WD9BSA Bert C Johnson Memorial Amateur Station

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SKYWARN TRAINING

skywarnThe WD9BSA Scout Radio Station is pleased to announce that we are hosting a Skywarn weather class.  David T. from the National Weather Service will be presenting weather training material that’s specifically tailored towards Scouters.  As Scouts we spend a lot of time outdoors in all weather conditions.  This class should help us learn to identify some of the potentially dangerous weather conditions we might encounter in our activities.

The date is this Saturday (3/22/14) in the Camp Belzer Activity Center upstairs.  The presentation begins at 1:00 PM and should last about an hour.  It’s available to all , but with a preference to Scouts and volunteers.  No  pre-registration is required.

We’re hoping for a good turnout of Scouts and club members.  Following the event we have permission to do some work on the station downstairs.  We have the new 500′ roll of coax and many newly-donated items from the family of Joe Lobraico K9OOA, SK.  If weather is permitting we may be able to do so station spring maintenance.  Looking forward to seeing everyone at important and informative even.

NEW STATION DONATIONS

The WD9BSA Bert Johnson Memorial Scout Radio Station has recently become the beneficiary of multiple complete radio stations and several additional pieces of related amateur radio gear.  This gear will go a long way towards improving our fixed Camp Belzer radio station and also provide enough pieces to assemble at least one portable field station. This is something we can take out on location to various Scout events within the council.  The new gear will really aid us in our mission of making amateur radio available to all Scouts and also creating general awareness of amateur radio and how it fits into Scouting principles.

K9OOA, SKWe are very thankful to the family of Joe Lobraico K9OOA, now an SK.  As he was a brother ham we share in their loss and greatly appreciate their consideration of our station in providing to us this gear.  I understand he was a friend and mentor to our own members Tom and Dave when they were Boy Scouts some years ago.   They grew up with Joe’s sons Mike and Joey, and his daughter, Mary (also a ham).  Joe was a Boy Scout leader of Troop 173 along with our station’s namesake, Bert Johnson.  He and his wife Betty K9OOB hosted the free Broad Ripple Tailgater Hamfest at his own home in Broad Ripple, IN.  His YL must be more understanding than mine!  From all the kind words I’ve heard, his reputation certainly preceded him as a true ambassador of ham radio.

Since we’ve built the WD9BSA station entirely through donations, it’s always exciting when we receive some new equipment.  I’m not going to include every individual piece included on the list, but some of them are highlighted below.  This way we can check out some of the manuals online (there was also a big bag of manuals included with the gear) and get familiar with the items before installing in the station.  Many of these manuals have already been uploaded to our Facebook Page.  Joe owned some very nice equipment and we’ll sure be proud to carry on his devotion to the hobby with this gear!

HF Radios

Yaesu FT-100

Yaesu FT-847

Kenwood TS-440S

HT Radios

Icom ICZ1A

Icom IC-W32A

Icom BC-119N

Power Supplies

Astron RS-70M power supply

Astron SS-30M power supply

Radio Shack 25 amp power supply

Misc

Yaesu FC-30 auto-tuner

Yaesu YS-60 SWR & Power Meter

West Mountain Rig-Blaster

MARCH OPEN HOURS

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.

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FEBRUARY RECAP

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!

VIDEOS WORTH VIEWING

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.

OPEN HOURS PROJECT AND YEAR IN REVIEW

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.

Tape beam1One 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.Tape beam2

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!

Here’s the result of only about an hour of assembly.  As the snow falls and temps hover in the singe digits we prepare for fun times ahead this Spring.Tape beam4

JOTA WRAP-UP

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.