I recently learned of the Sci-Tech Discovery Center in Frisco, Texas USA. This fine facility is dedicated to helping young people to learn about Science and Technology and to hopefully encourage them to pursue Science and Technology learning and vocations. A group of local HAMs in Texas has teamed up with Sci-Tech to install and operate a very nice Amateur Radio Station at Sci-Tech. I recently met with Barry Goldblatt, WA5KXX to tour the station at Sci-Tech and to learn more about what Barry and his team are doing with the Boy Scouts and other youth groups to promote Amateur Radio among young people in the Dallas, Texas area. The following is Barry’s description of his work and progress at Sci-Tech. I think that you will find his article interesting and enjoyable. The Sci-Tech HAM team is currently working to raise funds to create a more private area for young operators to discover Amateur Radio at Sci-Tech and to further expand the station’s capabilities. A link to a website where you can make a donation to help with this expansion is included at the end of the article (I suggest that you note in the comments that the donation is being made to benefit the Amateur Radio Station if that is your desire). I believe that the work at Sci-Tech truly represents the Amateur Radio community at its best.
– Fred (AB1OC)
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The McKinney Amateur Radio Club (MARC) and the Plano Amateur Radio Klub (PARK) teamed up over the past six months to install an HF-UHF station at the Sci-Tech Discovery Center in Frisco, TX. Sci-Tech is a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning center for elementary and middle-school age students. The facility has hosted over 100,000 visitors in the past 12 months and provided outreach experiences for additional 165,000 students in Collin County schools. The teams completed the project on September 15, just in time for the station to be in operation for the Boy Scout Jamboree-on-the-Air (JOTA) on October 20-21.
The project began with a donation by David and Diana Brandenburg of the Brandenburg Life Foundation in February 2012. David, K5RA, has provided funding for amateur radio stations in schools and museums throughout the country including the Heard Museum in McKinney, Haggard Middle School in Plano and the Saint Paul School in Richardson. Additional funding for a WeatherBug commercial-grade weather station was provided by the Goldblatt Family Trust. The installation at Sci-Tech provides up-to-the-minute reporting of weather conditions on the Internet and is used by WFAA Channel 8, an ABC affiliate, as well as other news organizations that monitor weather in the north Texas area.
The clubs went to work immediately on the antenna installation and station design. That was not an easy task. The Sci-Tech Discovery Center is located in a commercial tilt-wall structure with 50 foot walls. PARK President, Kip Moravec, AE5IB, designed an antenna mount that would clamp to the perimeter wall and allow the Rohn tower section to pivot down for easy servicing of the antennas, the rotor and the weather station components. The mount was constructed using quarter-inch steel angle stock and weighed over 400 pounds. It took one full day to cut the steel and drill the necessary holes so the structure could be assembled and then powder-coated to protect it from rust and match the color of the building.
Once the antenna mount was complete, MARC President Walter Lemons, AE5IT SK, President of the McKinney club, along with Rusty Delaney, K5FEA, and other members of the team loaded it onto a flatbed trailer for transport. The team hauled the mount to the roof of the building and began the installation. It took two sessions the use of a 50 foot lift to position and secure the mount in place. The team then installed the Rohn tower sections and added a Force 12 C3SS 10, 15, 20 meter beam, a VHF-UHF vertical and the weather station components.
During these two sessions other members of the team began drilling a three-inch hole in the building wall for the cable entry. Again, this was not an easy task, since the walls are eight-inch thick concrete. The cabling run from the tower to the station measured 175 feet. Cabling included coax runs of LMR 400 for the HF-6 frequencies and LMR 600 for the VHF-UHF frequencies plus wire for the Yaesu antenna rotator, WeatherBug weather station and two runs of CAT-5 Ethernet cable. The CAT-5 cables are reserved for a future installation of HSMM equipment.
A second team that included Tony Campbell, W5ADC, completed the cabling and connected the radios for their first QSO on September 15. Rusty Delany, K5FEA, made the first VHF contact. Dan Howard, KE5CIR, and Michael Porter, KF5LDJ, from the Lake Area Amateur Radio Klub (LAARK) made the first HF contact with N1LS in Colorado on September 29 in preparation for the upcoming JOTA event.
This installation was extremely complicated and arduous because of the building structure and the fact that the teams were working during a hot Texas summer. The Brandenburg Life Foundation, the Goldblatt Family Trust and the Sci-Tech Discovery Center are extremely grateful to club presidents, Walter Lemons, AE5IT SK, and Kip Moravec, AE5IB, and the members of the McKinney and Plano radio clubs for their expertise and hard work. This installation would not have been possible without their help.
In July, 2013 Sci-Tech was provided with a much-needed expansion by the City of Frisco Community Development Commission (CDC) at their June 2013 meeting. The 3,800 square foot expansion will provide for more classroom and exhibit space. The expansion provides enough room so that the amateur radio station equipment can be moved to a permanent location. The new 60 square foot “shack” will feature sound-proofed walls and a glass door and viewing window. The enclosed space will allow Sci-Tech to expand its amateur radio programs and sets the stage for a special event station day later in 2013 or early 2014. There are plans to add more functionality to the installation including HSMM capability.
Sci-Tech currently opens the station to the public one day per month. Planning is underway to develop a radio exploration camp for young visitors during the summer of 2014. Ideas for other events include an all-night DX party and a Boy Scout One-Night Radio Merit Badge session modeled after the successful One-Day Merit Badge program that was pioneered at Ham-Com in Plano, TX.
More information is available about Sci-Tech by clicking here. Sci-Tech is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Frisco, TX that delivers innovative educational experiences for all ages in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Donations can be made via http://www.mindstretchingfun.org/support-sci-tech/donor-opportunities.html.
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Author: Barry A. Goldblatt, WA5KXX