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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 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.
By now everyone is back to school again. The fall season is nearly upon us and soon the clocks will get turned back until spring. Boy Scouts troops have completed a summer full of camp and high adventure. Cub Scouts packs are busy with fall recruitment. We’re getting to my favorite time of the year for ham radio. Summer is just too busy, but with cooler weather creeping in I find more time available to hang out in the shack. While the higher bands will start to close earlier, the low bands get a little quieter and easier to manage.
Activities for the WD9BSA station are also ramping up. We’re continuing to have station open hours on the second Sunday of each month from 2:00-7:30PM. This is an excellent opportunity for unlicensed Scouts to stop by and learn more about ham radio. You can get on the air and make contacts with the assistance of the club members. The station is also available to Scouts that are already licensed but may not have access to a complete station of their own. We’re available to teach Radio merit badge to the older boys and can also fulfill the requirements of Achievement 4G: Go See It! for the Tiger Cubs. If your unit is interested in either of these or would like to schedule a group visit please contact us by email so we can be sure to have enough materials and leaders to accommodate you. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming up soon is the annual Radio Scouting operating event known as Jamboree On The Air (JOTA). We’ll have the station open for this fun event as well. JOTA is an event where Scouts all over the world are encouraged to get on the air and make contacts with each other. Sometimes these contacts are from boys at various camps and outdoor activities, or even adults that enjoy fond memories of Scouting in their youth. When conditions are favorable international contacts called DX (short for distant) are possible.
The WD9BSA club is also preparing to administer our next amateur radio license testing session in Nov. We have a team of certified volunteers who are authorized to administer the exams. We then submit them to an organization called a VEC who will validate them and submit to the FCC. We are affiliated with the Laurel ARC VEC and offer these exams free of charge. Please see the Licensing tab on our webpage for further details.
For dates and times of all our events please check out our club calendar. There’s a Calendar tab on our webpage for your convenience. We have two complete operating stations and would love to have both seats filled. We would also love to have enough interested Scouts to start an amateur radio Venturing Crew. The Crew would probably meet once a month and learn amateur radio operating skills, project building techniques, and many different modes of operation. They would also take over leadership and general operation of the station. If you’re interested in this or know a Scout that might be interested please let us know. So don’t miss out on these fun activities. Stop by and operate when you can.
I’ve condensed the follow up briefing from our VE team leader Brian Murrey (KB9BVN). Last Saturday morning we officially completed our first FCC amateur license exam session. Our success rate is 100%! We were pleased to take part in the upgrade of a Technician class ham to General class. Of the three scheduled to attend we had one show up.
The testing took place in Wilmeth Hall at the Golden-Burke Scout Center. We have this same room reserved for future tests and it should accommodate around 10 exam applicants. Our VE team is up to ten now, but we’re always looking to recruit more…especially Extra class. Our main priority will be to serve Scouts as that is the mission of the WD9BSA group.
Brian has assembled a VE box with all the necessary paperwork and supplies. Soon we’ll also have badges to wear identifying us as VE team members of the LARC-VEC. I think that’ll add a nice professional look when applicants arrive.
The members of the WD9BSA Scout Radio Station are excited about the upcoming FCC licensing test this Saturday. The test site is the CAC Scout office, 7125 Fall Creek Road North. Several of us have become accredited VE’s with the Laurel ARC VEC. This Saturday will be the first opportunity for our VE team to administer the exams. We’re scheduled to hold the testing sessions on a quarterly basis. Future dates can be found by checking the calendar page on this website. Also look for tweets on our Twitter feed. We have one or two people already confirmed so this should be a good learning experience for us. We offer these testing sessions free of charge as a service to the BSA and also amateur radio. We don’t want any monetary issues to be an impediment to getting licensed. This exciting hobby needs many new faces…and voices on the air.
The National Jamboree officially kicks off July 15-24. This will be the first year for the event to be held at the BSA’s new location Summit Bechtel Reserve. Amateur radio station K2BSA will be on the air at the Jamboree operating several radios at the demonstration station and also teaching the Radio merit badge. K2BSA is the official station of the BSA National Council. This will be an opportunity to demonstrate amateur radio to an expected 40,000 Scouts.
Scouts will be operating the station primarily on voice and digital modes. There’s also a scheduled satellite contact to the ISS! In addition to this there are also several repeaters on site. One of them is even D-Star capable. These will allow Scouters to keep in contact with just handheld radios. Other radio ops will be able to make contacts through the D-Star gateway from far away.
K2BSA will be on the air every day on or near pre-established frequencies on several bands. Check out the frequencies Live from the Jamboree to guide you where to listen for activity. If you work K2BSA you’re eligible for a nice color QSL card.
This year the Indianapolis Radio Club will be holding their ARRL Field Day activity here at Camp Belzer. This is an annual event that’s held “out in the field” where we setup portable stations and antennas that can simulate an emergency environment. It’s an enjoyable activity that’s part contest, part public relations, part practice and preparation, and a whole lot of fun!
The event begins Saturday afternoon and runs for a full 24 hours. There will be many radio stations and antennas setup on the property for making contacts all over the country and hopefully even beyond. We also plan to have the WD9BSA station open and operational for visitor tours as much as we can.
In the future we hope to hold our own station Field Day activity so this will be a good experience to work with the members of IRC. All are welcome to visit whether licensed or not. We especially encourage non-hams to come by and get on the air. This is a great opportunity to see amateur radio in action. Visitors should plan to arrive starting early afternoon so as to avoid interfering with the boys leaving day camp. See you there!