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Next amateur radio license class, Saturday, May 3, 2014

The next One-Day Tech Class will be held on Saturday, May 3, 2014 from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, 221 E. Ann St., Ann Arbor, MI. Immediately after the class, the Technician Class license exam will be administered.

Pre-registration is required, and there is a $10 fee to take the class, but the fee will be waived for anyone under the age of 18. We often fill the class and have to put people on the waiting list. So, if you would like to take this class, send a check or money order to reserve your spot to:

Dan Romanchik, KB6NU
1325 Orkney Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48103.

You can also pay by sending money via PayPal to cwgeek@kb6nu.com.

Prospective students should download the study guide IMMEDIATELY. Read through it a couple of times and take some online practice tests (URLs for practice test websites can be found in the study guide) before coming to class. Studying beforehand greatly increase the chances that you’ll pass the test.

If you have any questions, please e-mail Dan, KB6NU or phone him at 734-930-6564.

A strange way to make a local contact

Our new-to-us 756 PROIII is working great. SSB DX was booming in yesterday afternoon, with clear signals from South Africa and Australia. I couldn’t work them though. I kept getting beat out by bigger stations!

In a strange-way-to-make a local contact, I was introduced to Jan, K1ND by VE7BH in British Columbia! The VE7 was 10 over 9 and Jan, who lives just down the road in Ypsilanti, was only S9. We chatted for nearly an hour as I tried to get him to come to the Museum to see the station.

While all that was happening, a fellow from Toledo stopped by the station and said that he’s been dreaming about becoming a ham for years. I told him that we could get him licensed in a day and gave him our brochure detailing how to get into ham radio.

Another General class in January

If there’s enough interest, I will be teaching a General Class course either at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, or, if we get a bunch of U-M students, somewhere on the U-M campus on Thursday evenings. If we hold the class at the museum, class will start at 6:30pm and run until 8:00 pm, when the museum closes. If the class is held on the U-M campus, we may start at 7:00 pm instead, as there’s no pressure to finish by 8 o’clock.

We will use my No-Nonsense General Class License Study Guide and cover the topics in exactly the same order as the study guide covers them:

Week 1: G5 – Electrical Principles
Week 2: G6 – Circuit Components
Week 3: G7 – Practical Circuits
Week 4: G8 – Signals and emissions
Week 5: G9 – Antennas and Feedlines
Week 6: G3 – Radio Wave Propagation
Week 7: G4 – Amateur Radio Practices
Week 8: G2 – Operating Procedures
Week 9: G1 – Commission Rules and G0 – Electrical and RF Safety

If you’re interested in taking the class, e-mail me at cwgeek@kb6nu.com, and I’ll put you on the mailing list to get the details when we firm them up.

New rig lives up to expectations

I had a terrific radio session Saturday morning. Though band conditions were unsettled, and noise was high on 20m, I was able to adjust our new (to us) IC-756PROIII’s noise reduction (NR) circuit to turn marginal signals into a quality contacts. The audio from the transceiver is outstanding. It’s clear even in a large, noisy room.

The sound of the new radio attracted visitors to the shack at regular intervals. Two hams and two mothers wandered by, one with a cute first grader who has the distinction of being the first kid operator on our new transceiver. Denis, my friend in New Mexico, was the radio docent.

The second mom, who lives in farm country in Santa Clara Valley CA and has been trying to decide whether to home-school her child, had an extended conversation with Denis on the topic. Denis, it turns out, is an excellent resource, having home-schooled two boys, one of whom went to Oxford University to get a Ph.D. in mathematics! The mom, who is visiting her husband’s family in Dexter, was delighted to find unexpected help on an issue she has been struggling with on a visit to the Hands On Museum.

General Class course to start May 23

Dan, KB6NU, teaching

Dan, KB6NU, teaching at a recent one-day Tech class at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.

Starting May 23, I will be teaching a General Class course at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. We will be using my No-Nonsense General Class License Study Guide and covering the topics in exactly the same order as the study guide covers them:

  • May 23: G5 – Electrical Principles
  • May 30: G6 – Circuit Components
  • June 6:  G7 – Practical Circuits
  • June 13: G8 – Signals and emissions
  • June 20: G9 – Antennas and Feedlines
  • June 27: G3 – Radio Wave Propagation
  • July 11: G4 – Amateur Radio Practices
  • July 18: G2 – Operating Procedures
  • July 25: G1 – Commission Rules and G0 – Electrical and RF Safety

The classes will start at 6:30pm and run until 8:00pm, when the museum closes. There is no charge for the  class. If you do plan on attending, please e-mail me, so that I can arrange to have a room big enough for the group.

73, Dan KB6NU

WA2HOM Operating Report: Toad Suck, counties, Polish DX

I had a blast down at WA2HOM today.

One of my first contacts was with W5STR, the club station for the Small Town Amateur Radio Service (STARS), a club in Arkansas. The club was operating from a campground in Toad Suck, AK. Yes, you read that right–the place they were operating from is named Toad Suck, a place that a recent poll says has the “most unfortunate name” in the U.S.

As you may know, I’m a sucker (pun intended) for odd place names. That being the case, I had to find out how Toad Suck got its name. According to their website:

Long ago, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River when the water was at the right depth. When it wasn’t, the captains and their crew tied up to wait where the Toad Suck Lock and Dam now spans the river. While they waited, they refreshed themselves at the local tavern there, to the dismay of the folks living nearby, who said: “They suck on the bottle ’til they swell up like toads.” Hence, the name Toad Suck. The tavern is long gone, but the legend lives on.

I love it.

Heikki, OG3077F, has contacted stations in all 3,077 counties in the U.S.

Heikki, OG3077F, has contacted stations in all 3,077 counties in the U.S.

Next, I worked Heikki, OG3077F. On his QSL card, found on QRZ.Com and shown above, Heikki says, “I applied for this special callsign to commemorate my contacts with all 3,077 U.S. counties, all on CW, which took me 24 years to complete. I started chasing U.S. counties in 1987, which I met Bud, W0UBT, in Minnesota. He gave me the USA County Record Book, as a gift, and upon my return to Finland, I started to fill it up. Many thanks to all of my local and international county hunter riends for all of your support throughout all of these years.”

Finally, I worked 20 stations in the Polish DX contest. One of the stations I worked was SP9ATE, whose QSL card will be a nice addition to my collection of QSLs from stations whose callsigns spell words. I almost worked SP9GEM, but after many attempts to get him to copy my callsign, he gave up and went on to the next QSO.

Next Amateur Radio Class, Saturday, April 27, 2013

The next One-Day Tech Class will be held on Saturday, April 27, 2013 from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, 220 E. Ann St. Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Immediately after the class, the Technician Class license exam will be administered.

Pre-registration is required, and there is a $10 fee to take the class, but the fee will be waived for anyone under the age of 18. We often fill the class and have to put people on the waiting list. So, if you would like to take this class, send a check or money order to reserve your spot to:

Dan Romanchik, KB6NU
1325 Orkney Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48103.

You can also pay by sending money via PayPal to cwgeek@kb6nu.com.

Prospective students should download the study guide IMMEDIATELY. Read through it a couple of times and take some online practice tests (URLs for practice test websites can be found in the study guide) before coming to class. Studying beforehand greatly increase the chances that you’ll pass the test.

If you have any questions, please e-mail Dan, KB6NU or phone him at 734-930-6564.

W8P spreads the word about End Polio Now campaign

Rotary InternationalOn Saturday and Sunday, February 23-24, 2013, Ann Arbor, MI, USA amateur radio operators gathered at WA2HOM, the amateur radio station at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. They were there to operate special event station W8P to commemorate the founding of the Rotary Club on February 23, 1905 and spread the word about Rotary International’s End Polio Now Campaign.

Operating the station on Saturday were:

  • Dan, KB6NU
  • Jack, N8PMG
  • Jameson, KD8PIJ
  • Dinesh, AB3DC
  • Mark, W8MP

Since the museum is only open from 1500Z – 2200Z, we were only able to operate for seven hours on Saturday. We spent all of our time on 20m phone, with our beam pointed southwest, concentrating on working mostly U.S. stations. We had originally intended to operate on 14.287 MHz, but quickly had to change frequencies, as that portion of the band was occupied by participants in the Mississippi QSO party. Before moving, though, we were able to contact Pertti, EA7GSU, who was operating the event in Spain.

We finally ended up on 14.227 MHz and made a total of 110 contacts on Saturday. This included 29 states and four DX contacts.

On Sunday, we only operated for a couple of hours and made another 27 contacts. While we made fewer contacts on Sunday, the contacts that we did make were more poignant than the ones on Saturday.

My first contact on Sunday was with a gentleman who was spending the winter in Florida, but whose hometown was Standish, Michigan. He told me that his mother had polio, and in the late 1930s and early 1940s, they would put her on a bus for Ann Arbor, where she would receive treatments. While there’s no way to be sure, I think that this ham’s mother was taking part in some of the research leading to the Salk vaccine in 1955. That research took place right here at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

I also talked to hams that had direct experience with polio. One was a polio survivor himself. Another’s wife was a polio survivor. A third was a physician who had been to Africa and had treated polio victims there.

It was a real treat to combine two activities that I enjoy so much–amateur radio and Rotary–and it felt good to know that in some small way I was furthering the work of the End Polio Now campaign. I hope that next year we will once again operate this special event and get even more Rotarians and amateur radio operators to participate.

Making WA2HOM Less Noisy

Received noise has alway been a bugaboo at WA2HOM. So, after the successful repair to the beam last week, I took it upon myself to reduce noise input to the receiver. We took a big step in the right direction with the purchase and installation of a bhi DSPKR, an amplified digital-signal-processing speaker. Even weak signals are clear now.

Today, Dan and I installed toroids in different places at the Omni VII and I’m pleased to report that putting a clamp-on unit on the coax cable as it enters the receiver reduced the noise level from S6 to S5. That may not seem like a lot until you consider that the forward gain of our three-element beam is 6 dB, which is the equivalent of an S-unit, a fourfold signal gain.

I’m searching around for more ideas to lower the noise even more. Stay tuned!

Ovide K8EV