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The ARRL Contest Update
April 6, 2016
Editor: Brian Moran, N9ADG
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IN THIS ISSUE
NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO

If you're near Framingham, MA, on April 10, you may want to check out the "Discover HF Experience" or better yet, bring a couple of friends that aren't on HF yet.

West Coast operators may enjoy the JIDX CW contest this weekend, should propagation hold up. If you're working on improving your CW, the SKCC Sprintathon should offer a welcoming place to be, as participants are encouraged to adjust their speeds as necessary. QSO Parties from New Mexico and Georgia can provide Qs in all modes.

The next weekend, Nebraska, Ontario, Michigan, and North Dakota QSO Parties provide a smorgasbord of activity. If you're looking for just digital activity, the Tara Skirmish Digital Prefix Contest encourages activity on your choice of digital modes, including PSK, RTTY, Hell, MFSK, MT63, Throb, ASCII, SSTV, Domino EX, ALE400, JT65 and Packet. Whew! Just remember, each mode you use has to be turned in as a separate log, but some modes are seen as variations on a 'parent' mode and... like any contest, you'd better read the rules. Also, don't forget the ARRL Rookie Roundup, SSB, on Sunday, April 17.

BULLETINS

According to Wayne, N6NB, a consortium of people and clubs have come forth to make sure a UHF Contest does occur on August 6-7, 2016. For more information, see their website.

BUSTED QSOS

In the last issue, Zone 36 operators were erroneously attributed to a different zone. Thanks to N5ZO, N0AX, ZS6EZ, for pointing this out.

CONTEST SUMMARY

Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

April 7

April 8

April 9

April 10

April 11

April 13

April 14

April 15

April 16

April 17

April 18

April 19

April 20

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NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST

Contest University 2016's Topics and Instructors have been posted on the Contest University Website, as is the course outline (PDF). Registration is open! (K3LR)

W0BH, N4PN, and N6MU will be operating while K0WHY will be driving in a record-setting attempt to reach 73 counties in the Georgia QSO Party. [Photo courtesy of W0BH]

In an effort reminiscent of Bo Darville's efforts in the late 1970s, Bob, W0BH, Paul, N4PN, and John, N6MU will attempt to run 73 Georgia counties in the Georgia QSO Party this coming weekend using the callsign W0BH/m. Lorna, K0WHY, will be driving. As a multi-multi, they'll be emitting "both kinds" of signals, CW and SSB, in an equipment setup that worked well during the recent Missouri QSO Party. In 2013, Bob, Paul, and Dave, N4VDL set the current record of 61 counties. They have a long way to go, and a short time to get there, so a schedule (PDF) and map is available on the W0BH qrz.com listing. (W0BH)

You may have heard that "it takes ten thousand hours to become an expert at something," or a variation of this statement. But what the expert really said about becoming an expert involves more than just putting in the hours. These four things are important: 1) Finding a Mentor, 2) Pushing the envelope of your performance 3) Learning by experience 4) Reviewing your performance to understanding how to improve.

The mathematical underpinnings of communication were developed in large part by Claude Shannon. A recent biographical IEEE article explored his many other areas of contributions, including Information Theory and Cryptography.

Propagation has been lacking lately, but nothing like it could be with the consequences of Earth being in the direct path of a large Coronal Mass Ejection. According to researchers, Earth could receive the brunt of a "superflare" many, many times stronger than even the 1859 Carrington Event. Scientists previously believed that the potential for large flares was predicated on very strong magnetic fields in a star. The new understanding is that it's possible to have these very large flares even with the relatively lower-level magnetic fields characteristic of our sun. (N6KI)

Some MIT researchers are using off-the-shelf Wi-Fi cards to spatially locate objects with centimeter resolution. By using hardware with multiple antennas, they use the phase of incoming signals to determine a direction, sampling phase difference of a signal switching across a wide range of frequencies can yield the distance.

Microsoft built a chat robot that would learned from its conversations, and let "The Internet" chat with it. It learned some bad words and phrases, started repeating them, and then was pulled.

This Antarctic map, and maps of other parts of the globe, are available via the University of Texas Libraries website.

The University of Texas Libraries has a collection of maps on their website available for your use. You can use the search box for areas of interest, for example "Antarctica Map," which yields this top hit, which helps to visualize where VK0EK is in relation to other Antarctic region stations. (N0AX)

The Open Source Hardware summit is being held in Portland, Oregon, October 7, 2016. This is one of the places that people interested in topics such as using digital design tools for on-demand and small-scale production meet and discuss a wide range of topics. Last year's summit agenda and videos are available online. Potential Speakers can submit a proposal for a session that would appeal to the attendees in suggested areas of "Using, Building, and Growing Open Hardware", "Science and Research", "Technology For The People", "Open cultures: fostering harmony, openness, and beauty in the world" - how about a talk on amateur radio and homebrewing, the original maker movement?


Web Site of the Week - http://www.heywhatsthat.com/

When scoping out a potential field day, repeater, Hamnet, SOTA, or other location, you may want to "see what you can see" from that location. This website may be able to assist, by showing you the panorama view from a particular lat/long location, allowing for your height.

WORD TO THE WISE

"Kiteoon" - a combination of kite and (typically) helium balloon with fins, it's a type of aerostat that if large enough can be used to lift a wire antenna. The balloon aspect provides lift, while the fin aspect provides lift in windy conditions to counter the tendency to be driven toward ground. Car dealers use them to attract attention, 160 meter contesters use them to attract Qs.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

A sensing film shows the fields of magnetic areas present in a single metal disk 'printed' with multiple magnets.

A company has come up with a way to "print" magnets into a metal substrate, with varying polarizations. By doing so, magnetic gradients can be configured in unique ways to build machines that seem impossible. This video has a demonstration and shows how they are fabricated. (K7BTW, K4RO, N0AX)

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RESULTS AND RECORDS

The full results of the 2015 ARRL September VHF Contest are now available on the ARRL website. The number one club for participation was the Pacific Northwest VHF Society, by a large margin.

Final results for the 2015 CQ WW SSB are available.

Preliminary results for the February 2016 NAQP RTTY QSO Party are available on the NCJ website.

The ARRL School Club Roundup results on the WA7BNM website are now final. There was very good turnout, especially from the college-level clubs, where Texas A&M earned the top spot, followed by Embry-Riddle and Tulsa Community College. While Phone was the dominant mode across all categories, there was increased digital activity from the school clubs as well.

OPERATING TIP

Use DX Beacons to enhance your operating plans

"TV Bob", N6TV, submits: "Ever listen to the NCDXF Beacons? The Faros program by VE3NEA can automatically listen to these beacons and record when they are heard. An excellent design ensures that even the weakest beacon signals will be detected, with QRM ignored. Here's a YouTube video of Faros in action, copying many of the 20m beacons in sequence. K2MO has posted an excellent video showing how to set up the software, which will work with virtually any transceiver."

TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION

A tuned resonator for audio is a different, low-cost way to have a mechanical filter for CW. Using a speaker at the end of a tube acts like a filter - it enhances the transmission of sound at the resonant frequency of the tube. Key is tuning the tube to your preferred audio CW frequency. If you read this paper, you can calculate the approximate dimensions, build something, and then tune as necessary.

Here's something I missed from last summer - Microsoft has some SDR software, and they open sourced it. Some of the building blocks may be useful for your amateur SDR project.

Making printed circuit boards (PCBs) can be easy and inexpensive, as one experimenter wrote about recently. The used a combination of free software and an internet web site to design their own small two-layer board for about $6 per board. An article commenter also suggested using http://PCBShopper.com to compare manufacturers.

Setting up your own cellular network may have just gotten easier. With the appropriate hardware and a Debian linux computer, the Osmocom project has built an installer that coordinates all of the pieces necessary to get OpenBSC installed and configured. This could have application (with government permission) on DXpeditions, or in specialized environments such as mines or shielded buildings.

Switching a relay under load ("hot switching") isn't the best for the contacts, or the rest of the signal chain. In UHF/VHF work where preamps may be mounted at or near the antenna, it's especially important to get switching right to avoid equipment destruction. Tektran has released the C-SW hybrid IC that it claims can help control the make and break time of relays in your signal chain.

The recent likely confirmation of the existence of gravity waves have spurred more research into their detection, and a slew of new antenna designs are being tried, across a wide range of frequencies. These antennas are in the microwave-to-light range, and employ such techniques as silicon lenses, and cooling to within a degree of absolute zero, to detect very weak signals.

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CONVERSATION

Contest Robot

Last week, Microsoft was a bit chagrinned when their Artificial Intelligence tweet-driven robot learned some bad language at the hands of the Internet at Large. While this misstep became newsworthy because of the company involved, the coverage didn't usually include the reasons why this type of technology was being developed. The goal is that in the future these AI agents will be able to learn and understand queries from humans without being explicitly programmed - to factor humans INTO account, to be able to respond to the intent of conversation if even the language being used is not precise.

In thinking about it, it seems to me that what we do in contesting is a bit of the opposite. Contesters aspire to constrain the domain of information exchange to the minimum required to make a contact, and we strive to have ever-more machine-like precision in our requests and responses. We strive to take the variable human part OUT. And go faster.

It's hard to find a human that can copy 45.5 baud RTTY, so the computer must do that part. There used to be more humans per capita that could and were willing to interpret CW encoding of information reliably, so computers are doing more of that now, too. Aging human units can sometimes have difficulty interpreting speech information in low signal to noise situations, so while not mainstream, programming to take over that aspect is improving.

Duplicate checking helps we humans remember those stations we've worked, and our computer aids can tell us what this callsign sent in the last contest; as humans, our job is to feed the information into the computer, see if we need more or different information, and then make the next contact. It's better when we send information in the same format each time, so that waiting responding stations become comfortable with the rhythm. The logging program and computer send perfect CW. For some QSOs, all the ham needs to do is click and hit enter two times. Who is operating whom?

How could all of this computer assistance evolve over time? Tree, N6TR made a Z80-based CW robot years ago to make Field Day contacts under supervised conditions. "TACO", the operator name, stood for "Totally Automated Control Operator." Computing capability has evolved quite a bit since the Z80 era. In 2005, Ward, N0AX, posited that "it's going to take a long time, though, before machine- and human-copy signals can mix it up together to the point of a human not realizing that they are communicating with a machine."

In the context of amateur radio contesting, have we already crossed that boundary? Where does the assistance end and the operator begin?

73, Brian N9ADG

That's all for this time. Remember to send your FB page URL, contesting related tips, techniques, press releases, errata, selfies, pictures, stories, blog links, and Twitter handles to contest-update@arrl.org

CONTESTS

7 Apr - 20 Apr 2016

An expanded, downloadable version of QST's Contest Corral in PDF format is available. Check the sponsor's Web site for information on operating time restrictions and other instructions.

HF CONTESTS

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Apr 6, 1300z to Apr 6, 1400z, Apr 6, 1900z to Apr 6, 2000z, Apr 7, 0300z to Apr 7, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: April 9.

SARL 80m QSO Party, Apr 7, 1700z to Apr 7, 2000z; SSB; Bands: 80m Only; RS + Serial No. + Grid Locator or QTH; Logs due: April 14.

NRAU 10m Activity Contest, Apr 7, 1800z to Apr 7, 1900z (CW), Apr 7, 1900z to Apr 7, 2000z (SSB), Apr 7, 2000z to Apr 7, 2100z (FM), Apr 7, 2100z to Apr 7, 2200z (Dig); CW, SSB, FM, Digital; Bands: 10m Only; RS(T) + 6-character grid square; Logs due: April 21.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Apr 8, 0145z to Apr 8, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: April 10.

NCCC Sprint, Apr 8, 0230z to Apr 8, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: April 10.

JIDX CW Contest, Apr 9, 0700z to Apr 10, 1300z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; JA: RST + Prefecture No., non-JA: RST + CQ Zone No.; Logs due: May 10.

PODXS 070 Club PSK 31 Flavors Contest, Apr 9, 1000z to Apr 10, 0400z; BPSK31, QPSK31, BPSK63, QPSK63, BPSK125, QPSK125; Bands: 20m Only; 070 members: (state/province/country) + member no., Non-members: (state/province/country) + name; Logs due: April 24.

QRP ARCI Spring QSO Party, Apr 9, 1200z to Apr 10, 2359z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RS + (state/province/country) + (ARCI number/power); Logs due: April 28.

SKCC Weekend Sprintathon, Apr 9, 1200z to Apr 11, 0000z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./"NONE"); Logs due: April 17.

OK/OM DX Contest, SSB, Apr 9, 1200z to Apr 10, 1200z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; OK/OM: RS + 3-letter district code, non-OK/OM: RS + Serial No.; Logs due: April 24.

New Mexico QSO Party, Apr 9, 1400z to Apr 10, 0200z; CW, Phone, Digital; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; NM: Name + county, non-NM: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: April 23.

Georgia QSO Party, Apr 9, 1800z to Apr 10, 0359z, Apr 10, 1400z to Apr 10, 2359z; CW/Digital, Phone; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; GA: RST + county, non-GA: RST + (state/province/"DX"); Logs due: May 15.

Yuri Gagarin International DX Contest, Apr 9, 2100z to Apr 10, 2100z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, Satellites; RST + ITU Zone No.; Logs due: May 10.

International Vintage Contest HF, Apr 10, 1200z to Apr 10, 1800z; CW, SSB, AM; Bands: 80, 40m; RS(T) + 4-character grid square; Logs due: April 30.

Hungarian Straight Key Contest, Apr 10, 1500z to Apr 10, 1700z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + Serial No. + Power Code; Logs due: April 25.

NAQCC CW Sprint, Apr 13, 0030z to Apr 13, 0230z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; RST + (state/province/country) + (NAQCC No./power); Logs due: April 16.

Phone Fray, Apr 13, 0230z to Apr 13, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: April 15.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Apr 13, 1300z to Apr 13, 1400z, Apr 13, 1900z to Apr 13, 2000z, Apr 14, 0300z to Apr 14, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: April 16.

RSGB 80m Club Championship, SSB, Apr 13, 1900z to Apr 13, 2030z; SSB; Bands: 80m Only; RS + Serial No.; Logs due: April 20.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Apr 15, 0145z to Apr 15, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: April 10.

NCCC Sprint, Apr 15, 0230z to Apr 15, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: April 10.

Holyland DX Contest, Apr 15, 2100z to Apr 16, 2100z; CW, SSB, Digital; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; 4X: RS(T) + area, non-4X: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: May 31.

TARA Skirmish Digital Prefix Contest, Apr 16, 0000z to Apr 16, 2359z; PSK, RTTY, Hell, MFSK, MT63, Throb, ASCII, SSTV, Domino EX, ALE400, JT65, Packet; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; Name + prefix; Logs due: May 14.

ES Open HF Championship, Apr 16, 0500z to Apr 16, 0559z, Apr 16, 0600z to Apr 16, 0659z, Apr 16, 0700z to Apr 16, 0759z, Apr 16, 0800z to Apr 16, 0859z; CW, SSB; Bands: 80, 40m; RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: May 1.

Worked All Provinces of China DX Contest, Apr 16, 0600z to Apr 17, 0559z; CW, SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; BY: RS(T) + 2-character province, non-BY: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: April 24.

CQ Manchester Mineira DX Contest, Apr 16, 1200z to Apr 17, 2359z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; All: RST+continent abbreviation, CWJF members: RST + continent + "M", QRP: RST + continent + "Q", YL: RST + continent + "Y", Multi-Op,Clubs,Groups: RST + continent + "C"; Logs due: May 17.

Nebraska QSO Party, Apr 16, 1400z to Apr 17, 0200z, Apr 17, 1400z to Apr 17, 2300z; CW, Phone, Digital; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, VHF/UHF; NE: RS(T) + county, non-NE: RS(T) + (state/province/country); Logs due: May 15.

Michigan QSO Party, Apr 16, 1600z to Apr 17, 0400z; CW, SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; MI: Serial No. + county, non-MI: Serial No. + (state/province/"DX"); Logs due: May 16.

EA-QRP CW Contest, Apr 16, 1700z to Apr 16, 2000z (20-10m), Apr 16, 2000z to Apr 16, 2300z (80m), Apr 17, 0700z to Apr 17, 1100z (40m), Apr 17, 1100z to Apr 17, 1300z (20-10m); CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + 1-letter category + "M" (if EA-QRP member); Logs due: May 17.

Ontario QSO Party, Apr 16, 1800z to Apr 17, 0500z, Apr 17, 1200z to Apr 17, 1800z; CW, Phone; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, 2m; ON: RS(T) + county, non-ON: RST + (state/province/country); Logs due: May 17.

North Dakota QSO Party, Apr 16, 1800z to Apr 17, 1800z; CW, Phone, Digital; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, 2m; ND: RS(T) + County, non-ND: RS(T) + (state/province/country); Logs due: May 15.

Feld Hell Sprint, Apr 16, 1700z to Apr 16, 1859z; Feld Hell; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; (see rules); Logs due: April 23.

YU DX Contest, Apr 16, 2100z to Apr 17, 0500z, Apr 17, 0900z to Apr 17, 1700z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: May 2.

WAB 3.5/7/14 MHz Data Modes, Apr 17, 1200z to Apr 17, 1400z, Apr 17, 1800z to Apr 17, 2000z; RTTY, PSK31; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; British Isles: RS + serial no. + WAB square, Other: RS + serial no. + country; Logs due: May 8.

ARRL Rookie Roundup, SSB, Apr 17, 1800z to Apr 17, 2359z; SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; NA: Name + 2-digit year first licensed + (state/province/XE area/DX); Logs due: April 20.

Run for the Bacon QRP Contest, Apr 18, 0100z to Apr 18, 0300z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + (Member No./power); Logs due: April 24.

Phone Fray, Apr 20, 0230z to Apr 20, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: April 22.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Apr 20, 1300z to Apr 20, 1400z, Apr 20, 1900z to Apr 20, 2000z, Apr 21, 0300z to Apr 21, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: April 23.

VHF+ CONTESTS

144 MHz Spring Sprint, Apr 11, 1900z to Apr 11, 2300z; modes: (not specified); Bands: 2m Only; 6-character grid square; Logs due: April 25.

222 MHz Spring Sprint, Apr 19, 1900z to Apr 19, 2300z; modes: (not specified); Bands: 222 Mhz; 6-character grid square; Logs due: May 3.

See also the NM, GA QSO parties, the SKCC Sprintathon, the TARA Skirmish Digital Prefix contest, and the ARRL Rookie Roundup, SSB, above.


LOG DUE DATES

April 7, 2016

April 8, 2016

April 9, 2016

April 10, 2016

April 11, 2016

April 12, 2016

April 13, 2016

April 14, 2016

April 15, 2016

April 17, 2016

April 18, 2016

April 19, 2016

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

ARRL Contest Update wishes to acknowledge information from WA7BNM's Contest Calendar and SM3CER's Contest Calendar.

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