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Antenna Designer WA3FET Says Ham Radio Led to His Electrical Engineering Career


In an online “Spotlight” interview published recently in EEWEB, antenna designer Jim Breakall, WA3FET, explains that he got interested in ham radio and electronics as a youngster, and that led to his becoming an electrical engineer.

“I knew at that time that I was going to be an electrical engineer and specialize in antenna and radio engineering,” Breakall said in the wide-ranging interview.

An electrical engineering professor at his alma mater, Penn State, Breakall has distinguished himself through his involvement in several projects requiring unique antennas. It was at Penn State that he got acquainted with ionospheric research and was a Penn State summer student at at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which led to what he called, “my long relationship with that huge 1000-foot antenna.” His most recent big project was the HF Cassegrain feed for an ionospheric modification at Arecibo that’s similar to the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) facility in Alaska, but on a smaller scale.

In the interview Breakall discussed his patented three-dimensional frequency-independent phased array (3D-FIPA) design, initially done for HAARP but never used there because it was considered “too new and risky.” The 3D-FIPA is based on the LPDA (log-periodic dipole array) principle, with “many phased arrays at different frequencies all nested together,” he explained. He also worked on the design of the antennas currently used at HAARP.

Breakall said that Amateur Radio “has really been a big part of my life.” An avid contester, he designed the optimized wideband antenna (OWA), that many Amateur Radio contesters use. “The best part of this is the many friends I have all over the world from this tremendous hobby,” he told the interviewer.