Youth@HamRadio.Fun: New Year, New Goals, More Calculus -- and More W0EEE
By Sterling Coffey, N0SSC
ARRL Youth Editor
After celebrating the New Year and holiday festivities with some well-deserved rest -- and lots of time spent on the air -- I look back at the break, and like all of you in school, I always think it was too short. During my free time, I finished several projects and started new ones, only to have to put them to the side to focus on school for yet another semester. I miss not having to worry about classes, getting to sleep in all day and cooking my own breakfast, which was usually at a time most would be having dinner! But we must persist and carry on with school or work. Furthermore, another thing I missed over the break was W0EEE.
This semester at Missouri S&T, I will be taking 17 credit hours, which to most is a full load. I’ll be sweating through classes like Differential Equations, AC and Power Circuits, Physics of Electromagnetics and Optics, Thermal Analysis and a class in computer engineering -- all in pursuit of an Electrical Engineering degree. The jaw of my advisor who signed the enrollment sheet also dropped when he saw the heavy load of courses I was to take. On top of this massive undertaking, I’m now the president for the Missouri S&T Amateur Radio club, W0EEE. We are planning to finish a host of projects that we’ve been working on since last semester, as well as introduce many more for summer and fall. Here are four of our projects before campus closes in May.
Step One for W0EEE: Install the D-STAR Repeater
After an episode of Ham Nation featuring W0EEE, ICOM America contacted us with an amazing offer -- a complete UHF digital voice D-STAR repeater system, all expenses waived as long as we have it installed and operational with 10 users registered by February. Our current obstacle is a problem with a piece of equipment vital to repeater systems: a duplexer, a sort of filter, which allows a repeater to use a single antenna for both receiving and transmitting signals simultaneously. Our former UHF repeater had a normal “can” style of repeater duplexer that has been partially misplaced (like shown in the picture), as well as a mobile style duplexer that fits in a shoe box, but is tuned to a different frequency pair. We are planning to retune the mobile duplexer for the D-STAR repeater temporarily until we acquire a permanent solution. The repeater is definitely going to be a great addition to the campus and region.
Step Two: Setting Up a “Loanership” Program
One of the biggest obstacles young hams have to face as a radio amateur is the cost of equipment. After bridging the gap from Technician to General, young hams start to plan their HF station and are shocked to see that nearly all equipment -- even used equipment -- is out of their budget. Many clubs also allow hams to operate club-owned equipment, much like W0EEE. But at W0EEE, we’re taking this a step further. To directly fight the cost of equipment, we’re starting a program to loan out radio equipment to young hams who want to get on the air, but are out of reach of local clubs and can’t afford equipment. The project is in preliminary stages but stay tuned to our website to keep updated so you can be a part of the program!
Step Three: Getting and Installing an HF Beam
In 2007, W0EEE lost its Force 12 C4 HF beam antenna from an ice storm, and ever since, we’ve been managing the airwaves with a trapped dipole and an antenna matcher. The results have been all right with the antenna, but we’re looking to have a competitive contest station. The first step in that project is to acquire a new antenna. Currently, we have a Cushcraft A3S on loan from the St Louis Suburban Radio Club. We met about it, and before we put that up, we wanted to ponder a permanent solution. Currently, we are looking at funding a SteppIR for the club. To fund this project, we’re looking toward Missouri S&T Student Life to grant us the money. We have good prospects, since the addition will benefit the radio club in the long term, as well as be a beacon to our alumni. You can work stations with nearly any antenna, but beams are almost a necessity for scoring big in contests, as well as to tune out noise, which is what we hope to do.
Step Four: Recruit Up!
This semester, many of the student organizations on campus hold events and participate in freshman orientation days to recruit possible new members, and W0EEE is no exception. But over the last few semesters, we’ve recruited only a very few freshman, and rather got our numbers from current students who began to notice the Amateur Radio club as we brought it back to life. We hope to grab the interests of a youth population that is primed for curiosity, which is just what we need for the club.
These four “steps” are the bigger goals of W0EEE this semester, but we’ve got a lot more planned. We’re going to participate in many more contests and on-the-air events, as well as celebrate our 80th anniversary with an on-the-air special event station, with 8×10 QSL certificates going to those who make contact. We’re also planning on working with several public service events, such as bike races and motor rallies.
With so much on the W0EEE board -- as well as a full load of classes -- it will be interesting to see how much we can accomplish. After this semester, it’s smooth sailing to the finish for me, with an average course load of 15 credit hours. I’m already planning to attend some local hamfests before classes get dodgy. This weekend is Winterfest in St Louis, Missouri, which is a very large hamfest full of vendors, forums and a flea market -- I’ll be looking for cheap radios to give our first station away in our loanership program. One of these days I hope to speak at hamfests nationwide, especially at Dayton.
Next month, a new thing I'm unraveling is letting you -- the readers -- become a part of this column. Over the next few months, I will be interviewing and soliciting stories of young hams, so if you want to be a part, let me know! Drop me an e-mail and we’ll work something out. This will be open to all hams, young and old, as long as your story is about how you got into Amateur Radio or something you accomplished as a young ham for the hobby.
--Sterling Coffey, N0SSC
Sterling Coffey, N0SSC, is a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla. Interested in wireless communications from a young age, he welcomes e-mail from readers.