenna. We used the tape measure to lay out the corrects lengths of PVC pipe and then cut it up for the elements. Regular hose clamps hold them onto the PVC. The best part is that this can all be made with regular had tools like tin snips, hack saw, screw driver. The last part to be completed is the electrical connection to the coax feedline. I’ll do this part at home with my soldering iron. This should make for a fun outdoor activity this Spring when the weather warms up. A radio hide and seek game for the boys! The leaders get to enjoy hiding the transmitter and watching the detective work by the Scouts. We have several of these transmitters available at the station and they can over many acres so the course could be quite interactive!
With the exception of the recent Jamboree On The Air operating event held just last month, this past weekend may be our second biggest weekend for the station. The WD9BSA VE team hosted our second amateur radio licensing session Saturday morning at the Golden-Burke Scout Center. It was well attended and we were able to upgrade a General class to Extra, and two Techs to General class. A hearty congratulations to these hams for their hard work and eager attitude. Our primary team leader, Brian, stepped back this time as his son Andrew had come to upgrade to Extra. That made for a nice family activity.
Sunday was our normal monthly station operating hours. We hold this event the second Sunday of every month from 2:00-7:30 PM in the basement of the Camp Belzer Activity Center. This is a non-regimented activity for individual Scouts, Packs, Dens, and even whole Troops to visit the station and get on the air. We had a family of Scouts visit who included parents, a Webelos, and Boy Scout, and their daughter who is a Venturing Crew member. We made contact with a couple hams who were nice enough to take the time to speak with each of them. The second ham we spoke with was even operating bicycle mobile down in Huntsville!
Later in the afternoon we hosted a Den of Tiger Cubs. Did they ever have some enthusiasm! They were there to earn their Achievement 4G: Go See It! We discussed all manner of communications from commercial broadcast to FRS walkie talkies like you pick up at the department store. We put them on the air with real amateur radio 2m HT’s and were later able to put some of the boys on the main HF station to speak with a ham in Alberta, Canada. We looked up the station’s callsign on QRZ.com and also used maps to point out geographical locations. Of course all manner of props for the boys to handle made for a lot of fun.
Near the conclusion we were able to perform another licensing session for a Scout who wasn’t able to attend on Saturday. We’re pleased to announce that Jacob F. is now our VE team’s first licensed Scout. He’s a Senior Patrol Leader of Troop 753 in the Sugar Creek District. Congratulations to Jacob on earning the Tech class license. As time goes on we hope to license more Scouts and charter an amateur radio Venturing Crew at the station.
Amateur radio and Scouting really compliment each other perfectly. The mission of both activities promote the STEM activities, preparedness, volunteering, social and geographical awareness on a local and international scale, and participation in new activities. WD9BSA is happy to provide these opportunities to the Crossroads of America Council.
With the Jamboree on the Air now now in the books it seemed like a good time for a wrap-up blog post. The second year for JOTA at our Camp Belzer home station went very well. The dismal weather Saturday morning didn’t kill the spirits of the volunteers or the Scouts. By afternoon sunny skies had broken through the chilly and damp conditions. In addition to the permanent station located in the Activity Center basement we also had a portable station setup out on the deck. A convenient flag pole made an excellent fixture for raising the DXCC antenna. Tom had his complete mobile field station setup for demonstration, too.
One of the reasons for our success this year was that it coincided with the Del Mi District Fall Camporee at Belzer. There was something on the order of 200-300 boys in attendance. Some wanted to get on the air and others were just interested in watching. Between all three stations we must’ve had 50-100 Scouts come through and participate in the activity. We used the portable stations for some demonstration, but mainly just to attract attention. Once some boys were rounded up they were sent downstairs to the main station to make contacts on the air. This was an interesting sidelight to the several other activities they had scheduled for their camporee.
Here are the highlights as I see them:
- Record attendance for our JOTA operation
- Good networking opportunities with Scouts and leaders to raise awareness about the station
- Not only did most of the boys make stateside contacts, at least one spoke to DX in France
- A couple boys were able to complete their last requirement for Radio merit badge by making a live radio contact
- I was so busy I didn’t even have time to take any pics of the boys in action
Many thanks go out to Del Mi District, Camp Belzer staff, and the many hams who took the time to speak with the Scouts on the radio. Our club members that attended were Randy, David, Tom, Jeff, and my buddy Nick N9SJA. There are already visitor confirmations for the November station open hours. Let’s hope year number two is even better than the first.
The weekend of October 19-20 will be the second year we operate JOTA at our station home in the Camp Belzer Activity Center. This year it coincides with Del-Mi District Fall Camporee. We have an excellent opportunity to display amateur radio in action to possibly 300 scouts! This could potentially be our biggest PR event to date so we’ll need all hands on deck.
Our JOTA event this year will be a full weekend event with continuous operation through the night if there are enough operators. Our setup will begin around 11:00 AM Saturday morning and continue through teardown Sunday afternoon around 2:00 PM. Camping will be available for those of us who might wish to stay onsite. This event will be open to anyone in the Crossroads Council, so we could see additional visitors as well. Listen for us on or around the the suggested JOTA operating frequencies as band conditions and activity permit.
We had three leaders attend the October station open hours. Unfortunately no Scouts this month. As the season starts to approach Fall and Winter I expect there to be more activity. Band conditions this weekend were excellent. Those of you who weren’t there missed an excellent 10m band opening. We put the station on the air and promptly worked a ham in Arizona participating in the AZ QSO Party. With this success we tuned down just a bit to 28.410 and made contact to the French Polynesia island of Moorea. We traded signal reports of 55 both ways using the FT-900 and Randy’s homebrew fan dipole that was installed in September. Thanks to Phil FO4BM for picking us out of the pileup. I’ll definitely be sending off for this QSL card so we can proudly display it in our shack. Hope to see everyone soon.