We have been working on project to scale our open house activities to provide an opportunity to learn about Amatuer Radio and to showcase some of the modern, “hi-tech” aspects of the Amatuer Radio Service. This project was debuted at the NETT event at NEAR-Fest. We used our Portable Satellite Station, Remote Operating Gateway, and our Mobile HF Stations as part of this activity. There might be some ideas here that you can use to create an exciting operating activity at you local club or Ham Fest.
Our first day in Dayton was spent at Contest University – this was our 5th year in attendance but each year we learn more from the contesting experts. This year, we attended two presentations from Frank Donovan, W3LPL on operating techniques for the declining solar cycle and on 80m and 160m antennas. We also heard a talk from Val NV9L from Ham Nation on Log Analysis tools and another session on SO2R (Single Operator 2 Radio) Operating.
Friday was the first day of the Hamvention and we spent most of the day visiting all of the vendor exhibits. We visited the Icom booth, where we looked at the new Icom 7851. It has an incredible display as well as one of the best receivers on the market.
We also saw the new KX2 Transceiver at the Elecraft booth. It is even smaller than the KX3 and is perfect for SOTA and other portable operations. I would expect to hear some NPOTA activations using this radio.
Friday evening was the Top Band dinner where we learned all about “Top Band Disease” from Larry “Tree” Tyree N6TR. Hams with this disease are nocturnal, love the bottom of the sunspot cycle. They are constantly improving their 160m antennas – when you upgrade your receive antenna, then there are people who can’t hear you, so then you need to improve your transmit antenna – and the cycle continues…
After the dinner, we were treated to a concert from the Spurious Emissions Band (N0AX, KX9X, K4RO, W4PA), with hits like “On The Cover of the NCJ” and “Sittin on the Edge of the Band”. They were so funny! You can watch their performances on YouTube http://bit.ly/DaytonSpurs2016.
On Saturday, Fred, AB1OC and I presented our Station Building talk to around 250 people as part of the Dayton Contest Forum. It was a great honor to be selected to speak there by Doug Grant K1DG, who has been organizing the Contest Forum for many years.
After that, we stopped by Gordon West’s Ham Instructor booth where we spoke to him about the success of our Club’s License classes. Here is a picture of Gordon, WB6NOA and Fred sharing the secrets of how the Hilbert Transform and the Flux Capacitor make Single Sideband and Time Travel Possible.
We also visited the AMSAT booth, where we met Burns Fisher, W2BFJ, who currently lives in Brookline, NH and is moving to Hollis. They had a cube sat on display – you can see how small it is below. It’s amazing that AMSAT builds and arranges to launch them into orbit so that we can make QSOs through them!
Fred could not resist a visit to Begali Keys where we purchased a neat travel key. It should be great for operating mobile and for Field Day.
On Sunday, we headed back to New Hampshire, sad that the weekend had come to an end but full of great memories from the trip.
- Anita, AB1QB
It is once again time for the New England Regional Hamfest. The convention will be held in Boxboro, Massachusetts this weekend and will feature a great presentation and forum schedule, a large vendor exhibit area and a HAM Flea Market.
Our articles on Mobile HF Station Building have become quite popular and we will be doing a presentation on this topic on Saturday at 11 am local time.
We continue to add new material to our presentations and the Mobile HF talk will include new material on a Dave, N1RF’s recent installation of a top-notch mobile HF station in a car.
We will also be doing a talk on Amateur Radio Station Design and Construction at 4 pm on Saturday.
We constantly update the material in this presentation and this version will include a preview of a new project to enhance our station – a Remote Operating Gateway based upon a FlexRadio 6000 Series SDR.
We hope to see many of our friends and readers in the region at Boxboro this year. If you have a minute, stop by the forums and say hello.
– Fred (AB1OC)
Anita and I choose to attend the VHF contesting, Low-Band Antenna and Waterfall Displays sessions and they were all very interesting. It was also great to see all of our friends from Contesting Community.
We began our visit to the Hamvention exhibit halls at the ARRL booth. It is quite something to see the scope of the activities that The ARRL engages in for the benefit of the Amateur Radio Community.
One thing that caught our eye there was the very well put together Emergency Go-Kits that the ARRL can supply in disaster relief situations.
Next, we visited the Elecraft booth and saw the newly announced K3S Transceiver. The K3S is a pretty major upgrade to Elecraft’s popular K3 transceiver. Most of the K3S upgrades can be retrofitted to existing K3 Transceivers. Elecraft’s approach to making significant upgrades available to update the older version’s of their radios is a major selling point for them.
We also saw the recently added accessories for the Elecraft KX3 Transceiver – the KX3 Pan Adapter and the KXPA100 100w Amplifier. These are both excellent units which we have added to our KX3 Transceiver setup. The PX3 provides a really nice band activity and waterfall display capability and the KPA100 is nicely integrated with the KX3 making the combination a 100W transceiver package. Look for more on our experiences with the PX3 and KPA100 in future posts.
We had the opportunity to spend a little time with our friend Bob Heil, K9EID again this year. Bob and the HAM Nation crew are always fun to listen to. Bob was also part of Contest University this year where he spoke about improving contest audio.
A big part of the Hamvention fun was the various dinners and end of day events that we attended. We did the RTTY Contesting, Top Band and Contesting Dinners this year. A special treat was seeing Ward Silver, N0AX and the Spurious Emission Band perform some HAM Radio Hits!
The Dayton Hamvention is always a treat for us. We hope to see some of our readers there in the future.
– Fred (AB1OC)
We had a lot of fun during our 2015 Dayton US Counties Tour from our home in New Hampshire to the 2015 Dayton HAMvention and back. The trip involved a total of 5 days of driving and covered about 2,000 miles – giving our Mobile HF station quite a workout. We ended up activating 98 unique US Counties and we made 1,226 contacts during the trip. We mostly operating using the Nashua Area Radio Club’s call, N1FD/M. We spent most of our time on the County Hunter’s frequencies on 20m and 40m and the Net Control folks there provided a great deal of help in making our operation effective and efficient. We worked both bands in most Counties to try to give folks that were both close in and some distance away a chance to contact us.
We tried to activate some of the most needed Counties along our route. We had the most activity when we were in Blair and Cambria Counties in PA. These were two Counties that were needed by quite a few folks.
We learned that one can be quite popular with County Hunters by activating two Counties at the same time. To do this properly, one must park the vehicle on the county line with one set of wheels in each county as shown in the picture above. Operating in this ways allows folks to gain credit for two counties via a single contact.
We spent quite a bit of time finding good locations to activate the rarer counties that we were in. This involved driving down dirt roads and “getting off the beaten path” quite a bit.
The County Hunter folks who worked us were great and some become fast friends during the trip. Several folks worked us more the 30 times during our trip.
We have already begun to receive QSL card requests for the contacts that we made during our trip. A Counties Tour is a great activity for a Mobile HF operator. It makes the time on a long drive go by very fast and can generate some great Mobile HF operating time. We are looking forward to finding another opportunity to do a County Tour again in the future.
– Fred (AB1OC/M)
Anita (AB1QB) and I have been having a lot of fun with our Mobile HF station since we completed it several months back. We’ve been working quite a bit of DX and we make some contacts whenever we are out doing errands or taking other trips. We are planning to attend the Hamvention in Dayton, OH again this year and Anita suggested that we use the trip to activate some most wanted United States Counties along the way.
U.S. County Hunters are Amateur Radio operators seeking to work and confirm all 3,077 U.S. Counties. CQ Magazine has an awards program for U.S. County Hunters. Quite a few Amateur Radio operators work all U.S. Counties – some do this using multiple modes and several have done it multiple times. To find out more about the US-CA Award, see the excellent County Hunter Dot Com site.
The Mobile Amateur Radio Awards Club (MARAC) is a support group for county hunting and mobile activities with members all over the world. This is a great organization to join if you are interested in County Hunting. MARAC provides additional awards center around County Hunting and mobile operating.
Anita did the planning for our County Tour to Dayton, OH and back. She began by looking at looking at the County Hunter’s Web most wanted page to determine which counties lie along potential routes between are home and Dayton, OH were most needed by County Hunters. Based upon this information, she created the route shown at the beginning of this post. As you can see, we are taking different routes going to Dayton, OH and back to allow us to activate as many U.S. Counties as we can. We are also taking a few side trips off our route to activate a few of the most needed Counties near our route.
|SundayMay 10||MA||Middlesex, Worcester|
|CT||Windham, Tolland, Hardford, Litchfield, New Haven, Fairfield|
|NJ||Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Somerset, Hunterdon, Warren|
|PA||Northampton, Lehigh, Berks, Lebanon, Dauphin|
|MondayMay 11||PA||Northumberland, Montour, Union, Snyder|
|TuesdayMay 12||PA||Cumberland, Fulton, Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Indiana, Westmoreland, Fayette, Greene|
|WV||Marshall, Wetzel, Tyler|
|WednesdayMay 13||OH||Athens, Meiga, Gallia, Lawrence, Scioto, Pike, Ross, Greene, Montgomery|
|SundayMay 17||OH||Clark, Madison, Union, Delaware, Morrow, Richland, Ashland, Wayne, Medina, Summit, Cuyahoga, Lake, Ashtabula|
|NY||Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Monroe, Livingston, Ontario, Wayne, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaiga|
|MondayMay 18||NY||Oswego, Madison, Oneida, Herkimer, Montgomery, Fulton, Schenectady, Albany, Columbia|
|MA||Berkshire, Springfield, Hampshire, Worcester, Middlesex|
Planned U.S. County Activation Schedule
The table above shows the 86 U.S. Counties that we plan to activate on our trip along with a rough idea of our schedule.
We found a useful iPhone App (County Finder) that will tell us what County we are in at a given time. The County Finder App uses the GPS in our iPhones to provide our current location in real-time.
We will also be tracking and logging the current grid square that we are operating from. We will be using the HamClock App on our iPhones to determine our grid square of operation in real-time.
Anita and I will be taking turns operating and logging. We are planning to use a laptop computer running the DXLab Suite and we will connect it directly to the IC-7000 Radio in our truck. This combination plus the County Finder and HamClock Apps above should allow us to accurately log all of our contacts. We will also be uploading contracts that we make to eQSL, LoTW and ClubLog in real-time as we operate.
We will also be running an APRS station so that folks can see where we are located in real-time and follow our progress. We are using the OpenAPRS iPhone App for this purpose. Our APRS callsign with be AB1QB-15 and you can see our position and progress on aprs.fi at any time by clicking here.
Anita and I are members of the Nashua Area Radio Club and we will be operating using the Club’s call sign, N1FD/M, during the trip. In addition to the electronic QSL’ing methods mentioned above, we will also be able to provide paper QSL’s using the Club’s QSL card shown above. All paper QSLs that we send will note the correct County and Grid Square from which the QSL’ed contact was made. See N1FD on QRZ.com for QSL information.
|Band||County Hunters Net Frequency (SSB)|
|20m||14.336 & 14.271 MHz|
County Hunters Net Frequencies
We plan to operate on or near the County Hunters Net Frequencies listed above. We will be QRV SSB on all of these bands and we may also do a limited amount of operating on 160m SSB as well.
We hope that you will take some time to work us during our trip. If you do and you read our Blog, please let us know. If we do not have other stations calling, we’d like to take a little time to say “hello” and get to know some of our readers better. We will also be attending the County Hunter’s Forum on Friday, May 15th at this year’s Dayton Hamvention. If you are there, please introduce yourself and we’ll have an “eyeball QSO”.
– Fred (AB1OC)
It is once again time for our annual 2014 Year in Review post. First, I’d like to thank our readers for their continued interest in our Blog. Our blog was viewed about 100,00 times in 2014 from 165 countries around the world. You, our readers have made 2014 our busiest year yet and this provides Anita (AB1QB) and me with great encouragement to continue to provide content for our readers.
2014 was a very busy year in Amateur Radio for us. Our activities included a continued focus on station building, contesting, WRTC 2014, special events, providing presentations to help other in the hobby learn about new things, attending several HAM Events, progress on operating awards, and most importantly – time spent on the air operating.
We upgraded our fixed station to include a microHAM Station Automation system this year. This was a major project that added some nice SO2R capabilities to our Multi-one station as well as automated the sharing of our antennas between our two SO2R Operating positions. More of this project can be found here:
- Station Automation Part 1 – microHAM SO2R And System Design
- Station Automation Part 2 – Second Operating Position And Antenna Switching
- Station Automation Part 3 – Antenna Cut-over And Final Integration
We also added LEO Satellite capabilities to our station with the addition of some new antennas and electronics on our tower. This allowed us to make our first contacts through LEO birds with linear transponders. Our articles on this project include:
- LEO Satellite System Part 1 – System Design And Electronics
- LEO Satellite System Part 2 – Antenna Assembly And Ground Test
- LEO Satellite System Part 3 – Final Installation And First Contacts
Our final major station building project was the construction of a state of the art mobile HF station in our Ford F-150 pickup truck. We did this project in phases starting with a simple setup using a 100W radio and HAM Stick antennas through the installation of a Screwdriver Antenna System for the 160m – 10m HF bands and concluding with the installation of an amplifier to enable high power mobile HF operation. You can view the articles on this project here:
- Mobile HF Installation Part 1 – Icom IC-7000 running barefoot with a simple MFJ HAMStick Antenna
- Mobile HF Installation Part 2 – Proper Bonding And Choking
- Mobile HF Installation Part 3 – Adding A Scorpion Screwdriver Antenna and Controller
- Mobile HF Installation Part 4 – 500W Amplifier, 160m And Accessories)
- Working DX Using Mobile HF
- Working DX Mobile On The 80m Band
Anita (AB1QB) and I continued to be active in several contests this year. We both continued to develop our skills as contesters and our scores and place in the rankings reflected this. You can read more about our contesting activities and what we learned in the following articles:
- 2014 ARRL DX Phone Contest
- 2014 CQ WPX SSB Phone Contest Experience
- Contest Results for AB1QB and AB1OC (ARRL Rookie Roundup, BARTG RTTY, North American QSO Party, and ARRL June VHF Contest)
- AB1OC’s 2014 CQ WPX Contest Results – Another Station Goal Met
- AB1QB Enters The 2014 JARTS RTTY Contest – Our First Use Of N1MM+
We were also fortunate to host one of the WRTC 2014 competition sites. Along with our friend Scott Anderson, NE1RD, Anita and I acted as site managers for the only WRTC 2014 Competition Site in New Hampshire. You can read more about our WRTC 2014 experiences here.
Special event operations were a particularly fun part of our on air activities in 2014. We operated as K2K, New Hampshire in the 13 Colonies Special Event, W1AW/1 as part of the ARRL Centennial QSO Party, and as N1FD Celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the Nashua Area Radio Club. It’s great fun to operate in these events and the experience running the pileups that result continued to help Anita and me to develop our operating and contesting skills.
We make it a priority to develop a significant amount of our Amateur Radio time to helping others in the hobby learn new things. In addition to writing this Blog, Anita and I try to create and deliver several presentations each year on a variety of topics of interest to the Amateur Radio Community. Our presentation this year included an update of our presentation on Amateur Radio Station Design and Construction and an Introductory Presentation on the DXLab Software Suite. We are always interested in working with Amateur Radio Clubs to deliver the presentation either in person where practice or over the web.
We had the fortune to meet some of the legends in Amateur Radio this past year. Anita and I had the opportunity to get meet Bob Heil, K9EID and to appear on his Ham Nation podcast. Bob is an amazing gentlemen and we feel truly fortunate to have the opportunity to get to know him. We also had the opportunity to meet Fred Lloyd, AA7BQ, the President and Founder of QRZ.com. Fred visited our station and did an article about our station on QRZ.com. Anita and I both learned a great deal about HAM Radio and how it came to be what it is today as a result of the time these fine folks spent with us.
Amateur Radio Conventions and HAM Fests were a major part of our Amateur Radio fun again this year. We were fortunate to attend and speak at the ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford, CT USA this year – truly a once in a lifetime Amateur Radio experience. We also attended the Dayton Hamvention in 2014 where we had a chance to see all of the latest and greatest in Amateur Radio Equipment.
We were quite active on the air making almost 26,000 contacts between the two of us. As you can see from the graphic above, about 45% of our contacts were as part of Special Event Operations. We also made a little over 500 contacts from our mobile station, working over 100 DXCC entities in 2014 from the mobile.
We were active on all of the HF bands this year. We made our first contacts on the 60m band and I was able to focus on the 6m band and earn a VUCC Operating Award (100 grid squares worked and confirmed) on that band. Anita and I also made our first DX contacts to Europe on 6m in 2014. Anita took quite an interest in the 160m band and she is working on a Worked All States Operating Award on this band. Our operating time using weak signal and satellite modes on the 2m and 70cm bands was limited to a few contacts this year. I did make my first contacts through LEO Satellites in 2014.
We mostly operated in the SSB phone mode in 2014. Anita and I both continue to work on our CW skills and we managed a little over 800 QSOs using CW in 2014. Anita was very active in the RTTY mode as part of her RTTY contesting efforts.
All of this operating resulted in quite a bit of QSL activity. We sent a total of almost 4,200 QSL cards in 2014!
We again made a video showing all of our contacts around the world in 2014. As you can see from the video, we were fortunate to work quite a bit of DX in 2014.
All of this operating helped Anita and me to make some progress on operating awards this year. In addition to earning a 6M VUCC, I also completed a Worked All States Award on all 9 HF bands 160m-10m. I was also able to complete several nice regional operating awards (Worked All Europe TOP Plaque, Worked All VK Call Areas and Worked All Africa) as well upgrading my DXCC Challenge Award to the 1,500 Band Country level. Anita completed her JARL JCC Award (she worked 100+ Cities in Japan) as well as her Worked All States Triple Play Award (all states on SSB, CW and Digital via LoTW).
Anita and I had a lot of fun with Amateur Radio in 2014. We are looking forward to another great year of HAM Radio fun in 2015. We hope to share some of what we learn and our experiences with our readers here on our Blog.
– Fred (AB1OC)
The ARRL has been celebrating its 100th year this year with a variety of events. One of the biggest was the ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford, CT this month. Anita and I were fortunate to be able to attend this excellent event and I wanted to share some of our experiences from Hartford with our readers. We began our Centennial Convention experience by attending the Contest University session that was held on the first day. No matter how many times we attend this excellent training day, we always learn some new things and techniques that we can practice in our contesting efforts.
One of the key things to do at the Convention was the excellent Vendor display arena. In addition to an all-out booth run by ARRL, many of the major radio and equipment vendors were present. Beyond the Dayton Hamvention, this was one of the best vendor displays of this type that we’ve had the pleasure to attend.
The best part, by far, for us were the excellent Forums and Presentations that were part of the convention. The ARRL managed to line up some of the most noted experts in the Amateur Radio Community to speak on a broad variety of topics.
One of the best was Joe Taylor’s (K1JT) excellent presentation on the weak signal digital protocols that he has developed and the software that he has created to enable the Amateur Radio community to make contacts using the Moon, Meteor Scatter, and other means in very marginal probation conditions. You can find out more about Joe’s work in this areas on his Home Page.
B. Scott Andersen, NE1RD gave a cool presentation on Lightweight DXpeditioning. Scott has perfected a practical approach to lightweight DXpeditioning and has also contributed much to the use of the Buddipole Antenna System via his work with that system as part of his operations (check out Scott’s excellent book – Buddipole In The Field).
I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to speak about Station Design and Construction as part of the program. You can check out our material on this topic via the overview post here or download a copy of the presentation that we gave in CT.
There we several fun dinners and keynotes through the event. One thing that was very special was the presentation of awards to the ARRL from other Amateur Radio organizations around the world. The picture above shows some of the awards received by the ARRL.
There was also a QSL Card Wall at the event. Can you find the callsign of someone that you’ve worked in the picture above? There are a few rare ones in here.
All in all, the ARRL Centennial Convention was one of the highlights of our Amateur Radio experience to date. Anita and I feel very fortunate to have been part of it.
Anita (AB1QB) and I will be attending the ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford Connecticut, USA this coming weekend. We are looking forward to seeing the vendor exhibits, Contest University and the many fine forum presentations which are scheduled.
I will be doing a presentation on the design, construction and operation of our station at the ARRL Centennial event. My presentation is scheduled for Saturday, July 19th at 11 am in Room 27 at the Connecticut Convention Center. I will be presenting the complete story of our station from planning and design, through construction and finally how the station operates and performs. The presentation will include lots of high-resolution pictures and video including material on our shack, tower and antennas.
The presentation will include lots of new material covering all of our recent projects as well as an updated virtual station tour.
The presentation will also include information on our recently installed Station Automation System from microHAM.
We plan to talk about how our station is performing against our original design goals and we’ll have some updated video too!
For those who are attending the ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford Connecticut, I hope you stop by and say hello to Anita and me. We’re anxious to meet as many of our readers as we can at the event. For those who cannot make the trip, we will be taking lots of pictures and we plan to post a summary of what we saw here after the event.
– Fred (AB1OC)
Anita (AB1QB) and I attended the Dayton Hamvention again this year. Anita began her Dayton experience by attending Contest University again this year. As you can see from the “I Made It” sign-in board outside the Contest University meeting rooms at Dayton, the Contest University instructors and attendees include quite a few of the top contesters in the United States and several others from around the world. Some of the most interesting sessions included one on Multi-Operator Contesting, given by W3LPL, who has one of the large multi-op contesting stations, but there were tips that anyone who wants to work a contest multi-op can use. The session “The Best Hints to Becoming a Better Contester, presented by N0AX had many great contesting tips to help improve your score.
The new N1MM+ Contest Logger generated a lot of buzz during Dayton 2014. We saw previews of the new N1MM+ Logger during dinner and forum events at the show. The new N1MM+ software features many improvements based upon input from the contesting community. For some more information on N1MM+, see this link.
It was Anita’s birthday during Dayton 2014 and she has recently become interested in learning CW. To help her along, I decided to get her a set of Begali Stradivarius paddles and their CW Machine to help her practice CW. The CW Machine is an interesting training aid – it can generate CW from text, create practice drills for sets of letters and it can decode CW sent from a key or paddles. When used for decoding, in detects when the operator’s timing is off and will not decode the characters sent. This helps a new operator to not only learn to send the code but to develop the rhythm needed to send good quality CW with the proper timing. The CW Machine can also be used as a CW Keyer.
The ARRL had their usual large display at Dayton again this year which featured all of the ARRL Centennial Activities that the ARRL is doing. It’s always fun to look at the many ARRL publications and we could not resist picking up some new books and a few videos. One video that we particularly enjoyed was the ARRL Film Collection DVD. This is a collection of several short films that the ARRL and other have made over the years to promote HAM radio.
We are in the process of upgrading our station for LEO Satellite operation and we spent some time at AMSAT’s display to learn some more about satellite operations and get some information on the software and hardware required. The AMSAT folks are always very helpful to new satellite operators and they have excellent publications available to help folks who are getting started.
Anita and I had the opportunity to spend some time with our friend, Bob Heil (K9EID) at Dayton this year. Thanks to Bob, we had the opportunity to be on Ham Nation this year to talk about station building. Bob has shared many great experiences with HAM Radio and all of the work he’s done to move the recording industry forward. It’s a lot of fun to spend time with him and to learn from his experiences. We use his microphones and accessories throughout our station.
We spent some time at the FreeDV HF Digital Voice display. The authors of this program continue to enhance it. Recent additions include some new bandwidth options and support for more platforms. Digital Voice on the HF bands via FreeDV continues to gain momentum as more HAMs learn about FreeDV.
There is so much to see at the Dayton Hamvention that it’s impossible to describe everything here. We hope to attend the Dayton Hamvention again in 2015.
– Fred (AB1OC)