“Social Distancing? COVID-19 Made it Real. Ham Radio Made it a Hobby”

A close-knit culture, with separation at its core” is a story and accompanying video produced by Christian Science Monitor staff photographer Anne Hermes. It explores how Amateur Radio operators are taking COVID-19 and social distancing in stride and features interviews with Eastern MA hams. It portrays the hobby in a very positive light.

Eastern MA Public Information Coordinator Kayla Creamer, W2IRY, was instrumental in working with Ms. Hermes to identify individuals and clubs for interviews and subject material.  

“The Christian Science Monitor, commonly known as The Monitor, is an internationally known nonprofit news organization that publishes daily articles in electronic format as well as a weekly print edition. It was founded in 1908 as a daily newspaper by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist.” -Wikipedia.


K1BG: “CWOPs CW Academy” at K1USN Radio Club, May 26, 2020

The next K1USN Radio Club online meeting will feature guest presenter Bruce Blain, K1BG, who will speak about CWops CW Academy.  Immediately prior to Bruce’s talk, Phil Temples, K9HI, will briefly recap his experiences in helping conduct remote VE tests with the New England Amateur Radio, Inc., VE team.

The meeting is tentatively scheduled for May 26, 2020 at  8 PM.

For Zoom conference details, contact Pi, K1RV, at k1rv -at- arrl -dot- net.

Wellesley Amateur Radio Society Meeting Online, May 19, 2020

Dan Brown, W1DAN, writes on the Wellesley ARS mailing list:


I hope you are healthy. 
Our next [Wellesley Amateur Radio Society] meeting will be online via Zoom next Tuesday [May 19, 2020] at 7:30PM. Here we will vote to have online elections due to COVID-19, and then I will give a non-amateur radio talk about the Boston DTV transmission.
I will send out a Zoom meeting invite Tuesday. 
Be well and 73,

K1USN Radio Club Holds First Zoom Session

“Pi” Pugh, K1RV, writes on the K1USN mailing list:

Tuesday evening we launched our inaugural K1USN Zoom session. It was a great success with 27 check-ins. Future sessions will be announced and we will send out invitations to those who have indicated that they wish to participate.

Drop me a e-mail if you wish to be added to our K1USN Zoom list. Send it to pi.k1rv@gmail.com.

Looking for presentations for upcoming K1USN ZOOM meetings. Already have several planned by Rick – N1DC.

Possible subjects of interest:

  • Reverse Beacon Network
  • Contesting
  • Antennas
  • CWOPs and CW Academy
  • Propagation
  • Station Logging Software – HRD, Logic, others?
  • Contest Logging Software – N1MM+, Writelog
  • DMR
  • HT Programming
  • IRLP
  • Flex Radios
  • DX Cluster Filtering
  • Satellite Operation
  • Operating Aides – DX Atlas, Ionoprobe, VE3SUN DX Monitor, CW Skimmer, etc

If you have knowledge in any of these areas and would like to help or can think of additional subjects of interest, let me know.

Final Reminder: Contest University Online, May 14, 2020

John Dorr, K1AR, writes on the Yankee Clipper Contest Club mailing list:

Good morning everyone!

Just a final reminder that CTU On-Line will be held this Thursday, May 14. Be especially sure to stay connected at the end of the day as there will be a very special presentation of great interest to YCCC members.

Check out https://www.contestuniversity.com/course-outline/ to pre-register
and be ready to go!

[See also: https://ema.arrl.org/2020/04/15/contest-university-usa-2020-on-line-may-14-2020/]

COVID Impact to ARRL Awards Program

ARRL flagThe following correspondence was posted on the ARRL-Awards mailing list on May 8, 2020 in response to a query about a pending award:

Congratulations on your achievements.

Our return to HQ is dictated first by the Governor of CT, and then by consideration for safety of staff and how best to manage that. 

Returning to HQ (even with minimal staff to ensure social distancing safety) is definitely still a few weeks out, and getting caught up on even the pre-shutdown backlog may take some weeks after that.  Following that are the shutdown receipts, which at this point are an unknown in part as they come from many applicants by mail – mail that has yet to be reviewed.

ARRL Awards are printed on high quality certificate stock – not a PDF printed on to paper. We know that (through this week) we have more than 1,000 Award Certificates near ready/pending printing, which will get our attention once we can safely return staff to the HQ Building.

We ask that everyone continue to be understanding and patient as we and the global community work to come out of this pandemic.


Bart Jahnke, W9JJ

Radiosport and Field Services Manager
ARRL – The national association for Amateur Radio®

Framingham ARA Meets Online, May 7, 2020

Framingham ARA logoSumner Weisman, W1VIV, writes on the Framingham ARA mailing list:

Thursday, May 7, 2020, is the date for our usual FARA monthly meeting. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are not holding our meetings at the Framingham Police Station. Instead, we will be holding a virtual club meeting on Zoom. We welcome you to join us at 7:30 PM, and enjoy our meeting from the comfort of your home. All are probably familiar with Zoom by now. If you are not, just click on the link below and you will be in the meeting. You will need a computer with a camera and microphone. If you do not have that, you can still join the meeting by calling one of the phone numbers shown below, where you will have audio but of course no video. We hope to see you there!


Sumner Weisman, W1VIV, Director

FCC Providing Flexibility to Volunteer Examiners in Developing Remote Testing Methods

ARRL VEC logo/bannerFrom ARRL Web:

05/03/2020–The FCC has clarified that nothing in its rules prohibits remote amateur radio testing, and no prior approval is needed to conduct remote exam sessions.

“The Commission provides flexibility to volunteer examiners and coordinators who wish to develop remote testing methods or to increase remote testing programs already in place,” the FCC said in an April 30 news release. “We recognize that some volunteer examiner coordinators may not have the immediate capacity for widespread remote testing. We expect those volunteer examiner coordinators with limited remote testing capacity to work closely with those requesting such testing to prioritize any available remote testing slots.”

ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, said she’s gratified to see that the FCC appreciates the need for remote testing. “Many of our VEs and VE Teams have been employing remotely proctored exam sessions with both video and in-person components, and following social-distancing protocols, where necessary” she said. “Some ARRL VE teams have shown great promise in administering exams remotely.” Somma also said that as states begin to lift restrictions, the possibility exists to restart in-person amateur radio exam opportunities.

“We urge our VE teams to keep up to date so they can make informed decisions based on local community guidelines, as each community is unique,” she said. “Our volunteers should use their best judgement when deciding whether or not to begin conducting in-person exam sessions. It is important to us that you feel confident when choosing your course of action, because the health and safety of our VEs and the examinees is the top priority. VE teams that choose to conduct in-person sessions should re-start consistent with local restrictions and guidelines.”

To find amateur radio license exam sessions in your area, visit the ARRL website. Candidates should verify with their VE teams that the exam session is being held and if any special procedures are required to attend. 

Eastern MA Hospital Net, May 2, 2020

Good Morning Everyone,
I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.  The members of the South Shore Hospital Radio Group are still prohibited from entering the hospital as a precautionary measure against COVID-19. I imagine other hospitals are practicing the same precautions.  This Saturday, being the first Saturday of the month is the Eastern MA Hospital Net. We are seeking an individual to volunteer as Net Control for the month of May as well as volunteers for next few months until we can all get back to our hospital shacks. 
If you have access to an EOC, Home Station, or know of a location where you can reach a few repeaters from your vehicle that’s all you need. We will provide a Net Preamble that has been slimmed down taking into consideration the current environment. Attached is the list of repeaters available for our use. Select 3 you can reach from your location and I will send out the monthly notice. 
John O’ – K1JRO
South Shore Health Amateur Radio Group
South Shore Hospital
55 Fogg Rd. Mail-Stop 42
South Weymouth, MA 02190

Eastern Mass Hospital Net
Repeater and Simplex Frequencies

May 2020

Attleboro 147.195 tone 127.3 (Sturdy Memorial Hospital)
Belmont 145.430 tone 146.2
Boston 145.230 tone encode 88.5 tone decode 100.0
Bridgewater 147.180 tone 67.0
Danvers 145.47 tone 136.5
Dartmouth 147.000 tone 67.0
Fall River 146.805. tone 67.0
Falmouth 147.375 tone 110.9
Mansfield EMA 446.925 tone 100.0
Mansfield 147.015 tone 67.0
Marshfield 145.390 tone 67.0
Norwood 147.210 tone 100.00
Plymouth 146.685 tone 131.8
Salem 146.88 tone 118.8
Sharon 146.865 tone 103.5
Weymouth 147.345 tone 110.9 (South Shore Hospital)
W. Bridgewater 146.775 dcs 244
Wrentham 147.09 tone 146.2
Primary Repeater: Plymouth 146.685 tone 131.8
Secondary Repeater: W. Bridgewater 146.775 dcs 244

Simplex Frequencies:
Primary: 147.420
Secondary: ? (TBD)

Billerica Amateur Radio Society Meets Online, May 6, 2020

Andy Wallace, KA1GTT, writes on the Billerica ARS web site:

Everyone, the need for health safety has caused us to postpone club meetings at the church, our VE sessions, and our Saturday morning breakfasts. I am sure all of you are unhappy and miss getting together as a club. Me, too!

The Board has discussed the idea of virtual meetings and we have decided that next Wednesday, our normal club meeting date, we will hold a VIRTUAL ZOOM MEETING with members. I am happy to say that Phil Temples, K9HI, ARRL Assistant Eastern Massachusetts Section Manager, will help us on our maiden flight with Zoom. I am trying to line up a speaker for the meeting as we speak – likely it will be regarding Field Day 2020 during changing situations regarding stay-at-home advisories.

I will announce the link to join the Zoom meeting before the meeting date, but it will be posted to the BARS email list and should not be shared outside our Club. Are you on the email list? If not, please send an email to bars-subscribe@w1hh.org and then simply reply to the robot response from the server and you will be subscribed.

Observing our Zoom meeting requires only a web browser and headphones/speakers. You do not need a webcam or microphone unless you want to participate. We will likely have some sort of roundtable where folks can catch up.

Before our meeting date, please go to https://zoom.us/test and see if it will function for you. If you have problems, we can try to assist – feel free to ask questions on the BARS email list.

I am looking forward to “seeing” many of you next Wednesday. This will be a fresh experience for us. I can’t believe we only cancelled the April meeting – it feels like it’s been 12 months and I really want to reconnect with ham friends.

ARISS to Experiment with School Contacts Using “Multipoint Telebridge” Approach

ARISS logoFrom ARRL Web:

04/29/2020 – Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) is hoping to adopt a concept it’s calling the “multipoint telebridge contact via amateur radio” that will allow stay-at-home students to take part in amateur radio contacts with members of the space station crew. ARISS has used telebridge stations in the past to enable contacts at times when the ISS orbit does not pass overhead to permit a direct radio contact with the school or other location. In a conventional ARISS telebridge contact, an amateur station ground station in a favorable location for an ISS pass on the scheduled day makes the contact and handles two-way audio between the station and the contact site. ARISS said its new multipoint telebridge approach will permit simultaneous reception by families, school faculty, and the public.

“During the last several weeks, efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus have resulted in massive school closures worldwide,” ARISS said this week in a news release. “In addition, the stay-at-home policies invoked by authorities initially shut down opportunities for ARISS school contacts for the near future.”

ARISS will put its multipoint telebridge scheme to the test during a contact with a group of Northern Virginia students on April 30. For the event, an ARISS telebridge ground station will link with an ISS crew member via radio, and homebound students and their teacher will be linked individually via the telebridge station. Under the teacher’s direction, each at-home student will take a turn to ask the astronaut one question on a prepared list. [Full story]

SKYWARN “Virtual” Spotter Training Sessions Offered Beginning May 7, 2020

From: US National Weather Service Boston MA Facebook page:

[PLEASE SHARE] Are you interested in learning about severe thunderstorms & other types of weather? Next Thursday May 7th, is our first of 3 VIRTUAL Skywarn Spotter trainings! It will be provided via GoToWebinar. Register & get a link to the free training @ https://bit.ly/2We5OsK

Cape Ann ARA Makes Emergency Donation to Open Door Food Program

CAARA logoHank McCarl, W4RIG, CAARA President, writes on the CAARA mailing list:

The CAARA Board has approved an emergency donation of $200 to the Open Door food program to assist with distribution of food to needy residents of Cape Ann and our surrounding communities.  Individual donations can be made by the general membership to:  Open Door at 28 Emerson Avenue, Gloucester, MA 01930

Jake Hurd and Bill Morris made the Recommendations and the CAARA Board approved by unanimous vote to help with the current emergency.

New England Amateur Radio Inc. Authorized to Administer Fully Online Video-Supervised Volunteer Exams

New England Sci Tech logoNew England Amateur Radio Inc (NE1AR) in collaboration with New England Sci-Tech in Natick, MA, has authorization of the ARRL VEC and the FCC to administer fully online video-supervised exams. These non-profit educational organizations, founded by Bob Phinney, K5TEC, and Ted Reimann, W1OG, and managed by a board of directors, support STEM education for all ages with an emphasis on amateur radio.
Bob and Ted began a series of trials on April 1, 2020, under ARRL VEC review and are now supervising a team that provides ARRL approved video-supervised test sessions almost every day of the week. They are also training other ARRL-vetted teams across the country and are working with the software developer of the exam delivery system, ExamTools.org and  HamStudy.org, to help them streamline the system for video-supervised testing.
At the moment only one person at a time can be tested, which limits the number of candidates and adds significant time to the VE team’s schedule. An additional time issue is how long it takes a candidate to go through the security protocol involving video-checking the candidate’s work area and room, reading the protocols, getting the electronic surveillance set correctly, etc. Sometimes the setup and followup for an exam takes longer than the exam itself, in order to provide complete integrity of the exam session.
According to Bob Phinney,  “People have to understand that we have over a hundred people in the queue, so they have to be patient. We give priority to people who take our online ham courses, then to Amateur Extra candidates who need to test before June 30, and then to local clubs, then to general public.” 

Remote Volunteer Exam Update

From Hamstudy.org press release:

April 23, 2020 — Amateur radio license exams typically involve local, in-person sessions run by Volunteer Examiners (VEs) to provide supervision and coordination of the FCC exam with respect to the Part 97 regulations. A limited number of remote exam sessions have been done in areas like Alaska, Hawaii, and Antarctica, but all of these still relied on an in-person proctor to be on-site with the examinee. While the COVID-19 shelter in place guidelines have certainly brought this issue to the forefront, the need for testing applicants with limited mobility or access to physical exams has been a longstanding problem for making amateur radio accessible to everyone.  There are many anecdotal examples of VE teams and applicants going to great lengths, visiting applicants to provide exams in places such as nursing homes, or applicants traveling hundreds of miles to attend the nearest exam session. The need for fully-remote sessions is now stronger than ever.

Remote and fully-remote exam administration has been permitted by the FCC since the rule change in 2014 explicitly authorized remote exams per FCC Report & Order 14-74. Since that time, both Anchorage ARC VEC (Volunteer-Examiner Coordinator) and ARRL VEC have been offering remote sessions with on-site proctors for extenuating circumstances. Under this rule change, the W5YI VEC recently allowed for limited trials of fully-remote exam administration methods that do not require an on-site proctor. The fully-remote exam administration leverages popular video-communications technologies such as Skype or Zoom to allow for exam sessions to be held in full compliance with both FCC and VEC requirements while maintaining the highest exam integrity and applicant experience.

On March 26th, 2020, the first-ever fully-remote amateur radio exam was held to demonstrate the capabilities of these technologies and align with the needs of the W5YI VEC that authorized the trial. This session resulted in a former ham radio operator, Joseph Talbot, passing his technician exam. The FCC issued him his new call sign KJ7NNU within 24 hours of the exam thanks to digital paperwork and speedy processing by W5YI. This exam was performed using Zoom video conferencing and ExamTools.org, a computer-based testing platform developed in 2014 by Richard Bateman KD7BBC with sponsorship and support from Icom America. ExamTools was originally designed for testing, grading, and exam administration of traditional in-person exam sessions on computers, but lent itself very well to fully-remote testing. Richard led this fully-remote session under the supervision of the National Conference of Volunteer-Examiner Coordinators (NCVEC) Chairman and W5YI-VEC President Larry Pollock, NB5X.

Since this time, several other VE Teams have begun administering fully-remote exams using ExamTools.org along with video conferencing systems. The Greater Los Angeles Amateur Radio Group (GLAARG) VEC started administering fully remote exams the following week, led by GLAARG VEC Team Lead Norm Goodkin K6YXH with the approval of Adrienne Sherwood WA6YEO. GLAARG VEC has administered over 100 individual exams in the first half of April. ARRL VEC also has a limited number of VE Teams running fully remote sessions per Maria Somma AB1FM (ARRL VEC Manager and NCVEC Vice-Chairman).

While many VECs and VE Teams are excited and willing to offer fully-remote exams, the tools and methods are extremely cumbersome and difficult to administer consistently. Challenges include signing and managing all exam paperwork, verifying applicant identification, observing the applicant reliably throughout the exam, actual taking of the exam, exam booklet and question management, and confirming exam payments as required by the VEC. In order to streamline these processes for both fully-remote and in-person computer-based testing, Richard Bateman KD7BBC is enhancing the existing functionality of ExamTools.org to integrate many of these features into the tool and greatly improve the exam experience for all those involved. Since March 2020, a small team of amateur radio enthusiasts has been supporting Richard’s efforts to develop, test, and document the improved tool and the best practices around administering such exams. In the FAQ section of this release, several documents are provided as resources to the VECs and VE Teams for them to modify and incorporate into their own fully-remote exam procedures. The improved ExamTools.org system is currently in beta testing with several VE Teams and will be made available for wider release soon. Stay tuned for the updates on this blog.

Special thanks to the following individuals for their contributions to the fully-remote exam administration process, either those contributing directly or otherwise supporting the efforts: 

  • Richard Bateman, KD7BBC
  • Nick Booth, N1CCK
  • Marcel Stieber, AI6MS
  • Sterling Mann, N0SSC
  • Lucky225, WA6VPS
  • Norm Goodkin, K6YXH (and his whole family of VEs: Naomi, Miriam, Michael, Daniel, and Mitchell!)
  • Rick Norton, WM6M
  • Mikel Turnier, WU1B
  • Bob Phinney, K5TEC
  • Ted Reimann, W1OG

And a special thanks to W5YI-VEC and the Greater Los Angeles Amateur Radio Group VEC for believing in the technology to enable more people to experience ham radio!

ARRL Suggests Taking a Creative Approach to Field Day 2020

From ARRL Web:

04/22/2020 – This year, ARRL Field Day promises to be a unique iteration of this annual event, with many individuals and groups coming up with new and interesting ways to adjust their approach. As an event, Field Day is structured to be versatile and can be adapted for any situation.

Many groups have asked how they can adjust their Field Day planning to address social-distancing guidelines that may be in effect in many areas of the country, as gathering at their traditional Field Day site may not be feasible or safe. Instead of participating in a group event this year, consider operating as a Class B, C, D, or E station, utilizing your own call sign.

ARRL will include club names for all participating stations in the published results, so the efforts of your club’s members can be acknowledged. While we will not publish an aggregate club score, seeing the name of your club associated with various individual member’s results is certainly a way to highlight your club’s activity. [Full story]

Sturdy Memorial Hospital ARC “Meeting On The Air,” April 21, 2020

Sturdy Memorial Hospital ARC logoRay Cord, K2TGX, writes on the Sturdy Memorial Hospital ARC mailing list:

We have decided to try a Meeting On The Air in place of our displaced Monthly meeting. It will start at 8:00 PM on Tuesday, April 21 on the K1SMH 147.195 repeater. Hopefully, John N1FLO, will be available to give us an ARES update. We will review what has transpired from last meeting, talk about upcoming activities and, of course, hopefully start planning for Field Day. The format will be some what the same as a normal meeting. We will do check-ins just as we do for the ARES Net and at the end we will go through the Roll Call for final comment.

If you have a question or comment during the meeting, just say “Question or Comment” when the transmission drops.

TNX 73,


Remotely Administered Amateur Exam Systems Showing Promise

New England Amateur Radio Inc (NE1AR), an affiliate of New England Sci-Tech, (NESciTech) in Natick, is an early adopter in the area of remotely administered volunteer exams.

From the ARRL VE Newsletter, April 16, 2020:

Facing a growing demand for amateur radio exam sessions in a time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, sponsors of some Volunteer Examiner (VE) teams have risen to the challenge and are developing systems to remotely proctor test sessions.

“Many of our VEs and VE Teams have been working on remotely proctored exam session ideas, employing both video and in-person components — following social distancing protocols,” ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, said. “We have been receiving interesting and innovative suggestions, and we appreciate the dedication and ingenuity our examiners have shown.”

The Spalding County Amateur Radio Club in Georgia is among those that have come up with plans to remotely administer amateur exams while complying with ARRL VEC testing standards during COVID-19 stay-home mandates and social distancing guidelines. Current systems leverage Zoom video-teleconferencing technology, the “Fill & Sign” feature of Adobe PDFs, reliable email, appropriate computer equipment and internet connection, and no volunteer examiners (VEs) present at individual remote test sites. The Georgia club collaborated and shared ideas with the Emergency Amateur Radio Club (EARC) in Hawaii, which has successfully conducted sessions since 2011 with its own remote testing system, initially with paper exams with a proctor on site and now with fillable PDFs, with no on-site proctor.

The Georgia club obtained ARRL VEC approval to administer video-supervised exams. The club’s David Robinson, K4WVZ, said the first exam session took place this week, with another set for next week, and “many more in the pipeline” going forward.

“We have started with testing just one candidate at a time but are planning to ramp up to multiple candidates — probably two or three — simultaneously,” Robinson told ARRL. “Before we do that, we want a few more single sessions under our belt and a few more Video VEs trained. It also gives us an opportunity to garner lessons learned from each test session and upgrade our procedures accordingly.” Robinson said this week’s session went “exceedingly well,” and the candidate passed the test.

The club’s procedures entail a pre-exam video interview with candidates to ensure they understand all the requirements and procedures. “This also allows us to test the candidate’s ability to work with the video and computer technology before the actual exam,” Robinson explained. “Training sessions were conducted for VEs to make sure they understood their role and how to use the technology.”

Following the exam, the VEs score the test and sign off on the paperwork, with the VE Team Leader submitting the application online and by mail, per ARRL VEC instructions. Application and successful exam are first accepted and then submitted to the FCC for processing.

New England Amateur Radio Inc (NE1AR), an affiliate of New England Sci-Tech, (NESciTech), has taken it one step further, Somma said. It got the approval of ARRL VEC to begin trials of what it describes as “completely online testing with strict rules and protocols for maintaining the integrity of the testing environment.” NE1AR is limiting candidates to one exam per candidate, due to the current candidate backlog and the “difficulty of administering exams online.” Candidates must agree to a list of protocols, which include no visitors (or pets) in the exam room and a cell-phone camera scan of the entire room and exam area “to show that there are no materials or people [in the room] that could aid in taking the exam.” If the VE team suspects the possibility of cheating, the exam may be terminated and the candidate barred from future online exam sessions.

“We began a series of trials on April 1 under ARRL VEC review and have now been asked to help train more VE Teams on the process,” NE1AR President Bob Phinney, K5TEC, told ARRL. “We have now tested 12 applicants and are still working on streamlining the process. We are working with the software developer of the exam delivery system to help them adapt the system for video-supervised testing.” At present, Phinney said, only one person at a time can be tested. Another time-related issue is how long it takes a candidate to go through the NE1AR security protocol. “Sometimes, the setup and follow-up for an exam take far longer than the exam itself, in order that we provide complete integrity of the exam session,” he said.

With pressure continuing to build to provide testing compatible with COVID-19 guidelines and stay-home orders, ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, has asked the amateur radio community to be patient. “Please remember that with the introduction of significant new processes such as these, that there should be proof of concept, establishment of protocols and procedures, and beta testing, before expanding to a larger audience,” she said this week. Somma said video-supervised exam sessions require a different skillset than in-person exam administration, and not all teams will be equipped to deliver video exams right away.

“ARRL is pleased to be one of the leaders in providing an opportunity, although limited initially, for video-supervised exams in this time of social distancing and isolation required by the current health situation,” Somma said.