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The ARRL Contest Update
June 24, 2020
Editor: Brian Moran, N9ADG
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IN THIS ISSUE
NEW HF OPERATORS -- THINGS TO DO

ARRL Field Day is this weekend, June 27 and 28. This operating event is not a contest, but it is an opportunity to operate efficiently and of course, have fun. Remember that when providing the exchange, don't add any extra words or phrases, such as "Please copy." PE is a new section for Field Day, so make sure your software has been updated if necessary. Only WSJT-X version 2.2.2 and higher can handle the PE section, so you might need to upgrade if you're using that software for Field Day.

July 1 is Canada Day, and the RAC Canada Day Contest is from 0000 to 2359 UTC. CW and SSB are the modes for this contest, and don't forget that the contest starts on Tuesday evening in North America. Look for the special RAC stations for extra points. They are enumerated in the RAC rules, but all of them have call signs with "RAC" as the suffix. They can be worked once on each band and on each mode.

CONTEST SUMMARY

Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

25 Jun - 8 Jul 2020

June 25

June 26

June 27

June 29

June 30

July 1

July 2

July 3

July 4

July 6

July 7

July 8

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NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST

The YOTA In The Americas Youth on the Air Summer Program, like most gatherings everywhere, has gone virtual. The original YOTA Campers will be attending a Virtual YOTA Day on June 24, 2020 via Zoom; everyone will be able to watch via YouTube. Look for the W8Y special event station on the bands through June 26, operated remotely by YOTA Campers. W8Y will also be on the air for ARRL Field Day.

On June 25, YOTA in IARU Region 1 is having a second "YOTA Online" session at 1800 UTC. Watch the website or follow @hamyota on Twitter to get the details.

Rick, WW1ME, writes in regard to the conventional setup of a CW paddle: "The right-hand lever is the 'dah' if you are right-handed. For lefties, it's just the opposite. Most keyers/radios will let you change the keyer 'sense' for RH or LH. I recall back in the day, too, that all MFJ keyers were wired for the wrong sense, so when you plugged in your paddle, it was set for a lefty. If you used that paddle with other devices, that could be a real issue. Otherwise, you'd have to swap the wires." Another temporary means of sending with a paddle that's opposite of what you're used to is to turn it around, and reach over the paddle for the levers. Awkward, but the technique works for a limited amount of sending.

The new functionality of the ARRL Contest Portal includes the ability to download certificates from past contests.

The ARRL Contest Portal has taken a major leap forward in functionality. It's now a "is now a one-stop shop for all ARRL-sponsored contests." The portal's main page shows the status of ARRL Contests over the last year, and navigation bars are provided to particular functions or contests. One of the most-tweeted features is the "Certificates" function - by typing in your call, you can download certificates for ARRL Contests for which you've submitted logs.

Joe, OZ0J, and Bob, N6TV, are at it again - they're gathering a list of Headquarter Multiplier stations for the upcoming IARU HF Championship contest in July, and formatting the list into call history formats used by various logging programs. When used with contest loggers that support a call history file, it could save typing. Joe is accepting changes and corrections to 2019's IARU list at contest@oz0j.dk. Bob will be "reformatting and distributing this data as HQ station pre-fill files in multiple formats compatible with N1MM Logger+, Writelog, Win-Test, DXLog.net, TR4W, Skookum Logger and UcxLog. Download itu.zip from https://bit.ly/itudtb, which will be updated frequently. Installation instructions and test procedures are documented in the Readme.txt file inside the Zip." According to VE2FK, N1MM Logger+ users will be able to use the auto-download feature of that program to download it as IARU_2020.txt from the N1MM Logger+ website.

Remember - it is not good practice to use a call history file to guess at call signs that you are unsure you've copied correctly.

The RAC Canada Day Contest is July 1 from 0000 to 2359 UTC. The participation in this year's mid-week event could be larger than normal as a consequence of widespread shutdowns still in place.

Recent Windows updates may have jumbled sound and com port driver orders, depending on your configuration. If your computer was updated recently, now might be a good time to check that all of your sound devices are what you think they are, and that COM ports work as intended with your installed software, versus in the hours just before a contest that requires those ports.

Summer is an excellent time to do outdoor equipment and antenna maintenance, but every region has the potential for insect encounters. Watch out for ticks, and recognize the signs of tick bites; be careful opening enclosures that wasps or poisonous spiders might be using as homes.

ARRL VHF/UHF contest rules allow self-spotting and coordination of contacts ("skeds") via online and other means. For the recent ARRL VHF Contest, Dave, KG5CCI, sent an email to the VHF Contesting email reflector listing all of the venues for coordinating a contact with his team: "We will be on the air for the duration of the contest looking for contacts. We have full SSB, FM, CW, and digital capabilities on all bands. Listen for us on all the standard digital and voice frequencies. We'll be monitoring all the normal places for sked requests -- but here's a list of every place I think we should be hanging out: Twitter: Dave @KG5CCI, Wyatt @wyattAC0RA, Matt @matt_nj4y, Slack: VHF-chat.slack.com Channel #contest, Email: dave@druidnetworks.com, Pingjockey, NOUK-EME Chat, HB9Q EME Chat, ON4KST Chat." That's a lot to manage during a contest.

Ray, G4FON, has written a program entitled CW Contest Trainer and has made it available on his website. His program supports a number of contests, including CQ WPX, CQ WW, IOTA, ARRL Field Day, ARRL Sweepstakes, CW Ops CWT, NAQCC, and SKCC. The free version on his website is limited in operation, but can be upgraded for a fee.

WORD TO THE WISE

DRO

As it pertains to Low Noise Blocks (LNBs), typically found at the feed point of microwave frequency dish antennas, DRO means "Dielectric Resonator Oscillator" and involve using some physical properties of a device to generate frequencies. Since materials change in dimension with varying frequency, DROs are affected by the temperature. Phase Locked Loop (PLL) LNBs use a temperature-stable frequency source to generate their frequencies, and are more stable.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

Barry, K7BWH, activated DN08 in the June ARRL VHF Contest. He took a "solo 4-day trip to activate our rarest PNW grid square, DN08 in the Okanogan forest. Two days travel plus two 12-hour days on the radio. I camped at 5200' near the top of Buck Mountain. 250 QSO total in two 12-hour days, 118 grids (including two QSOs in Hawaii), 229 QSOs on FT8, 21 on MSK144 (did not attempt SSB/CW contacts).I'm pretty sure I had the strongest transmitter in the rarest grid at the highest spot with the lowest background noise of any VHF ham on the west coast. Great fun." All of his contacts were on 6 meters, using an M2 6m5 with an Icom PW-1. Here's an additional spectacular view. [Barry Hansen, K7BWH, photo]

Jim, K5ND, was a rover for the June ARRL VHF Contest: "Here's a 3-minute video that I pulled together showing my rover setup prior to the contest along with a quick overview of the 10 grid stops during the contest. It might help shed some light on the life of a VHF rover...lots of room for improvisation among rovers. It was a good contest with fantastic 6-meter opening from EM14 late on Sunday."

At the other end of the spectrum, Steve, VE6WZ, has made a YouTube video of how he tunes a reflector for a two-element vertical parasitic array, specifically for his 160-meter parasitic array that uses his shunt-fed tower as a driver. Steve's video shows the theory behind his method using a two-element Yagi to demonstrate mutual coupling between a driven element and a parasitic element using a NanoVNA. He goes on to model the relationship between feed point real resistance (not reactance) and gain characteristics using 4NEC2. He then applies this to describe how he tunes 40-, 80-, and 160-meter antennas. The video's YouTube page also has links to papers on the design aspects of his two-element Yagis and verticals.

Here's Team K3CT's site on Blue Mountain in Eastern Pennsylvania in the ARRL VHF Contest."690 Qs/159 Mults but missed the last several hours as we needed to tear down and get back to our lives...heard there was a great West Coast opening after we had torn everything down -- go figure!" Team K3CT was John, K3CT; John, K3TEJ; Tony, N3DAP, and Steve, NY3B. [Steve Strauss, NY3B, photo]

Alan, W2AEW, just published a 6-minute video on how to use a NanoVNA for various antenna-oriented tasks. Sure, you could figure this out from the manual(s), however it's easier to watch someone do it.

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RESULTS AND RECORDS

The Boring ARC, sponsor of the Stew Perry Topband Distance Challenge, is working on a new award for the top-scoring single-operator entrant that operates in all four of the Stew Perry events - Sprint, Summer, Fall, and Winter. The first "Master of the Four Seasons Award" competition would start with the December 2020 Winter event, and be awarded after September's Fall event. Determination of the winner is not a simple addition of the scores; see the website for the details on how the scores will weighted towards encouraging competition in the March, June, and October events. A "Test Run Score" will be calculated for the December 2019 through September 2020 interval.

OPERATING TIP

After A Contest, Send In the Log Immediately

As soon as you can after the contest, send in your log to the contest sponsors. Your log is what you copied during the contest; no changes are necessary. With the contest over, the log should be ready to send. Generate the Cabrillo file, and submit it via email or the contest sponsor's website. With most major contests moving to shortened submission periods, it's all too easy to forget about it and miss the log submission deadline.

TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION

N1MM Logger+ version 1.0.8481 added a new field, "FocusEntry," to the Radio Info UDP Packet to allow external programs to better control the operation of the logging program. An example might be to have an external program send message keys to an entry window to initiate a CQ.

In response to a query about where to purchase quality fasteners for antenna work, Mike, K6MKF, responded to the Elecraft Reflector with this advice: "Keep in mind that there are different classes of stainless steel fasteners with different properties and ratings. A good start for this info: https://www.fastenermart.com/understanding-fastener-grades-and-classes.html. I was advised to use Class 6 fasteners for my tower and antenna projects."

Node Red has been mentioned in the Contest Update in the past as a potential way to control equipment or automate tasks. Here's an overview article from Elektor on how it can be set up and used with some very basic Raspberry Pi hardware, along with example usage scenarios.

Germany's DARC is the sponsor of the Software Defined Radio Academy, normally held in person, in conjunction with the HAMRADIO conference in Friedrichshafen, Germany. This year, the expanded 2-day program will be entirely online streaming via YouTube on June 27 and 28. One session that may be of particular interest to the Contest Update readership is entitled "Operational SDR Benefits in Contesting" by DL2SAX, at 1800-1830 (GMT+2) on June 28 (This would be 9 AM on Sunday morning in Seattle). An excerpt from the abstract: "The SDR radio should not just be reduced on the doubtlessly useful waterfall diagram: The systematic use of an SDR changes the overall station concept and the mode of operating. This talk is on how to use an SDR transceiver as the centerpoint of a modern contest station with the operating goal 'SO2R mode' (i.e. single operator, two radios), however only using a single SDR transceiver." (via QRZnow.com)

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CONVERSATION

Zoom and Contester Technology Adoption

Most of us have been compelled to experience new ways of doing things online in the past few months, and "Zoom" has nearly attained verb status as a means of communicating. Why did Zoom seemingly break away from the pack and gain such widespread usage for video conferencing over the other choices that people have? I would argue that Zoom made a choice to emphasize and prioritize ease of use and quick signup over any other "feature" when everyone needed to switch from in-person to remote over a very short period. Their service "just worked" with fewer decisions on the part of someone signing up, and fewer steps to be able to communicate in one-to-one or one-to-many scenarios. They had the ability to enhance their security and usability features after they'd multiplied their customer base, after they'd been able to also benefit from the network effect of their software being installed. The art and science of increasing adoption of a product, service, or behavior is part of something called a conversion in the online world. It turns out that every time someone has to make any type of decision, such as to supply an email address, choose a plan, click a link in an email, choose a nickname, there's an opportunity for that person to not progress to the next step. Each of those steps represents friction, a narrowing of the funnel of potential customers, and impediment to adoption.

How this relates to radio contesting is that adoption of new techniques/technology occurs when:

  • Your contest scores go up from using something new
  • Your competition is using some new thing to increase their scores
  • The new thing is included "by default" in some equipment or process that's already being used
  • A new way of doing something is easier than the old way, even if the experience is not better

Cutting-edge contesters are always looking for opportunities to increase their scores. They will try and discard many techniques before finding something that will repeatedly yield increases. Their competition will likely notice the increase in score and try to follow the leader. The main group of contesters will use something if they perceive that it's not too difficult to set up, and that it will increase their scores. If they perceive the effort to set it up will not be rewarded with better scores or more fun, they won't do it.

Let's take an example technology that should be appealing for a contester -- online scoreboards. The big multi-multi stations have generally been aware of their competitors score during contests because it's just part of the job - with or without online scoreboards. Reasons why a mainstream contester might be interested in participating in an online scoreboard include:

  • Increased motivation by competing directly against peers in their geographic or affiliation group
  • Better situational awareness of multiplier or band contact opportunities

Today, there are still some roadblocks to get started, including:

  • Deciding which online scoreboard service to use
  • Signing up for an online scoreboard on the online scoreboard website
  • Configuring club or other affiliations on the online scoreboard website
  • Filling scoreboard configuration information into a contest logging program
  • Understanding how information is going to be used
  • Learning how best to use information provided by an online scoreboard

Looking at just two logging programs and how they integrate with online scoreboards, let's start with N1MM Logger+. It has an overwhelmingly dominant "market share" as the contest logger for most contests and is maximally configurable to be able to work with any of the online scoreboard systems. The downside of flexibility is that scoreboard configuration is made more complicated by this, and many mainstream contesters just won't complete it.

N3FJP (he has different programs for different contests) thinks the sweet spot for contest scoreboards is to foster intra-club competition, and so over the past few years, N3FJP's software has focused on making it as easy as possible for a club to publish scores on their own servers, with minimal configuration required by individual club members. A club member who just wants to report their score using N3FJP's software just needs to enter three pieces of information into the logging program - no interaction necessary with a third-party website, no additional email address confirmations. They can view their scores versus their peers on a club website. It just works. Only one reasonably computer-savvy club member is required to set up the server.

No logger I'm aware of (yet) displays information gathered from an online scoreboard in any of the logging windows. A contester today uses an additional web browser window to display competing scores. No display will yet provide encouraging or insightful messages during a contest such as "you've just moved up a spot to #4!" or "if you work another multiplier right now you can move up a position!"

Now that we're all more familiar with remote meetings, single-click software upgrades, and minimal initial configuration as a consequence of being more online during social distancing, I hope we all can better appreciate the value of user-friendly configuration, and that our contesting software continues to incorporate thoughtful ways to get more people using new capabilities without requiring extensive configuration. And once we have access to more tools and information, think of the new skills and higher scores that can be built on top of those!

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 contest-update@arrl.org.

73, Brian N9ADG

CONTESTS

25 Jun - 8 Jul 2020

An expanded, downloadable version of QST's Contest Corral is available as a PDF. Check the sponsors' website for information on operating time restrictions and other instructions.

HF CONTESTS

QRP Fox Hunt, Jun 25, 0100z to Jun 25, 0230z; CW; Bands: 20m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: June 26.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jun 25, 0300z to Jun 25, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: June 27.

RSGB Hope QSO Party, Jun 25, 1300z to Jun 25, 1430z (CW); Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Logs due: July 1.

RTTYOPS Weeksprint, Jun 25, 1700z to Jun 25, 1900z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; [other station's call] + [your call] + [serial no.] + [your name]; Logs due: June 30.

RSGB 80m Club Championship, SSB, Jun 25, 1900z to Jun 25, 2030z; SSB; Bands: 80m Only; RS + Serial No.; Logs due: June 26.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Jun 26, 0145z to Jun 26, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: June 28.

NCCC Sprint, Jun 26, 0230z to Jun 26, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: June 28.

RSGB Hope QSO Party, Jun 26, 1430z to Jun 26, 1600z (RTTY); Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Logs due: July 1.

UFT QRP Contest, Jun 27, 0600z to Jun 27, 0900z and, Jun 27, 1400z to Jun 27, 1700z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: RST + QRP/QRO + UFT member no., non-member: RST + QRP/QRO + "NM"; Logs due: July 27.

His Maj. King of Spain Contest, SSB, Jun 27, 1200z to Jun 28, 1200z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; EA: RS + province, non-EA: RS + Serial No.; Logs due: July 13.

Ukrainian DX DIGI Contest, Jun 27, 1200z to Jun 28, 1200z; RTTY, PSK63; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; UR: RST + 2-letter Oblast, non-UR: RST + QSO No.; Logs due: July 28.

RTTYOPS Weekend Sprint, Jun 27, 1600z to Jun 27, 1959z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; [other station's call] + [your call] + [serial no.] + [your name] + [6-character grid locator]; Logs due: July 4.

ARRL Field Day, Jun 27, 1800z to Jun 28, 2100z; All; Bands: All, except 60, 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 28.

10-10 Int. Spirit of 76 QSO Party, Jun 29, 0001z to Jul 6, 0000z; CW, SSB, PSK31, RTTY, FM, AM; Bands: 10m Only; 10-10 Member: Name + 10-10 number + (state/province/country), Non-Member: Name + 0 + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 13.

QCX Challenge, Jun 29, 1300z to Jun 29, 1400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + Name + (state/province/country) + Rig; Logs due: July 7.

Worldwide Sideband Activity Contest, Jun 30, 0100z to Jun 30, 0159z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; RS + age group (OM, YL, Youth YL or Youth); Logs due: July 1.

QCX Challenge, Jun 30, 0300z to Jun 30, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + Name + (state/province/country) + Rig; Logs due: July 7.

RTTYOPS Weeksprint, Jun 30, 1700z to Jun 30, 1900z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; [other station's call] + [your call] + [serial no.] + [your name]; Logs due: June 30.

RAC Canada Day Contest, Jul 1, 0000z to Jul 1, 2359z; CW, Phone; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, 2m; VE: RS(T) + province/territory, non-VE: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: July 31.

Phone Fray, Jul 1, 0230z to Jul 1, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: June 26.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jul 1, 1300z to Jul 1, 1400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: June 27.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jul 1, 1900z to Jul 1, 2000z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: June 27.

QRP Fox Hunt, Jul 2, 0100z to Jul 2, 0230z; CW; Bands: 20m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: June 26.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jul 2, 0300z to Jul 2, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: June 27.

RTTYOPS Weeksprint, Jul 2, 1700z to Jul 2, 1900z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; [other station's call] + [your call] + [serial no.] + [your name]; Logs due: June 30.

NRAU 10m Activity Contest, Jul 2, 1800z to Jul 2, 1900z (cw) and, Jul 2, 1900z to Jul 2, 2000z (ssb) and, Jul 2, 2000z to Jul 2, 2100z (fm) and, Jul 2, 2100z to Jul 2, 2200z (dig); CW, SSB, FM, Digital; Bands: 10m Only; RS(T) + 6-character grid square; Logs due: July 16.

SKCC Sprint Europe, Jul 2, 1900z to Jul 2, 2100z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./power); Logs due: July 9.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Jul 3, 0145z to Jul 3, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: June 28.

NCCC Sprint, Jul 3, 0230z to Jul 3, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: June 28.

FISTS Summer Slow Speed Sprint, Jul 4, 0000z to Jul 4, 0400z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; FISTS: RST + (state/province/country) + first name + FISTS No., non-FISTS: RST + (state/province/country) + first name + power; Logs due: July 18.

YBDXC 80m Contest, Jul 4, 0900z to Jul 5, 0859z; SSB; Bands: 80m Only; RS + Serial No.; Logs due: July 12.

DL-DX RTTY Contest, Jul 4, 1100z to Jul 5, 1059z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + QSO No.; Logs due: July 12.

Marconi Memorial HF Contest, Jul 4, 1400z to Jul 5, 1400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: July 19.

Original QRP Contest, Jul 4, 1500z to Jul 5, 1500z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; RST + Serial No. + "/" + Power category; Logs due: July 31.

PODXS 070 Club 40m Firecracker Sprint, Jul 4, 2000z to Jul 5, 2000z; PSK31; Bands: 40m Only; RST + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 12.

RSGB 80m Club Championship, CW, Jul 6, 1900z to Jul 6, 2030z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: July 7.

Worldwide Sideband Activity Contest, Jul 7, 0100z to Jul 7, 0159z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; RS + age group (OM, YL, Youth YL or Youth); Logs due: June 24.

ARS Spartan Sprint, Jul 7, 0100z to Jul 7, 0300z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + Power; Logs due: July 9.

RTTYOPS Weeksprint, Jul 7, 1700z to Jul 7, 1900z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; [other station's call] + [your call] + [serial no.] + [your name]; Logs due: June 30.

Phone Fray, Jul 8, 0230z to Jul 8, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: June 26.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jul 8, 1300z to Jul 8, 1400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: June 27.

VHF+ CONTESTS

VHF-UHF FT8 Activity Contest, Jul 1, 1700z to Jul 1, 2000z; FT8; Bands: See Rules; 4-character grid square; Logs due: July 6.


VHF-UHF FT8 Activity Contest, Jul 8, 1700z to Jul 8, 2000z; FT8; Bands: See Rules; 4-character grid square; Logs due: July 13.

LOG DUE DATES

25 Jun - 8 Jul 2020

June 25, 2020

June 26, 2020

June 27, 2020

June 28, 2020

June 29, 2020

June 30, 2020

July 1, 2020

July 2, 2020

July 4, 2020

July 6, 2020

July 7, 2020

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