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The ARRL Contest Update
June 14, 2017
Editor: Paul Bourque, N1SFE

It's the season to make VHF contacts, so getting WSJT-X set up and giving MSK144 or JT65 a try could yield some new skills. The June 17 weekend has the Stew Perry Top Band Distance Challenge offering atypical 160 meter summertime CW activity. Careful listening to those static crashes, they can be fatiguing.

The ARRL Field Day operating event will generate a lot of activity the week of June 24. It's can be a great way to connect with other Amateurs in your area, take radios on a camping trip, or whatever you'd like to make of it. Depending on the operating group, it may or may not be a good place to learn or polish contest operating skills. Whatever you do, if you're on the phone position, avoid using the phrase "please copy..."


Mel, K0PFX, writes: "The DVB-T and S standards and variants of these (spectrum BW down to 1 MHz - standard is 5-8) has been used by hams for years in the USA. There are over 15 DVB repeaters here in the US. Amateur DVB-T is capable of full motion 1920x1080p high definition television. The latest US ATSC 3.0 standard will probably be susceptible to the same 'hacking' that DVB-T is vulnerable to, but we have while to prepare for its implementation."

Steve, W3HF, commented on the definition of Baud: "There's a difference between symbols used for source coding and those used for transmission, and you've mixed the two... A better way to word the (definition) would have been 'A TTY transmission is made up of two symbols, the mark and space frequencies representing the ones and zeroes in Baudot's code...' Alternatively, you could have said: 'Each transmission symbol in TTY--a mark or space frequency burst--represents a single bit, so the bit rate for RTTY is the same at the baud rate.'


Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

15 Jun - 28 Jun 2017

June 15

June 16

June 17

June 18

June 19

June 21

June 22

June 23

June 24

June 28


One way that your radio contest club can have a larger impact and potentially attract new members is to underwrite award plaques for radio contests. Some clubs find that providing an award for a major contest is a nice way to honor the memory of past club members, while others may choose to provide encouragement to get others on the air from a particular area, or use a particular mode or band. You can start by contacting a particular contest's award manager or director to get pointed in the right direction.

Fifteen days of solar surface observations unblemished by sunspots occurred between March 7 and March 22, according to NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory. The SDO also noted that this length of time without spots is the longest (so far!) since 2010. The current cycle is expected to bottom in 2019 or 2020.

As reported in The Atlantic Magazine and other sources, according to a recent review of a wide range of medical research related to caffeine intake 400mg of caffeine might be considered the current 'safe daily limit' of intake. This level applies to healthy, non-pregnant adults. Higher levels are not necessarily unsafe it's just that the research review and data don't support any conclusions in that regard.

During the Cold War, it was a radio mystery - how was telemetry from Russian science satellites being transmitted? With today's tools like portable spectrum analyzers, waterfall displays, SDRs, and so on, it likely wouldn't have taken two decades for the West to determine the downlink frequencies for Russia's science satellites.

Another Platinum sponsor for WRTC 2018 has been announced: The Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA), the entity behind the Hamvention. According to Christian Janssen, DL1MGB, "Dayton Hamvention has been the most famous ham radio meeting for many years. Dayton is the place where ham radio and especially contesting lives." Michael Kalter, W8CI, DARA board member, stated: "Our club is happy to support this event and considers it an opportunity to promote overall excellence in Amateur Radio Operations. The nuances of communication techniques learnt in this event will elevate many areas of the radio service, Especially in times of emergency when solid communication is paramount."

When a contest log is submitted, the contester usually attests to having observed the rules of the competition. Yet, it has been shown that some log entries can be quite fanciful. An article in National Geographic, "Why We Lie: The Science Behind Our Deceptive Ways" explores what researchers postulate are motivational factors for deception. Among the findings is that learning how to lie is just another step in normal human cognitive development.


Umbra: On Earth, as it relates to a total solar eclipse, the deepest part of the shadow cast by moon as it comes between the Sun and the Earth. In August, a total solar eclipse will occur across a wide swath of the US from Oregon to South Carolina, and some Amateurs will be participating in an experiment to characterize the eclipse's effect on propagation. Astronomers also call the dark central portion of a sunspot the umbra. Here's a NASA visualization of the path the umbra of the August eclipse will take across the U.S.


ARRL Field Day is coming up the weekend of June 24. If you've been doing Field Day without computer logging to date, how about trying it this year? N3FJP has published an eleven minute quick-start video of how to use his Field Day specific logging software, which should get you going. If you're interested in using N1MM Logger+ then Doug, AK4KO's 25-minute presentation at the Vienna Wireless Society will be worth watching. His video is focused on how to use the popular logging program specifically for a Field Day Operation.

My local radio club has often given away inexpensive, imported QRP CW transceiver kits called "Pixies" as door prizes. These kits can be found at some hamfests, on eBay, or via sites like Banggood. A quick, subjective, operational comparison of one such kit's receiver sensitivity on 40 meters versus some well known vintage rigs was made by ZS6SVJ in this video. Make sure you read the scrolling subtitles for his comments.

The Tucson Amateur Packet Radio (TAPR) organization's forum around SDR topics at the Hamvention was recorded and uploaded to YouTube by HamRadioNow. SDR hardware and software tools have increasing importance as we continue to find and remove pesky RFI sources in our contest environments.

"Open Source Spectrum Monitoring," was presented by Michael, AD0NR, and Dominic Spill. By using open source SDR hardware on a pre-programmed tuning-and-capture schedule instead of being commanded by the attached computer, approximately 6 GHz of spectrum can be captured and displayed in less than 750 milliseconds - a sweep rate of 8 GHz per second. Combined with a waterfall display, a much better picture of spectrum utilization is possible. Some other interesting tricks and tools are described which may provide additional ways to visualize various spectra, and with multiple antennas, to potentially identify and direction find signals in near real time.

"SDR Noise Reduction Techniques" by Warren, NR0V describes how increasing computing power combined with new algorithms can lead to better noise blanking, and improved signal to noise ratios. Many of the concepts are already realized in the WDSP library, part of the High Performance SDR (HPSDR) project. A method called "Spectral Noise Blanking" uses a prediction algorithm that classifies impulse noise as errors in the original signal. The prediction algorithm can provide correction to the original signal, effectively removing the impulse noise. Dramatic improvements can be realized.

"Introduction to RTL-SDR, Ultra Cheap Software Defined Radio" was presented by Carl Laufer, the person behind the RTL-SDR website. His talk, aimed for newcomers to the topic area, focused on version three of the USB RTL-SDR dongle, which improves the performance and increases the utility over previous versions. Of particular interest to contesters in the never-ending quest to eliminate RFI is the description of Tim Havens' DRIVEBY RFI finding techniques, and Disney's (yes, that Disney) EM Sense project, which uses a database to match EMI signal signatures to electronic devices.

Scroll to the end of the New York Times "California Today" section on June 8, 2017 for a picture of the cypress-tree-lined drive leading to the Point Reyes KPH radio station's Art Deco building. There's even a mention of the Maritime Radio Historical Society's weekly activation of the old transmitter site.


The ARRL VHF Contest (Rover) records have been updated at the ARRL Contest Records website. This effort has been courtesy of the Southern California Contest Club. The SCCC noted that three of the Limited Rover division records are held by female operators: Andrea, K2EZ, holds the Great Lakes and Hudson records, and Carrie, KI6UZV (now W6TAI) holds the Pacific Division record. Expect some updating to occur to the fixed station records shortly. (Bart, W9JJ)

The results of the 2017 Minnesota QSO Party have been published. Only one station was able to get a clean sweep of all Minnesota counties this year - Tom, N2CU. (Mark, WA0MHJ)


Check and Change Batteries BEFORE the Contest

This tip comes courtesy of Doug, W7ZZ: 'In the middle of the 7th Area QSO Party, while my computer was activating the transmitter and repeatedly calling CQ via the .WAV file, the wireless keyboard's batteries died. I realized this as I tried to stop the transmitter from being repeatedly keyed, calling endless CQs. Typing didn't stop the CQ, as it should have. The ESCAPE key didn't stop it either. After initial panic, I realized the batteries must have died and that I had no way to communicate with computer other than to power it down. I ran around the house and, fortunately, found a couple AAA batteries, all while I'm calling CQ. I inserted the batteries, hit the "connect" button on the bottom of the keyboard and breathed a sigh of relief as the CQs stopped. Never will I start a contest again without fresh batteries in the keyboard and mouse!'


In the soapbox comments from the most recent June ARRL VHF Contest many stations were reporting the use of the MSK144 digital mode for making QSOs where a SSB or CW path did not appear to exist. MSK144 can be sent and received using the WSJT-X program by Joe Taylor, K1JT. MSK144 uses exchange sequences as fast a five seconds to take advantage of propagation that might occur due to meteor scatter.

Attention EZNEC users! If you export data from EZNEC into other programs using files ending in the ".s1p" extension, you'll want to update to at least the 6.0.13 version. The newer version corrects an issue in the file's header field. EZNEC is a popular Microsoft Windows based application for antenna modeling. (Ward, N0AX)

"Communication Tower Best Practices," a jointly published document by the FCC and OSHA, seeks to reduce risks in the commercial tower industry.

The FCC and OSHA have partnered to publish a document entitled "Communication Tower Best Practices." This document is not a how-to, nor prescriptive on practical tower construction or maintenance -- it's more of a description of the practices and procedures the various entities involved in commercial towers should use for management, coordination, and documentation of work practices.

Future autonomous vehicles may require a lot of connectivity. One manufacturer of vehicle antennas estimates that up to 18 different antennas could be required in some circumstances. AM, FM, multiple Wi-Fi and LTE, and GPS are all part of contribute to the requirements.


Contesting User Interfaces of the Future

I know there are some that are still debating whether touch screens are an improvement to radio gear. I'm over that. I'm pondering the "post-touch-screen era" for contesting. What methods will we be using in the future to command our contest operations? There are already little boxes, tubes, and oddly shaped desktop items from Amazon, Google, and others that will listen for human utterances commanding the playing of a song, ordering of a pizza, turning on a light, or the telling of a corny joke. Today, with a little work (it's just software, right?) those devices can be integrated into a station and could be great for CW or RTTY station control tasks, but I'm thinking it's going to be less useful during phone contests.

Google has experimented with eye tracking, which could be suitable for all modes of contesting. An infrared beam from a special headset is bounced off of an eyeball, coordinated with what is being displayed on a computer screen, or even in the near field of vision. The computer can interpret what is being looked at, and emotion inferred from pupil size. Imagine if a feature like 'eye QSY' were implemented that would tune the radio to the signal that I glance at on the panadapter. Or, as I gaze upon the call of a needed multiplier being entered into the logging window, the contraction of my pupil causes my transmitter settings to 'optimize' to make the contact. The only downside to this feature that I can envision is that little eye-twitch thing that I get on the second day of a contest; after no sleep and my sixth cup of coffee I could frequently QSY to closed bands. If this method of control becomes popular, both eyes could be used independently for SO2R.

Some game consoles like the Xbox can already do body tracking, by using a number of cameras. Station control would be done using body gestures, for example spinning around in place to turn the rotator, "pitching" a CQ, or emphatic single digit macros to ask a QRMing station to find another frequency. With all of that movement, operator fitness might even be improved over time. Watching an operator work a pileup wouldn't be like today, sometimes as interesting as watching paint dry. It could be like watching modern dance! Standards for gestures would have to be established, to avoid sending mixed messages at multi-ops.

Perhaps 'peak interface' would be the direct connection between humans and gear. It's still early days interpreting EEGs for intent. But imagine the possibilities for control. What are your thoughts? Your rig would know!

That's all for this time. Remember to send contesting related stories, book reviews, tips, techniques, press releases, errata, schematics, club information, pictures, stories, blog links, and predictions to

73, Brian N9ADG


15 Jun - 28 Jun 2017

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.


CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jun 14, 1300z to Jun 14, 1400z, Jun 14, 1900z to Jun 14, 2000z, Jun 15, 0300z to Jun 15, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: June 17.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Jun 16, 0145z to Jun 16, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: June 18.

NCCC Sprint, Jun 16, 0230z to Jun 16, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: June 18.

All Asian DX Contest, CW, Jun 17, 0000z to Jun 19, 0000z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + 2-digit age; Logs due: July 19.

Ukrainian DX Classic RTTY Contest, Jun 17, 1200z to Jun 18, 1159z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Ukraine: RST + 2-letter oblast, non-Ukraine: RST + Serial No.; Logs due: July 3.

ARR BPSK63 Contest, Jun 17, 1200z to Jun 18, 1200z; BPSK63; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; EPC Members: RST + Serial No.; Logs due: July 18.

Stew Perry Topband Challenge, Jun 17, 1500z to Jun 18, 1500z; CW; Bands: 160m Only; 4-Character grid square; Logs due: July 3.

West Virginia QSO Party, Jun 17, 1600z to Jun 18, 0200z; CW, SSB, Digital; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; WV: RS(T) + county, non-WV: RS(T) + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 5.

Feld Hell Sprint, Jun 17, 1800z to Jun 17, 1959z; Feld Hell; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; (see rules); Logs due: June 21.

Kid's Day Contest, Jun 18, 1800z to Jun 18, 2359z; SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 17, 15, 12, 10, 2m repeaters; name + age + QTH + favorite color; Logs due: July 18.

Run for the Bacon QRP Contest, Jun 19, 0100z to Jun 19, 0300z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + (Member No./power); Logs due: June 25.

Phone Fray, Jun 21, 0230z to Jun 21, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: June 23.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jun 21, 1300z to Jun 21, 1400z, Jun 21, 1900z to Jun 21, 2000z, Jun 22, 0300z to Jun 22, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: June 24.

NAQCC CW Sprint, Jun 22, 0030z to Jun 22, 0230z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; RST + (state/province/country) + (NAQCC No./power); Logs due: June 25.

RSGB 80m Club Championship, SSB, Jun 22, 1900z to Jun 22, 2030z; SSB; Bands: 80m Only; RS + Serial No.; Logs due: June 23.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Jun 23, 0145z to Jun 23, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: June 25.

NCCC Sprint, Jun 23, 0230z to Jun 23, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: June 25.

Battle of Carabobo International Contest, Jun 24, 0000z to Jun 26, 0000z; CW, Phone; Bands: 40, 20, 15, 10m; YV: RS(T) + state, Non-YV: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: July 31.

UFT QRP Contest, Jun 24, 0600z to Jun 24, 0900z, Jun 24, 1400z to Jun 24, 1700z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: RST + QRP/QRO + UFT member no., non-member: RST + QRP/QRO + "NM"; Logs due: July 24.

His Maj. King of Spain Contest, SSB, Jun 24, 1200z to Jun 25, 1200z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; EA: RS + province, non-EA: RS + Serial No.; Logs due: July 10.

Ukrainian DX DIGI Contest, Jun 24, 1200z to Jun 25, 1200z; RTTY, PSK63; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; UR: RST + 2-letter Oblast, non-UR: RST + QSO No.; Logs due: July 25.

ARRL Field Day, Jun 24, 1800z to Jun 25, 2100z; All; Bands: All, except 30, 17, 12m; W/VE: Number of transmitters (see rules) + Operating class + ARRL/RAC section, DX: Number of transmitters (see rules) + Operating class + "DX"; Logs due: July 25.

SKCC Sprint, Jun 28, 0000z to Jun 28, 0200z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./power); Logs due: June 30.

Phone Fray, Jun 28, 0230z to Jun 28, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: June 30.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jun 28, 1300z to Jun 28, 1400z, Jun 28, 1900z to Jun 28, 2000z, Jun 29, 0300z to Jun 29, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 1.


SMIRK Contest, Jun 17, 0000z to Jun 19, 0000z; CW, Phone; Bands: 6m Only; SMIRK No. (optional) + 4-character grid square; Logs due: August 16.

IARU Region 1 50 MHz Contest, Jun 17, 1400z to Jun 18, 1400z; CW, SSB; Bands: 6m Only; RS(T) + QSO No. + locator; Logs due: July 2.

AGCW VHF/UHF Contest, Jun 17, 1400z to Jun 17, 1700z (144), Jun 17, 1700z to Jun 17, 1800z (432); CW; Bands: 144 MHz, 432 MHz; RST + "/" + Serial No. + "/" Power class + "/" + 6-character grid locator; Logs due: July 3.

WAB 50 MHz Phone, Jun 18, 0900z to Jun 18, 1500z; SSB; Bands: 6m Only; British Isles: RS + serial no. + WAB square, Other: RS + serial no. + country; Logs due: July 9.

Also see the Feld Hell Sprint above.


15 Jun - 28 Jun 2017

June 15, 2017

June 16, 2017

June 17, 2017

June 18, 2017

June 19, 2017

June 24, 2017

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