Youth@HamRadio.Fun: W0EEE Kicks off Youth Month on TWiT’s Ham Nation
By Sterling Coffey, N0SSC
ARRL Youth Editor
A few months ago, Bob Heil, K9EID, founder of Heil Sound, Ltd, and Gordon “Gordo” West, WB6NOA, and others teamed up with This Week in Tech (TWiT) to bring us Ham Nation, a fantastic podcast designed for hams of all skills, ages and niches that is all about ham radio. It helped bring TWiT’s creator and host Leo Laporte --who is now W6TWT -- to the world of ham radio, a hobby which he and several others have embraced through the creation of the netcast.
Laporte often co-hosts the show, which has already had 25 episodes! Some of the episodes have featured Laporte getting licensed, building antennas, and operating the TwiT's ham radio station out of Petaluma, California. Other episodes have focused on topics such as antennas, propagation, famous hams (both in the ham world and popular culture), circuit construction and soldering, hamfesting, and all this month, youth!
To kick off the Youth Month on Ham Nation, Bob contacted W0EEE members at Missouri S&T to interview us live on the show. We enthusiastically agreed, and we all had a great time meeting the famous hams and getting our name out to the world. Lately, the interest in the club from hams across the nation has skyrocketed, for W0EEE was formerly one of the best known call signs to skip across the ionosphere. I equate the hoopla over its reactivation to the reactivation of a rare DX entity...almost.
Last year, we got a lot of help from generous hams to rebuild the club shack -- a Yaesu FT-1000MP and a Yaesu FT-897, a three-element HF beam and a box full of speakers and other gear -- from hams around the area who graciously donated to the club. After being featured on Ham Nation, we’ve gotten an overwhelming amount of e-mail from hams simply saying “great job,” and others saying, “Here, have some stuff!” ICOM America even took interest with W0EEE, and sent us a complete UHF digital voice D-STAR repeater system to fill in the digital emptiness in Southeastern Missouri. To all the generous hams that have given equipment, W0EEE thanks you.
Hide & Seek Foxhunt
Over the past few weeks, the Missouri S&T Amateur Radio club teamed up with the campus’ student branch of the IEEE to bring the campus a new event: a fox hunt for all. We called it Hide & Seek. Hide & Seek was simple -- using a receiver, walk around campus until you can hear a beacon, and using that signal, home in on it until you find the beacon. It was much like an improved version of Easter egg hunting, where the Easter eggs were actually very weak radio transmitters. For the contestants, the game was simple -- find a bunch of beacons, turn them in for points and bid on prizes like video games, NERF guns and candy.
For me, it was not so easy, for I had to design and help make all the equipment for the event. In total, we made 47 transmitters and 20 receivers. The transmitters consisted of a 555 timer that turned a 5 V 3.6 MHz oscillator on and off every second. Paired with a 6 foot wire, it had a maximum range of 10-20 feet. This was a simple circuit that we used at the 2011 Dayton Hamvention. The receivers were a completely different story that presented a novel design problem: make a receiver that's under $5, uses very few parts and works. I found a schematic that the Worcester Polytechnic Institute designed for a similar event, and sent the parts list to the IEEE to review and purchase. They designed the PCBs and bought all the components.
We recruited many electrical engineering majors the next week to build 50 beacons and receivers each. The transmitters were easy to build, with few completely trashed boards (the rusty irons weren’t the best tools for soldering). The receivers had a few more parts -- and a few more problems. Some people installed the chips backwards, put components in the wrong place and burned out a few parts. I am guilty of a few problems myself. In the end, we had about 30 receivers that were put together correctly and nicely done, but upon testing, only 20 of them worked! We worked throughout the night before the event was to take place to find a solution, but our efforts showed that the mixer was just not doing its job at times. We were going crazy at first, because 30 people made their RSVP, and we only had 20 working receivers. That morning, we hid 45 of the transmitters throughout campus and reserved a few to be placed on moving targets. Luckily, only 19 people showed up that morning. It was quite a relief. Everybody had a lot of fun searching, and everyone left with a prize.
So now it’s your turn. Everyone, especially kids and young adults, loves fox hunts, for it requires only a little knowledge and minimal equipment, and it can be a competitive experience. Schematics, pictures and notes will be on our website in the near future, but in the meantime, e-mail me with any questions and I will be happy to help.
Thanks for reading, and have a great Youth Month!
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