PART of Westford Kit Building with DrDuino

PART of Westford logoAndy Stewart, KB1OIQ, writes in the PART of Westford PARTicles newsletter, November, 2019:

The PART kit building team is Andy, KB1OIQ; Steve, W1KBE; and Allison, KB1GMX. We recently received a very generous donation from an anonymous member of ten (10) DrDuino kits. You may remember reading about this kit in a recent issue of QST.

The PART kit building activity got started in KB1OIQ’s basement classroom on November 7th, 2019. There were five (5) kit builders: George, K1IG; Rakesh, KC1HTB; Niece, KA1ULN; Rich, AB1HD; and Scott, KB1WMH. The first session was spent soldering together the kit. The next two sessions will be Arduino programming lessons taught by Andy (KB1OIQ). The attendees will learn how to program switches, LEDs, potentiometers, a speaker, an ultrasonic distance measuring device, and those very colorful (and BRIGHT) LED strips. If there is time, we may also make a simple CW practice oscillator and a binary counter displayed on the LEDs.

There will be a future kit building activity using the four (4) remaining DrDuino kits (I built one). Additionally, this training will be a great prerequisite for the DDS VFO kit that we’ll unleash during a future session.

All things considered; the first session went really well. I’m really looking forward to the next two sessions!

W1BOF: Apollo Spacecraft Communications at Dan’s Tech Night, October 10, 2019

Dan Pedtke, KW2T, writes:

TechNight is tomorrow night, Thursday, October 10, at the usual time and place; 7:00PM at the Grady Research Building in Ayer.  See www.danstechnight.com for details and directions.

We have an unusually interesting program this month, with a rare guest speaker visiting us to discuss the technical aspects of the NASA Apollo spacecraft radio link.  George Whitehead, W1BOF, is one of the few remaining radio engineers who worked on the design of the Apollo mission communications radios. This the radio hardware that did the communications between earth and the spacecraft, including the video of man’s first step onto the moon.

George worked at North American Aviation in Downey, CA from 1962 to 1967. This was the prime contractor for the Apollo Command and Service module. He worked in the Apollo Communications Subsystem Group mainly on the telemetry part of the radio system, the part that sent spacecraft status and astronaut medical information back to mission command. But sitting next to him was the rest of the designers of the radio who did the other parts of the design. He got to know the system quite well. 

George will have some technical information for the projector, but it will be a technical discussion between George and I, where I’ll be asking him questions about the system.

And if you miss him here, he will be speaking at the [Nashoba Valley ARC] meeting one week later.

We’ll also talk a little about some progress on the radio.

Hope to see a good crowd for this one.

 

KB1OIQ: Linux In Your Hamshack at Algonquin ARC, October 10, 2019

Algonquin ARC logoThe Algonquin Amateur Radio Club meeting on October 10, 2019 features Andy Stewart, KB1OIQ, who will present on “Linux In Your Hamshack.” Linux fans will be interested in Andy’s Ham Radio Linux, a popular software collection he created for amateur radio users.

The AARC meetings are held at 7:30 PM in the library of the 1st Lt. Charles W. Whitcomb Middle School in Marlborough, 25 Union Avenue. Use Door #1 at rear of building.

Northeastern University Wireless Club Fall 2019 Electronics Projects

The Northeastern University Wireless Club has announced a number of exciting projects for Fall 2019. If you want to join any of the projects below, contact their lead on Slack, and find their meeting times on the Google calendar.

Airlights+
First Meeting Tuesday 4pm
Contact: Jack Leightcap
Airights+ is working to improve the LED controller in the Wireless Club space. This team will have a good mix of software and hardware, with a lot of python programming as well as board design.

LED Flag
First Meeting Thursday 6pm
Contact: James Packard
The LED Flag is a device Wireless Club currently uses to advertise at club fairs and similar events. This team is looking to improve the device by overhauling the software, redesigning the user interface, and enabling the device to be battery-powered. This group is looking for hardware and software support!  Support is available from the club if someone wants to learn about this but doesn’t feel confident to do it alone.

RFID
First Meeting Thursday 6pm
Contact: Thomas Kaunzinger
RFID is working on a device for Wireless Club that will allow for rapid attendance for club events using a Husky Card and RFID reader. Their goal is to create a device which allows for Husky Cards to be read, and the software to interface with and log this data. There will be board design, firmware design, and software design (probably including databases) for this project.

Crude Camera Sensor
First Meeting Tuesday 6pm
Contact: Henry Mayne
This group is looking to create a rudimentary camera sensor using photodiodes or a similar device. This project is still in the early stages of development with idea generation, so if you are interested bring your ideas! There will be significant hardware development and design required, as well as firmware/software to read the output from the sensor built.

Build-Your-Own “HABCAR” Course Coming Soon to MIT Lincoln Lab

ham radio balloon/beaconMIT Lincoln Lab employee Brian Smigielski, AB1ZO, has been awarded funding to design a course in which participants will learn how to build a prototype High Altitude Balloon Carrying Amateur Radio (HABCAR).

“The [MIT Lincoln Lab] Technology Office wanted to create another kit building course where each kit would have a price  point of about $400/kit,” writes Brian.  “I had suggested a Build-Your-Own High Altitude Balloon Carrying Amateur Radio course focused on a long-endurance flight using WSPR and transmitting back telemetry (as well as other sensor related data) using the “invalid” WSPR messages which begin with a 0 or Q (that are now searchable on WSPRnet.org). Luckily Jon and I had our idea make it all the way through and were awarded funding for prototype development as well as course development.”

Assisting Brian with the project are: Jon Schoenberg, AA1FH, Paul Therrien, and Ben Martin, W1BPM.  “Ben was a student in the amateur radio course who expressed interest in helping out.”

“We have been working pretty diligently since early winter 2019 purchasing COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) parts, interacting with other hams who have helped accelerate our learning (Jared Smith N7SMI), and iterating our hardware/software designs. We expect our first launch will be on or about September 14.”

If all goes well, Brian thinks this will turn into a course for employees, then potentially for local area high school kids, boy and girl scout troops, or other STEM groups in the area.

New Hampshire Tower Tragedy: Lessons Learned

Mark Pride, K1RX, writes on the YCCC Reflector:

To all Tower owners in the Amateur Radio Community – a must read!  By Mark Pride, K1RX

Many old timers in the hobby that own a tower, perhaps in the air for 20, 30, 40 or 50 years, need to take this article seriously as it could provide life saving information to you and your ground crew. This is a cautionary article for all that have a tower no matter how long its been the air.  What occurred at a NH amateur station recently provides a lesson for all of us tower owners. Although the article speaks to a Rohn 25 guyed tower product, it could be prove helpful to others.

K1JGA and K1EEE tower tragedy

A crew of amateurs gathered at the home of K1EEE to take down two 40 ft. Rohn 25 towers.  The details of the tower which collapsed and its failure is provided below.  It was a very unfortunate accident which took the life of Joe G. Areyzaga, K1JGA.  The owner of the tower, K1EEE suffered multiple injuries but did survive.  We all in the amateur radio community extend our prayers and condolences to the families affected by this tragic event.

Tower Description

One of two forty foot (40 ft.) Rohn 25 towers, with one set of guys at the 35 ft level was to be taken down. The base was the BPH 25 hinge plate on a concrete pad of unknown depth. This used tower had only been up 3 years. 

NOTE:  Following the accident, the owner learned one leg of the hinge plate had been previously repaired but the material used was not galvanized.

With the reasonable expectation the tower would support itself to 40 ft, the guy wires were disconnected from the anchors and the top section was to be removed. The top section to be removed had a rotor shelf and one torque assembly mounted at the 35 ft. level along with the three guy wires. The gin pole had not been raised at that point.  The antenna, mast and rotor were previously removed.

Lesson Learned

At the time of the initial install, the tower was self supported to 40 ft until the first set of guys were attached per Rohn specifications. That may have been the case then, but after many years of exposure to the elements, one can no longer expect the same! 

Prior to the start of the tower take down, the tower was thoroughly inspected and found to be in acceptable condition.  The base was dry and free of any water. No obvious problems were found.

The general reason for this tower collapse was corrosion at the junction of the hinged base short legs (one leg previously repaired and welded as noted above) and the bottom of the lowest Rohn 25 section occurred primarily from the outside and some inside as well and thus weakened the structure. The first point of failure was the repaired and non-galvanized short leg of the hinge plate. When the guys were removed from their anchor points (necessary to remove the top section), the tower was free standing with the two climbers at 35 ft.  It’s clear that the tower deflection from the vertical was extreme enough to make the overturning force at the base (the bending moment) great enough to cause base failure. 

The proper installation of the hinge bracket (BPH 25) requires mounting it on a flat concrete surface, secured with bolts placed in the concrete, surrounded by a beveled edge for water run off.  Normally, all of the hardware associated with the hinge plate are galvanized and able to withstand the wear and tear of Mother nature.  However this base was slightly recessed where the plate sat and there were some gaps under the plate. This created the opportunity for water or ground contaminants to collect. It is presumed the previously repaired short stubby leg of the bracket began to corrode while sitting in water. Years of this kind of exposure slowly weakened the metal.  Subsequent movement by climbers at the top of the unguyed tower led to breakage at the base. 

NOTE:  Rohn towers are very high quality and generally last many, many years with proper installation and maintenance.  It is a very popular tower in the amateur radio community. And where tower sections join, they typically show little wear as water drainage occurs easily and there is a limited chance for collecting contaminants and held for long periods of time.  Or where tower materials come in contact with the earth, the normal galvanizing process is more than adequate for a long lifetime. But what is noted here is areas that are in contact with the ground or areas such as the repaired leg of the bracket that can accumulate harmful materials and therefore become a danger over time.  Clearly there are areas on a tower that are difficult to inspect however, the Rohn design usually lends itself to high levels of confidence that these blind areas are within acceptable standards if installed per the manufacturers specifications.

JGA Safety Guy Technique for Tower Take Downs in honor Joseph G. Areyzaga,  K1JGA (SK)

When dealing with unknown tower installations that require removal, it is absolutely critical to err on the side of extreme caution.  The technique described below is one approach and a simple one to help safe guard all involved.

A suggested safety procedure that should be applied during any tower take down of this type is attaching a set of additional guy wires at either the 10 or 20 ft. level prior to any work on the tower.  By applying a set of guys near the base, further stabilization of the tower base can be achieved.  Using this added set of guy wires reduce stress on the legs (twisting, flexing, bending) and prevent breakage at the very bottom of the section just above the concrete surface or surrounding areas.  Then what would remain after the tower is taken down to the Safety Guy set becomes very manageable (10 or 20 ft. to be lowered to the ground).

And in honor of our friend and now silent key, Joe, K1JGA, I am naming this important safety procedure the “JGA Safety Guy Technique” with the hopes all of us will not forget Joe but more importantly, keep us all safe while our old towers are taken down.  In particular, towers that have been up for our entire ham career and its maintenance history may be questionable require special attention.  Of course if the base shows significant deterioration, corrosion and breakage, the tower should NOT be climbed!  It should be removed by other means (cut down if the landing area is open and clear or by crane or similar).

The suggested collection of material that comprises the JGA Safety Guy Technique include:

Three (3) lengths of unbroken or spliced guy wire (3/16 inch EHS or larger) longer than the lowest guy to be sure it is long enough (DO NOT USE ROPE!);

Guy Grips for each end of the guy wire;

A come along at each guy anchor point for proper tensioning and;

A reliable heavy duty attachment device to connect to the existing anchor.

The attachment to the guy anchors should be done in a way that does not interfere with the existing guy anchor assembly (turnbuckles, etc.).  If the JGA Safety Guy kit is to be used in multiple tower take downs of varying heights, use of the Guy Grips will allow full flexibility of locating the attach points where they are needed, without cutting cable.  Just make the cable length longer than you might need to give you enough head room.  One further consideration: Rather than just use this technique near the ground, consider always using it no less than 10 ft. below where you may be working I.E. erecting or dismantling a tower, place the JGA kit 10 ft. below the location you are either installing or removing the next section.  Therefore, the guy lengths need to be approximately the same length as the longest guy (upper guy). This will assure maximum safety. With the guy grips, it is easy to relocate them, as you adjust the length of the temporary guy at each point on the tower.

 As part of your annual maintenance plan, include keeping the base free of debris, dirt, trees, plants etc. to protect this area from any long term damage. Consider making one of these JGA Safety Guy kits for your club to be used as necessary. 

Best to use the JGA Safety Guy Technique and find the tower base was just fine, than not use it and suffer a similar situation or worse!  Stay safe!

N1DCH: Intro to Radio Hotspots, Minuteman Repeater Association, May 15, 2019

The Minuteman Repeater Association will feature Dave Hornbaker, N1DCH, who will present on “Introduction to Hotspots” at itsMMRA logo annual meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 at 7 PM.

The presentation will cover different hot spot options with emphasis on MMDVM based hotspots and Pi-Star. 

The meeting will be held at New England Sci-Tech, Inc., 16 Tech Circle, Natick, MA. Directions

 

Dan’s Tech Night: TRL-SDR and Miscellany, Ayer, May 9, 2019

Dan Pedtke, KW2T, writes:

Hello past TechNighters,

It’s TechNight week again.  TechNight is this Thursday, May 9th, 2019, Grady Research Building in Ayer.  We’re going to talk about the RTL-SDR dongle (again, was a previous tech night, but now there’s a new one), and some other miscellaneous stuff, and the TechNight Radio.  The other stuff might include interesting things I bought at NEARFest last weekend.

See DansTechNight.com for details and directions.  A newer schematic and the PCB layout are posted for the TechNight Radio.

One of the issues with me talking about the Dongle is that it’s all about software, and I’m running LINUX and I think most others are running Windows, so I’ll try to get a couple things running in Windows as well, and bring both laptops.  Been kinda busy with work this week so I’m not so prepared, but so what, we’ll have fun anyway, and the cookies and coffee will be good.

Hope to see you there.

Faster, More Contest-Friendly FT4 Digital Protocol to Debut in a Week

From ARRL Web:

A new, speedier, more contest-friendly digital mode is just days away in beta version. WSJT-X Developers say serious work on the new FT4 protocol began shortly after the FT8 Roundup held last December 1-2. The goal was a mode that could compete with RTTY contesting in terms of contact rates, while preserving many of the benefits of FT8. [More]

Dan’s Tech Night, April 11, 2019

This month’s “Dan’s Tech Night” will be moderated by Bob Jackson, KE1JH. The presentation will be “show and tell” format so bring in your projects, thoughts, or stories to share with the group. Bob may also have a significant topic to talk about as well.

Dan’s Tech Night is Thursday, April 11th at 7 PM at the Grady Research Building, 323 Main St, Ayer. And as always, everyone is welcome.

See: www.DansTechNight.com for details and directions.

Hope to see you there. 

Northeastern University Wireless Club Hackathon, April 6-7, 2019

The Northeastern University Wireless Club (W1KBN) is holding its 4th annual Hackathon on Saturday, April 6 from 12 noon until Sunday, April 7 at 3 PM in 424/425 Hayden Hall on the Northeastern campus.  The theme will be post-apocalyptic, and the Hackathon will have prize categories for both hardware and software oriented projects. 

To register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wireless-club-spring-2019-hackathon-tickets-58854136306

Dan’s Tech Night, Ayer, March 14, 2019

Dan Pedtke, KW2T, writes:

TechNight is Thursday, March 14, 2019 at 7 PM, at the Grady Research building in Ayer. See www.DansTechNight.com for details and directions.

This week we are back to the Tech Night Radio project.  I now have most of the schematic done and getting ready for the proto board layout.  We’ll go over some of the schematic, then I want to talk about one of the most useful and cheap electronic parts there is, the XOR logic gate.  I’ll show how it can be used as a buffer, inverter, schmitt trigger, level translator, polarity control, frequency doubler, phase detector, relay driver, and maybe other things I think of.  And it’s 8 cents!  I will also bring in the latest electronic mouse trap and show you what’s inside.  There is very high voltage…

Hope to see you there.

W1DYJ to Present FT8 Talk at Minuteman Repeater Association, March 20, 2019

MMRA logoThe Minuteman Repeater Association will feature Larry Banks, W1DYJ, who will present “FT8: Not a Prefix, a Powerful New Mode” on Wednesday, March 20, 2019 at 7:00 PM. The meeting location is the Microsoft Technology Center, 5 Wayside Rd, Burlington, MA 01803.  (Directions)

“FT8 showed up on the ham horizon in August 2017, and has since become the ‘hot new mode.’ Larry will discuss its history and how to set up your station. He will also introduce a supporting application called JTAlert and highlight some reporting web sites. He will end with his personal experience using FT8 to chase DX.”

 

“Andy’s Ham Radio Linux” Distribution Version 22 Now Available

Andy Stewart, KB1OIQ, writes:

I’ve just released a new version of “Andy’s Ham Radio Linux” for 64-bit  computers.  Version 22 is based on the Ubuntu 18.04 repositories and contains many new and updated programs.  The previous version had over 10,400 downloads in 14 months!  Thank you for your support!

For more information:  https://sourceforge.net/projects/kb1oiq-andysham/

Please pass this information to your Linux and ham radio friends.

W1DAN Featured on Ham Nation Podcast

Wellesley ARS logoBruce MacKinnon, KC1FSZ, writes on the Wellesley ARS list:

If you don’t normally listen, be sure to check out yesterday’s edition of the Ham Nation podcast.  Our very own [Dan Brown,] W1DAN is mentioned (around 1:10) in connection with the upcoming AM Rally and the installation of a monster AM station at W1AW HQ. Way to go Dan!

 
 

MIT Radio Society, EE and Computer Science Department Hosting Radio Technology Lectures

MIT Radio Society QSL/logoFrom www.ARRL.org:

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Radio Society (W1MX) and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) are hosting a series of public lectures on “everything radio,” presented by academics and industry professionals. The series begins on Tuesday, January 8, at 5:30 PM ET in Building 3, Room 270.

Each self-contained talk will address a different facet of radio, ranging from modulation, propagation, and Amateur Radio, to radar, radio astronomy, space-based applications, and cellular and 5G technology.  [Full story]

China and Russia band together on controversial ionospheric heating experiments

orbiting satelliteThe South China Morning Post carried this story, “China and Russia band together on controversial heating experiments to modify the atmosphere” December 17, 2018, describing  the continuing military “race to control the ionosphere.” The experiments are similar to the US program’s super-power High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program ( HAARP) transmitters in Gakona, Alaska.

 

Joe Reisert, W1JR, Wins Third Place in the 2018 QST Antenna Design Competition

Joe Reisert, W1JR

Congratulations to Joe Reisert, W1JR, on winning third place for his design of “The3/8-Wavelength Vertical for 20 Meters, a Hidden Gem”. Steve Ford WB8IMY described the “requirements for the 2018 QST Antenna Design Competition included an antenna for one or more bands between 2200 meters and 10 meters that could fit within a 30×50-foot area and be no taller than 30 feet above ground at any point.” 

A former resident of Chelmsford, Joe lives in Amherst, NH. He is a regular presenter at Boxboro. The full story is found at <http://www.arrl.org/arrlletter?issue=2018-12-06#toc02>