Youth@HamRadio.Fun: October is for the Kids -- School Club Roundup, JOTA, Contests and Giveaways
By Sterling Coffey, N0SSC
ARRL Youth Editor
Today was an interesting milestone in the progress of the year. Almost every fall after a biting cold front the air heats up again and Japanese beetles -- commonly mistaken as ladybugs -- take refuge on sunlit surface, resting after a long migratory flight. They fly around looking for places to hide before the winter freeze sets in.
RF and ladybugs have a few things in common: During their migration, that end up in places they would have never expected, and, like how RF gets into circuitry where it wouldn’t normally be expected, these pretty red beetles end up inside, crawling through various gaps and holes they find by chance. In my first few experiments with radio, I found that many electronics throughout the house obeyed their Part 15 requirements with flying colors. Devices would both transmit noise and receive it, from which I discovered the principles of RF interference (RFI), an important aspect of Amateur Radio. RF tends to do funny things when it gets inside digital and logical circuits. AND becomes OR, NOT stops NOT-ing, optical drive disk bays fly open, speakers buzz wildly-- or things just stop working.
One of my favorite problems I experienced from nosy RF was while transmitting a RTTY signal into a dummy load. The computer began to type by itself. I couldn’t move the mouse either, so if left alone, the computer would have continued to have conversation of random characters! Luckily, the transmitter had a manual override so that I could turn it off.
Enough about RF -- I get plenty of this mind-melting studies in my electrical engineering classes. Last week I took some time off to play radio, specifically, School Club Roundup.
The School Club Roundup is a weeklong on-the-air event whose objective is to get as much elementary, middle, high schools and colleges on the air. These students exchange contacts with each other, but also between schools and clubs, all to garner youth interest in the hobby and promote electronics and radio education in the classroom environment. This year, I have contacted other colleges using online resources, such as the College ARC to promote SCR and other Amateur Radio events of interest to college clubs. The work paid off, with reports of several colleges getting on the air for the first time in ages.
SCR is much like any other contest. The exchange is simple -- a call sign and an RST signal report, your state (or province) or country and your class: S for school, C for club and I for individual, as well as any other remarks that you’d like to make. It’s different from normal contests in that it’s a whole week long and that there is absolutely no pressure or stress, although at W0EEE, the pileup can get fun at times.
A computer logging program is the best way to keep track of contacts, and several are out there for you to use, all with their pros and cons, bells and whistles. I have used SCR-LOG in the past, but this year I’m going to give Log It! Logger a try on a Linux machine. For all cases, ease of use is stressed for newcomers, so the learning curve is minimal -- just type the call sign, state, signal report and class and the program does the rest.
The Missouri S&T Amateur Radio Club (W0EEE) had their fair share of SCR activities. Although there wasn’t much involvement from other members due to a week full of tests (somehow I escaped the horror), I raked in many contacts on Tuesday and Thursday, scoring close to 20,000 points. I also was surprised to find a few S&T alumni that were thrilled to hear that ‘Triple E’ was back on the air.
Jamboree on the Air
Last week was one of ham radio’s other biggest events. Jamboree on the Air. JOTA is an event for Scouts to get radio experience. Each year, radio amateurs around the world loan their stations to more than 700,000 scouts. If you’re a Boy Scout interested in getting on the air, contact your Scoutmaster for more information. If you’re a Scoutmaster who is interested in getting your troop on the air, let the ARRL know and they can put you in contact with a local radio club.
CQWW SSB and the ARRL November Sweepstakes
One of my favorite contests is coming up very soon on the contest calendar -- the first one I ever participated in as a new ham: the ARRL November Sweepstakes. Currently, W0EEE is rousing up interest on the web for the Collegiate Competition, which pits college radio clubs against each other during this contest.
Before Sweeps, the popular CQWW SSB contest takes place on the last weekend of October. This contest (and its CW counterpart) is the easiest way to rake in DX. I know several hams who have worked 100 countries for their DXCC certificate in a single night! That takes a lot of skill and determination.
Unfortunately, I won’t be activating W0EEE for CQWW, as I will be helping run radios for a motor rally; however, we will be operating in both the CW and SSB running of the ARRL November Sweepstakes, taking place on the first (CW) and third (SSB) weekends of November. Learning CW still remains a challenge, but the dits and dashes are beginning to make more sense to me. The only modulation I can handle is voice or soundcard modes. I hope that the contest will kick my CW learning into high gear. CW contesting is a great way to practice the code, and farm DX stations while you’re at it!
Ham Radio Webcasts and Giveaways
The web is full of great resources on starting your own station, such as figuring out which radio is best for you, what kind of antenna you need, all the accessories you could ever want, how much it would cost and other variables. A good way to stay informed of potential giveaways is to watch or listen to Amateur Radio webcasts like the new Youth in Amateur Radio Podcast, Ham Nation, HamRadioNow, the Practical Amateur Radio Podcast and AmateurLogic.TV. Watching webcasts like these is a great way to learn about Amateur Radio and keep updated on news and potential giveaways. Plus, you might get to see me on one of those podcasts!
W0EEE is proud to announce that our D-STAR system is fully online. Last February, ICOM donated a 70 cm digital voice repeater to the club, and we poked around at setting it up. It was a learning experience to say the least. The next step is getting our local hams active on the new digital mode. Luckily, we have a few “seeds” with D-STAR-capable radios, and interest is certainly accruing. The photos below are from one of our “roof days,” where we climb 12 stories high to fix our repeaters -- and take in the best view of Rolla, Missouri. Feel free to link up to the W0EEE-B D-STAR repeater. I’ll be joining the digital airwaves shortly.
Thanks for reading!
--Sterling Coffey, N0SSC
Sterling Coffey, N0SSC, is a junior 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.