630 Meter Challenge

630 Meter Challenge – Halftime Update:

A map of WSPR stations received at KK1W on a typical evening. (http://wsprnet.org/drupal/wsprnet/map)

The HCRA/SOTA Jerks 630 meter challenge crosses the halfway point January 1, 2018. So far close to a half dozen members have made QSO’s or SWL reports on our new, medium frequency (MF) band.  Here’s a quick overview of their achievements so far along with station descriptions and photos. Not sure about the 630 Challenge? Details can be found here. The purpose of the event is to encourage members of both clubs to expand their amateur radio horizons, “Go Low” and enjoy ham radio fun. There’s a list of links at the end to get you started on your exploration below WHYN AM if you’re so inclined.

Stations completing at least one QSO on 630 meters:

Bob/WA1OJN – First member QRV!

WA1OJN’s Shack. The MF Systems 630m converter is at the far right on the top shelf.

Bob was our first member QRV on 472 MHz. Bob hadn’t done any home-brew for many years and was excited by the Challenge announcement at the October meeting.  Here, in his own words, is his description of progress to date on 630m:

I have had QSOs with 13 stations in 8 states on JT9 with a max distance of just under 900 miles.  On WSPR I have been received in north western Canada at 2047 miles.  Unfortunately that guy does not currently have transmit capability.
My antenna is a converted 80M dipole at 25 feet with a length of 137 feet and I am using a WA3ETD converter attached to my TS-440S driving it from WSJT-X software on a Windows XP machine.

WA1OJN’s Variometer for 630m. Remote tuned using a gear motor and controlled by a battery powered switchbox in the shack.

I have been licensed since 1972 and this has really been an exciting project forcing me to get back into building stuff.  I have learned a lot about RFI with my smoke detectors, the importance of proper grounding, impedance matching and a bunch more.  Really gets you back to basics.  It’s really fun to find the limits and try to push it a bit more.  The other night a guy over 1000 miles away had me at -29 on JT9 with my grid square and signal report and just couldn’t get my RRR and 73.  I tried cranking up the power supply voltage but nothing would do it.  Now that I have remote antenna tuning I might have been able to do a quick tune and put him in the log.  It is amazing that even a 300Hz frequency change will require re-tuning.
I have found all the guys to be super helpful and some great chat rooms.  One thing I find interesting, is although most of the HF contacts I have made are using LotW, I would say the majority of the guys on 630M do not use LotW and are into paper QSLs.
Bob/WA1OJN

K1NZ and KK1W share the next spot

Nick/K1NZ and Jim/KK1W made their first QSO on 630 by working each other! Separated by a vast 7 miles here’s their story:

Nick/K1NZ

K1NZ’s Shack

Nick’s station consists of an Icom 735 and a 160m Inverted-L antenna. The Icom is fully capable of transceive on 472 MHz and Nick had been monitoring WSPR and JT9 activity for a few weeks. When KK1W got his station QRV on the new band they decided to try a CW QSO. Guess what, it worked! Signals were weak but readable with a 339R/599S report at Nick’s end. Power was very low at Nick’s station because of high SWR concerns.

K1NZ at work modifying the main board of his IC-735.

Since that QSO Nick has made modifications to the IC735 to improve RX and TX and hopes to get a resonant antenna up soon. One thing is certain, it’s not expensive to get on this band but it takes some ‘experimentation’ and good old ham tinkering to make it happen.

 

Jim/KK1W

KK1W’s 472KHz shack.

Jim’s stations features an Elecraft K3s, MF Solutions converter, an Inverted L antenna for TX and a 650′ Beverage for RX. The K3s is a great receiver on 472 MHz (with the general coverage filter) but sports only a half milliwatt (0.0005 watts) output! Getting that tiny signal boosted is the job of the MF Systems converter. The converter was modified to use only the amplifier portion and puts out about 20 watts.

KK1W’s loading/tuning coil for 630m Inverted L antenna

The Inverted L antenna has 75′ of vertical, about 175′ horizontal and a half dozen 100′ ground radials. It’s tuned with a loading coil wound on a 2 gallon plastic pail.

Results have been good so far with over 20 QSO’s, two on CW, one on FT8 and the balance on JT9 with 9 states and three countries. Jim’s longest QSO to date was with ZF1EJ in the Cayman Islands approximately 1600 miles.

Plans for station improvement include a variometer to replace the fixed tuned coil and more power. With only 20 watts his station is a “rabbit with big ears” hearing much better than it can be heard.

Stations listening on 630 meters:

James/WD1S

WD1S Shack

James is an avid 160m operator with a nice location in Chesterfield, MA. His station consists of a Kenwood TS-590 and various wire antennas. He has been receiving signals on 472 and 137 MHz since the beginning of the challenge.

Like the K3 his TS-590 has very low output on 472HKz. James has tried to work a few local stations but his 1mw signal is just not heard, at least so far.

Frandy/N1FJ

Frandy added a general coverage filter to his K3 and is using a G5RV for receiving. To date he has copied KK1W’s CW CQ and NDB’s lower in the band. He has obtained an MF Solutions converter and hopes to get on the air soon feeding an Inverted L antenna.

Mid-Challenge Wrap Up:

This wraps up our mid-Challenge activities. There are others expressing interest in the band including George/KC1V and Bob/W1QA but we’re not aware of their progress to date.

There’s remains plenty of time to get into the fun of MF over the next few months. Winter months are great for these frequencies with little atmospheric interference. It is amazing the distances achievable on these so called ‘low bands’ and you will be too – if you give it a try. Many ham transceivers and most general coverage receivers can receive below 500 KHz. Besides amateur activity on 472 KHz and 137 KHz there’s many interesting signals at VLF frequencies. Between the two amateur bands are many non-directional aircraft beacons (NDB’s). How many or how far can they be heard? Give it a listen and use one of the links below to see where they are located. Interested in digital modes? WSPR, JT9 and FT8 abound on both bands.

Why not make a 2018 resolution to spin the tuning knob and “Go Low for big fun”

Happy New Year!

’73…
Jim/KK1W

Interesting and useful links:

The links below have proven very useful for our members. They concentrate on the basics and will get you QRV on 630m quickly.

http://www.472khz.org/
http://ae5x.blogspot.com/
http://ve7sl.blogspot.ca/
https://wg2xka.wordpress.com/
http://www.giangrandi.ch/electronics/shortanttuner/shortanttuner.shtml
http://wsprnet.org/drupal/
https://pskreporter.info/pskmap.html
http://www.dxinfocentre.com/ndb.htm

VLF Contest Announcement

HCRA & SOTA Jerks
VLF Competition

VLF Bandscope

 

As you know the FCC has recently approved amateur radio use on the VLF (Very Low Frequency) bands starting September 15th, 2017. These bands are 135.7 to 135.8 kHZ (2,200 meters) and 472 to 479 kHz (630 meters). More information can be found about the authorization and bands by clicking the links.

It’s unlikely anyone will be using these bands for a SOTA activation but nevertheless the SOTA Jerks have proposed a QSO competition to spark interest in the new allocations. Our two clubs have gathered together $100 to award the winner of the competition. In the spirit of keeping things simple we’ve made the rules easy to follow. It’s up to you, the station builder/operators to do the heavy lifting on this one!

Rules:

  1. Eligibility
    1. All participants must be hold the proper license and permissions to use the VLF bands.
      1. Bands are open to General and above and permission must be secured by applying to UTC.
    2. All participants must be a member in good standing in either club.
    3. No participant shall have held an experimental license for these bands. We are looking for new folks to give VLF a try
  2. Contest Period
    1. Contest starts October 15th, 2017 at 0000z
    2. Contest ends March 15th, 2018 at 2359z
    3. Winner will be announced at HCRA’s April 6th 2018 meeting
  3. Bands
    1. 630 or 2,200 meters only
  4. Mode
    1. Any mode authorized for 630m or 2,200m
  5. Prize
    1. The winner will receive a $100 gift certificate to DX Engineering
  6. Selection criteria
    1. The winner is the operator with the longest distance, confirmed QSO.
      1. Distance determined by Latitude/Longitude of each station.
        1. Here’s a handy on-line calculator: https://www.mapdevelopers.com/distance_from_to.php
      2. Confirmation Proof by LotW or card only
      3. All entries must contain proof of confirmation and the distance calculated between the two stations.
      4. In the event of a tie a drawing will be held to determine the winner.
  1. Entry Requirements
    1. Submit your longest confirmed QSO to Jim Mullen via email or USPS by March 15th 2018
      1. Email: kk1w.jim@gmail.com or USPS to 144 Tower Hill Rd, Brimfield, MA 01010
        1. Enclose an SASE for return of any submitted cards

That’s all there is to it. As of this writing there are at least two transceivers that can be used without modification on VLF frequencies: Kenwood TS590 and Elecraft K3s. The Elecraft K3 can be modified to use these bands. Transverter kits for VLF are available, here’s one for under $100.

VLF Transverter Kit

These bands are more like our AM broadcast bands (think WHYN-AM 560) than traditional bands. Antenna size and power levels are limited so it shouldn’t cost a lot to be QRV on either of the bands. It will take some ingenuity and good ole’ ham ‘experimentation and modification’, which is exactly what amateur radio is all about.

There are many blogs on the web about VLF and the new bands. Here’s one from AE5X to get you started. These bands can be really interesting once you start digging a little deeper. Your efforts represent the start of a new ham radio frontier!

 

Good luck and may the longest QSO win!

’73…
HCRA and SOTA Jerks

SHOW & TELL 2017 – there’s still time!

People, Projects and Prizes!

As of this writing (March 16th) it’s three weeks until HCRA’s Annual Show & Tell on April 7th. That also means it’s only three weeks to finish your project, put together documentation and perhaps win a nice prize for your efforts. No time you say? Well, twenty two days is over three weeks the last time I checked. I’m sure you can rustle up something to show off to the crowd, get their creative juices flowing for 2017 and maybe win a nice prize! But… you really need to get started pretty soon!

BONUS SNOW STORM!

I don’t know if you noticed but the “super storm” of March 14th has effectively pushed back any yard work for at least a few weeks. Now you’ve time for a project and a prize!

K1VOI and the antenna gun. WB1DBY photograph

What exactly is Show & Tell you ask? Well, it’s a chance to show the members something cool you’ve done in your shack, antenna farm, secret laboratory, etc. over the last year. Maybe it’s a new antenna that works like a signal magnet, or a neat way to mount a radio in today’s ‘too small’ vehicles, or a tesla coil (yes, we’ve had one), or a KW amplifier (had those too), or a trick piece of software, or….  You get the picture. Speaking of pictures here’s a few photos from past events to whet your appetite.

KA1TDQ’s 75M AM Exciter

An RF sampler by KB1NWH. WB1DBY photograph

Rock-Mite and keyer by Matt, W1MSW. WB1DBY photograph

 

And of course there’s the prizes. This year the three winners get to choose from a hundred dollars worth of prizes that include an ARRL Operating Manual, a Raspberry Pi 3 and a TC-1 Multi-function tester.

Show & Tell 2017 Prizes

The audience votes for the best project, the votes are tallied and three winners are picked at the end of the evening. It’s easy to do and it’s fun. Of course everyone is a winner here because we all benefit by seeing what our fellow HCRA members created. Everyone in the audience and the presenters takes home a big dose of enthusiasm for 2017!

So there you go. Time to stop surfing, head to the shop and warm up the soldering iron. You too can be a winner at HCRA’s 2017 Show & Tell!

 

Last Swap & Sell of 2016

SwapSign
Last Swap & Sell of 2016 is this Friday, November 4th. There isn’t a December meeting because of the Holiday Party
 
Let’s end 2016 with a bang! Take a look around your shack and bring in an item or two that will become someone else’s holiday gift :).
 
From the KK1W shack is an assortment of books and a nice LED desk lamp (with USB charger) to read them under. Some old, some new all good reading that will expand your amateur radio horizons.
img_20161101_220033775
 
What are you bringing? Please comment to this post, with photos if possible.
 
Oh, the desk lamp is brand new AND is rumored to be grey with #87 on it, whatever that means...
Have you purchased your Holiday Party ticket yet? They’ll be on sale at the meeting. See Harold/N1FTP so you don’t go hungry this holiday season.
 
See you Friday evening,
 
Jim/KK1W

“Make a cheap ham HAPPY” night at HCRA!

Returning Friday, September 9, is HCRA’s Swap & Sell Table. A sight guaranteed to brings smiles of joy to any frugal hams’s face.

IMG_20160906_083112361

Take a look at the photos, it gives you an idea of just some of this month’s offerings. That’s correct, you see a 1.3G frequency counter, project boxes, transformers, and more. There’s even a LARGE box of assorted wire and cable, dig through, pick what you want and make your donation. No reasonable offer refused.

Make the table even better by bringing along your own items for sale. The more we have, the more exciting for everyone!

NEWS FLASH! Rumor has it N1FJ may have a Mosley Tri-Bander to contribute to the cause. Watch for more info and and bring your roof rack for an HF antenna bargain

IMG_20160906_083201130 IMG_20160906_083313937 IMG_20160906_092721237

Good stuff cheap – Swap & Sell September 9th

SwapSign

Swap and Sell will be returning to HCRA meetings for the remainder of 2016. Since the program started this past January lots of good stuff has changed hands, people have gone home with either cash in their pocket or a new trinket to play around with in the shack and HCRA added a few dollars to the club treasury.

IMG_20160823_223218185

The photo on the left shows a sample of items that could make their way to the swap table, but we need more! We need YOUR good stuff to keep up the excitement, attract customers and most of all – have fun! It’s like a mini-hamfest at every meeting.

We all benefit if you have items you’re willing to donate to the cause. Think of all the things you’ve purchased, used for years but they’re now sitting unused in the shack or workshop. You can sell them and make a few bucks or….. Why not donate them? You’ve had your fun, maybe it’s time to pass it along to someone else. Donations benefit HCRA but most of all the new owner gets to take something home and not break the bank. Everyone wins!!! If you do want to sell your items please remember the suggested donation is10%, thanks! All donations are tax deductible under 501 c3 guidelines.

One last thing. We’re looking for a new caretaker for Swap & Sell starting January 2017. All it takes is 15 to 30 minutes a month, a small donation of time to bring fun to dozens throughout the year. If you’re interested let us know. You’ll be supplied with everything you need to make it happen and at least five minutes of OJT! It’s an easy job that puts lots of smiles on our members faces. Please let me or Jeff/NT1K know if your interested in the job.

Looking forward to seeing everyone at the September 9th meeting.

’73…
Jim/KK1W

HCRA is READY for Field Day – are YOU!

About seven days from now HCRA will be blasting the airwaves with “CQ Field” day from School St. Park in nearby Agawam, MA. Our plans have solidified to a 5A operation, perhaps even 6A, the usual superb four towers with beams on 40, 20, 15 and 10 and dipoles for 80/75. a Saturday VE session, lots of operators, KX2 raffle tickets and….

FOOD! Alan/AB1XW will be serving up dogs and burgers, “on the house” Saturday evening. A perfect way to stoke the fires for an all-night operation.

Read all the details and see the participants by clicking here.  After looking through the list you’ll see a few spots where we could use YOUR help. What would you like to do?

1. We can make 100 points by simply originating an NTS message to our Section Manager and up to an additional 100 points by sending 10 radiograms. Are you ready for the challenge? It’s easy and shouldn’t take more than an hour at most. Want to give it a try? Contact Jim/KK1W for more info.

2. Are you a good teacher? There’s another 100 points on the table for organizing an educational activity. It could be as simple as showing how to get active on digital modes or constructing a wire dipole. Interested, contact Jeff/NT1K or Jim/KK1W and we can get you going.

3. Finally, we can make up to another 100 points for “Youth Participation”. Any operator under 18, that makes at least one FD QSO earns HCRA 20 points. If we get five youth operators we make another 100 points! How cool is that? Remember they (or you) don’t have to be licensed to operate at Field Day. It’s a perfect opportunity to expose youngsters to a hobby that could shape their future. Time your visit just before Saturday evening and have a burger or hot dog for your (and their) efforts.

Don’t forget to pick up a KX2 raffle ticket while visiting Field Day. A mere $10 donation could bring you a spanking new Elecraft KX2!

The weather forecast looks promising and plans are in place. What are you waiting for, all we need is YOU!

Yes, Swap & Sell will be at Show & Tell!

SwapSign

 

Here’s a chance to make money on your project. After you win one of the prizes put your hand crafted watchamcallit’ on the swap table and go home with to cash along with your prize 🙂 Or maybe find something on the table for your next creation?

Once again the Swap & Sell table will be there, how exciting it is falls entirely on the shoulders of you, our members. We know everyone has at least ONE thing they probably should ‘recycle’ and the HCRA swap table is the perfect place. No shipping, no eBay fees, supports the club, makes meetings more interesting and is fun. Need I say more?

Before coming to our April 1st meeting why not take a look around the shack and find an item or fifteen worthy of creating excitement in someone else’s shack and bring it to the meeting.

No foolin, see you April 1st!

Jim/KK1W

WRTC 2014 Results and HCRA/WRTC Trivia

The scores are out! They can be found on the WRTC2104 web page. But here’s the really cool stuff.

We hosted four teams at Medfield State Hospital. Medfield was site 8 and the stations were 8A through 8D. Here’s the results from ‘our’ teams:

8A: K1M – IK1JHS & I4UFH – Won the SSB mode, placed 58th!

8B: N1A – DL1QQ & DL8DYL – The first YL WRTC team – placed 26th

8C: W1R – OH2BH & OH2MM – Sponsored by Azores Travel, placed 50th

8D: W1M – 4O3A & HA1AG – Placed 15th, our highest scoring team

Some of our team members held 1×1 calls for the event:

K1S: held by Don/KB5VP for the 12th placed W2SC team
N1P: held by Jim/KK1W for the 51st placed CX6VM team
N1Q: held by Dave/AA1YW was unassigned
N1R: held by Steve/N1SR for the 22nd placed UA3DPX team
W1H: held by Brian/K1LI was unassigned

About a 1/2 hour before the contest started I4UFH’s power supply cable broke for his iMac. One couldn’t be found quickly and they were scrambling for a computer. John/Kx1x came up with a Window’s laptop and within ten minutes the software was loaded and configured and Fabio was QRV when the opening bell rang! How cool is that?

Al/KB1XG was an official WRTC2014 videographer, we can’t wait to see some of his shots in the videos.

Rich/N1KXR was night security and roaming driver/helper from Wednesday through Saturday.

Nick/K1MAZ made many trips to town for team and competitor supplies.

Mary/KB1ME was the unofficial photographer for the DL1QQ team.

HCRA fielded 28 volunteers over the five day period. The weather was beautiful but the hot summer sun made the afternoons grueling, even with the low humidity. We drank plenty of water and used almost as much sun screen.

We serviced two cars with dead batteries (N1SR and W3SM) and changed one flat tire (KB1XG)

As far as I know, even though we spent four nights there, no ghosts were noticed haunting the Medfield complex.

Thanks to everyone who volunteered for this seventh running of WRTC. Everyone worked hard and created an outstanding experience for the teams we hosted. All competitors said they felt welcomed and appreciated by all we did for them.

What a great showing for the HCRA/WRTC volunteers!