Field Day 2022

Success!

Filed Day is an event hosted by the ARRL which has a purpose of bringing amateur radio operators together around the world and test their equipment. “Field Day” reminds me of dragging equipment out into the “field” and seeing what works and what doesn’t. The experimentation piece of radio that I really love!

Jim Wells observing operations while my son, Isaiah, sits behind the TV waiting for the action to begin.

In years past, I have erected and dreamed up some crazy ideas for antenna deployment. Probably my most proud was using a portable clothes line upside down as a tripod and an old power washer tube as a mast. Worked great! This year was a bit more traditional with just an end-fed halfwave antenna strung up in a tree. I did bring my “Go Kit” which includes my FT-891 for HF and Kenwood TM-281 for VHF.

I’m a builder and a tinkerer so getting in the field and seeing what I can make work with what I have gets me excited. Though my antenna deployments were rather tame, we did have an opportunity to bridge our computers together for a combined log using N3FJP’s Field Day logging software. This would have worked without a hitch had my iPhone been able to act more like a router rather than just a hotspot. Enter an old D-Link router the Farmland Conservation Club had identified as belonging to the radio club. Only problem: no power cord! KD9MAB and myself were able to tear her apart, rip the barrel plug (gently) from the board, solder power cables on, crimp on Anderson PowerPoles, and connect to our existing 12 volt system. Voila! We have wifi!

We used the popular logging software from N3FJP which also displays a map of our contacts.

Overall we were able to make some great contacts. 40 meters was our primary operating band however 15 was very useful in digi for getting across the Rockies. I was able to even make one contact to Santa Barbara using 10 meters!

KD9LEY (left) and KD9BGS (right) burning the midnight oil

Our operations began at 2:00 PM EDT on Saturday and ran through 2:00 PM EDT Sunday. At the beginning, we overlapped with the 4H Shooting Sports Extravaganza which brought many youth over to see what we were doing. I’m hoping more than one got the “bug” for radio and will want their mom/dad to bring them to the Hamfest next month to get their license!

As the hours dragged on, our crowd grew fewer and fewer. Eventually, even KD9LEY and myself went to our respective vehicles for a well-needed nap only to awake hours later to the approaching thunderclouds. Some quick action to cover equipment kept everything dry and we were back to operations a little after sunrise. Unsurprisingly, the activity on the bands seemed to follow our “awake” and “asleep” modes (hihi).

CQ FD received on my iPhone on 14.230 MHz

I’m looking forward to the next event which will likely be Winter Field Day. I’m not sure if I’ll be inspired to build something new or go with tried and true. Hopefully just something different!

Hamvention 2022 (2020)

Until a few years ago, I had no idea that things like a “hamfest” existed. My first was our club’s first hamfest, the ECI Hamfest, in 2019. I really wasn’t sure what to expect but it got me hooked once I started seeing the fellowship of the “old man”, swap meets indoors and out, testing for new licenses and upgrades, and, of course, the food. Ever since that first hamfest, I had the bug and wanted to visit as many as I practically could. I had heard of the “big one”, or Mecca for Ham Radio, called “Hamvention” and it was in Dayton which was only an hour-ish away. So I bought a ticket to go!

Then, COVID hit. Not to downplay the impact it had on people’s lives, but any and all hamfests seemed to be put on indefinite hold. As the months drew nearer to Hamvention, it was obvious that this, too, would be canceled. Then the next hamfest was canceled followed by another. ECI Hamfest was determined to go on and with the sign-off from our Board of Health we had a plan to make it as safe as possible.

Enter 2021. Things are looking better around the world however not quite to the point where I was sure Hamvention, and all other hamfests, would be able to continue. The committee was at least kind enough to offer to forward any tickets purchased from 2020 to 2021 assuming they would have the event which, spoiler, they did not. Many other hamfests also decided not to continue in 2021 however some did.

2022 promised many better things. We had more people getting vaccinated, deaths were on the decline, serious hospitalizations were on the decline. From many perspectives, COVID was on its way to becoming less of a big deal. And Hamvention was promised to be on. If not, it was promised to never come back. What a shock!

The Rules

I’ve learned a few things early on with any hamfest:

  1. Get there as early as possible on the first day. All the good deals will be had in the first hour of the hamfest and that radio you’ve been looking for is guaranteed to go quick.
  2. Go to the outdoor vendors first. The indoor vendors either brought enough product that they’ll be there a while or they are banking on selling larger ticket items to cover the cost of the table. Your deals are outdoors where the tables are cheap.
  3. Talk. If nothing else, you’ll have a good conversation about things you’re both likely passionate about. The bonus is that they may have that radio or power supply or other gear that you want and would be willing to take lower than asking price.
  4. Eat. I don’t know what else to say about this one. Surely there is some good cuisine you’d enjoy.
  5. If you can, stay until the bitter end. If you thought the first hour deals were good, wait until the last hour. Many hams bring things to sell that they really REALLY don’t want to take back home. Chances are that you’ll find many hams offering what they have left at ridiculous price drops or even free of charge. It may be junk and it may not be, but you decide if it has a special place in your home and snag it at the best price available.

The Fear of Missing Out

That being said, Hamvention was like no other hamfest I had ever attended. The outside vendors occupied what seemed like 40 square miles. Row after row of tables and vans just overflowing with equipment. As a ham told me, “if you can’t find it at Dayton, it doesn’t exist.” I was in search of a Kenwood TH-FH6a, a nice handheld tri-bander that also receives HF SSB. And it existed! Only one table in all the lands (that I could search in the first few hours) and he had it available at an excellent price. Only problem was that it was missing the charger because he left it at home. For reasons still unknown to me, I passed on the deal. Maybe I was overwhelmed with shock from actually being at Hamvention or maybe I was hoping to find another. Either way, I missed out on that one as it was gone the next time I swung around. Oh well.

Forums

Some hamfests have forums or presentations on a topic around ham radio. I really think these set a hamfest apart from a swap meet. Hamvention was not in short supply of those either. With 3 forum halls (plus an informal space in one of the expo halls), there was a full schedule for all 3 days. I was especially interested in the ARISS-USA, AMSAT, Fast Track on Propagation, and POTA forums.

ARISS is always fascinating. Not only do they put amateur radios on the International Space Station for APRS or SSTV, but they actually work with astronauts to talk with school kids using ground stations! AMSAT is a major part of that however I missed out on this forum. Too many things to do! Michael Burnette’s Fast Track series is a great way to learn and get your license. His talk on propagation and how the Fresnel Zone affects your signal was one of the more fun ways to learn. I tried getting in to the POTA forum however it was completely full at 10 minutes prior to the talk. Maybe next year!

What’s Next?

I plan on being more active in local hamfests for sure. I already volunteer for parking assistance, security, VE testing, cleanup, etc. I want to add more to our local hamfest and will be looking for what draws others to the event. I like parts of it and other people may like other parts. If you have an idea of something that is missing in your local hamfests, let me know! I want to make them more fun and draw more crowds. Maybe I will see you at the next one!

In the beginning…

I can remember how it all started. Kind of. Quite a few hams I know got started in the hobby through the Citizen’s Band (CB) radio. It’s fairly easy to setup in your vehicle or as a base at home and talk to others locally or, when band conditions allow, around the world. I, too, had a small foray in the CB world having had a small portable radio with a magmount on my Chevy S-10 truck. I had it for about all of 2 weeks thinking I could talk to truckers on I-70 and give them a good “breaker breaker good buddy” however I never heard a peep. Maybe I just wasn’t doing something right I’ll never know but that was when I was 16 and I hadn’t touched radio for another 17 years.

Preppers

Fast forward to 2017 and I’m talking with a friend, Brent KD9EYI, who had been talking about some prepping he had been doing including getting his radio license. You could say that I am interested in prepping though perhaps it’s more about survival. My boys are in Boy Scouts and I enjoy being with them on campouts and practicing basic (and very basic) skills. I happened to think about what may happen if we were out camping and something were to happen. What if my cell phone was dead or out of range? Maybe I could call for help using a radio!

Yeah, I know. Not likely to happen in the midwest where my struggle for cell coverage happens to only be around the Indiana/Ohio border and even then it’s not that bad. Still, the idea that there was a “certification” and knowledge gained intrigued me as well as the idea that I could have the license “just in case” seemed like a good idea. Brent let me know about a class coming up with the Muncie club teaching for the Technician’s license and I signed up.

The Teaching

Gary KD9ZUV and Rob KB7ZGB were the instructors and I learned in that class that there is a whole lot more to radio than just talking into a microphone. I learned that people had figured out how to send images and even television across radio long before the internet. That there were folks not just listening to transmissions from the International Space Station but with this basic license I could even speak to them! Of course I didn’t know how to do those things and the Technician license exam is not going to teach how to do those things but what Gary and Rob did for me was to open my eyes to the world of ham radio and just how exciting it really could be.

After a few weeks of class and some butterflies during the exam, I passed with flying colors. What seemed like an eternity, but was only about a week, my license finally showed up in the FCC database. I was now known as KD9LVX and allowed to “dispense hot air”! I ordered my first radio from Amazon, a Baofeng UV-5R which I later learned was pretty ubiquitous for new hams. Next: mic fright.

SSTV really caught my eye for some reason. I was intrigued enough to try learning more about it and even found an app on my iPhone that could encode/decode the multi-tonal sounds into an image. Cool! Now I just needed to find someone to send me some pictures. Luckily the ISS had announced that they would soon be broadcasting SSTV as an event celebrating… something. Either way I had a window to now mix tracking of a satellite and receive some pictures. Yay!

Spacemen sent me pictures

I recall it was a chilly morning on the first pass. And a bit rainy but not too bad. I had no idea about satellite work and using a Yagi antenna along with either dual VFO’s or dual radios for the U/V repeater functions but all I wanted to do was to hear what they were saying. That first pass I heard a lot of static and a bit of squarbled sounds. It was over before I knew what was wrong but some after some thought I concluded what was wrong was that I wasn’t pointing my rubber duck antenna at the ISS. I was close in my conclusions but later in my learnings I would find out just how close.

The next pass was the next day. Still chilly and still slightly wet but I was determined to make Day 2 even better. I’m standing in the backyard holding the radio in one hand, my phone in the other. Using an app I found to track satellites I found the ISS in the sky and pointed my antenna towards it. Then I switched over to the app for SSTV and waited. Nothing heard the first few seconds I was sure that I did something wrong. Just as I was about to change hands I started hearing the SSTV signal. It wasn’t the clearest nor the strongest however it was just enough to get a fuzzy picture on my phone of some comrade cosmonauts. (ISS is International after all)

I later improved on future passes to use a Yagi tape measure antenna (super simple and cheap to build) and decided to record the tones instead of live decoding. I could then use an app on my computer for better processing. An upgraded radio to the Yaesu FT-3DR helped tremendously as well with a better receiver and built-in recording. Now I’ve got more handheld radios (too many Baofengs to count) than I know what to do with. I’m sure that will make its way into a future post though for now I’d close with this: Whatever your reason for getting into the hobby, whatever it was that sparked your interest, what you REALLY want to do, just don’t let that stop you or limit you. There is a world of this hobby that even I have yet to discover or try out and every bit of what I’ve done has been exciting. Yes, even the electrical engineering degree you need for Amateur Extra. (Not really, but kinda.)

JOTA 2021

JOTA (Jamboree on the Air) is an opportunity to bring amateur radio to scouting. Each year, typically in October, scouts and scouters get on the air waves to talk about how scouting impacts their lives across the country and the world.

Eli Knasinski (KD9SQQ), Chad White (KD9SYJ), and Isaiah White from Troop 17

Troop 17 participated in JOTA this weekend at our charter organization’s location, Harrisville Congregational Christian Church. Our troop trailer (not pictured) has a PVC pipe mounted to the side with a 30 foot extended flagpole mast reaching to the sky. It’s almost tall enough that it should be supported with guy wires however our dipole antennas seemed to keep it steady in the low wind environment.

For antennas we chose to run with 2 dipoles. Reaching the top of the mast was a dipole cut for the center of the 80 meter band. It is constructed of speaker wire (which works wonderful for measuring twice and cutting once!) and a simple center conductor that also has a 1:1 balun connected to RG58/U coax. Our second dipole is cut for the 40 meter band and was approximately 4-5 feet lower from the top of the pole. It is constructed of green electrical wire (thanks Mike!) with a center conductor connected to RG58/U coax. Both antennas were oriented North-South so we were broadside to the East-West.

Jason Knasinski (KD9BGS and Troop 17 Scoutmaster) with Chad White (KD9SYJ)

Our 80 meter dipole was connected to my MFJ-949D antenna tuner and in turn was connected to my Yaesu FT-891 radio in my go-box. This setup worked great for all of 80 meters and even though orientation was wrong the band was so open that I was hearing stations from Antigua and Santiago with no problem!

Jason was working the 40 meter band with his ICOM IC-7300. That is one awesome radio with a built-in tuner, waterfall display, and voice spectrum analyzer all in one box. Again, we were not oriented for North-South contacts but he was able to work a group of scouts in Toronto that said the temperature was 38

First post

I’ve not built a website since before WordPress was even an idea. I’ve used tools such as Adobe Dreamweaver and straight HTML editing but this is a bit new to me so bear with me as we get going as many things will likely change.

This blog is primarily going to be used to document my exploration into ham radio. I’ve been licensed since October 2017 and currently hold an Amateur Extra license. My oldest son is also licensed currently as a Technician, KD9SYJ. My youngest is trying to get his license and will very soon.

Having already started my journey now 4.5 years in, I’ll likely post a few blogs about how I started and some highlights of what I’ve done. I’m also currently finishing up a Bachelor’s degree in Cloud and System Administration so these next posts may or may not be on any regular cadence.

Have a question or want to send me a note? Feel free to comment here or shoot it in an email to kd9lvx@kd9lvx.com!