From the Archives...
Past Meeting Topics
Here are some of the presentations from OVARC Monthly Meetings last year:
All About APRS -- Automatic Packet Reporting System
Marnee Dearman, KG7SIO
APRS stands for Automatic Packet Reporting System. It is a digital-mode packet-radio protocol. Basically this means that you transmit encoded data and it sounds like scratchy modem-noises.
APRS is often thought of that system where you can transmit your GPS coordinates and you'll show up on a map. While this is true, and often how APRS is used, there are many, many more possibilities. So many that it gave me an idea for an APRS software application, which took me down the rabbit hole of everything APRS and amateur packet radio.
I will cover everything I learned along the way of developing my own APRS software application, and how anyone, even non-programmers, can get involved in the project.
Marnee, KG7SIO, is a member of the OVARC Board of Directors, and the former website manager.
DMR - Digital Mobile Radio
Bob Molczan, KA7VPR
Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) has been available for use by Radio Amateurs for several years, although out of reach for many due to the high cost of equipment only available from the commercial radio market. Within the last 3 years an influx of affordable DMR radios for the Amateur market has made DMR available to everyone at costs remarkably less that current market analog/digital equipment from leading HAM radio manufacturers.
DMR is a very efficient Digital Voice mode with High Quality Audio and Superior RF Signal propagation characteristics. DMR repeaters are linked world wide, and the availability of two DMR networks, Motorola and Brandmeister offer options to both the Experimenter and the Casual operator. DMR Repeater and Hot Spot building is available and adds to the fun and effectiveness of DMR.
However, DMR has been given a "Bad Reputation" as being "Hard or Impossible" to program when it comes to developing a profile or "Code Plug" for one's radio. For this reason many have either given up on or shied away from DMR to seek ease of operation from other digital voice modes. This misconception of DMR's "lack of user friendliness" makes it difficult for Multi-Mode repeater groups like OVARC to justify keeping the DMR mode active on our area repeaters.
My presentation will attempt to dispel all of the misconceptions about programming DMR radios, and provide a clear explanation of how to write a "Code Plug". Details pertaining to DMR terminology and different "Customer Programming Software" (CPS) will be provided, along with samples of code plugs and much more.
I personally have been using DMR for over 5 years now, and own both commercial and amateur DMR radio gear from companies like Motorola, Vertex, CSI, and Anytone. Although I do not claim to be an expert on DMR, I believe that I can remove many of the obstacles that keep you from making DMR your "Go To" mode for Digital Voice communications.
OVARC Repeater System - Now and into the future
The OVARC Repeater system has grown over the years and now expands to the far reaches of Metro-Tucson. It seems like yesterday, but it has already been 3 years since the Marana Repeater went on the air.
Enhancing our system to handle several new operating modes has been the more recent challenge. Having a repeater capable of handling D-Star, DMR, Fusion and Analog-FM and minimizing inter-mode conflicts, is a real challenge. At the same time we can’t forget about responsibilities to public safety.
Linking repeaters is another growing challenge. Which ones get linked? How easy is it to unlink? What happens to the links during an emergency, power failure or internet interruptions? These are all issues that confront us routinely.
During the September meeting we will cover the complexities of our repeater system; where it is now and where it will go. Please come and listen to where time and technology will push us into the future.
Gary – KT7AZ is our Repeater Committee Chairman that will lead this presentation. Gary is an Extra Class licensee and has been licensed since 1984. He is a recently retired Detective as well as the IT Manager from The Oro Valley Police Department. With a 350 foot loop, an off center-fed dipole and a Mosley Yagi, Gary operates nearly all bands on CW and SSB but is particularly interested in the digital modes – PSK, FT8 etc.
WSPR (Weak Signal Propagation Reporter)
Curt Laumann, K7ZOO
Curt Laumann, K7ZOO, will present both theory and practical applications of the WSPR mode. This interesting weak-signal mode allows one to observe, document and study propagation on many different bands. A live demonstration of WSPR will be present, so attendees will be able to view real-time propagation data from Oro Valley. Curt will show a time-lapse representation of 20-meter propagation across the continental US. He will also discuss a real-world application of WSPR to improve the performance of HF antennas at the National Weather Service in Tucson, Arizona.
About Curt Laumann...
Curt was first licensed in 1974 in Minnesota. He currently holds an Extra Class license, and is active in many facets of the hobby.
Curt has worked as a physicist, design engineer, and process engineer (Six Sigma Blackbelt). For a few decades Curt pursued flying: he is a licensed private pilot in airplanes, a commercial pilot in gliders, and held a glider instructor certification. Over the last decade he returned to amateur radio as his primary focus.
Curt volunteers to manage the University of Arizona’s amateur radio station. He led numerous activities this calendar year: antenna building (yagi’s, vertical’s), antenna azimuthal gain performance measurements, 7th QSO Party, Field Day, and a foxhunt.
Curt recently volunteered to evaluate and improve the emergency HF radio station at the Tucson National Weather Service. The WSPR mode was the key enabler to quantifying antenna performance on multiple bands.
Morse code is a keen interest -- Curt has taught two sessions of morse code through CWOps. Also of interest are portable, competitive operations, for example both NPOTA and SOTA:
a) NPOTA 76 activations, placing 46th nationwide
National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) was a thrill in 2016, motivating me to visit virtually every national park & monument in Arizona and New Mexico, and a handful of parks in the adjoining states. I placed 46th in the national list of NPOTA Activators. One especially memorable park was Chaco Culture, in central New Mexico, where amateur radio was included as part of an astronomy weekend.
a) SOTA 64 activations, the vast majority of which are “first” activations
I focus on visiting physically challenging, previously unactivated summits around Arizona and New Mexico. One of the most interesting SOTA locations is shown below, the sand dunes on the north end of Death Valley National Park.
World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) - 2018
Sometimes referred to as the Olympics of Amateur Radio, WRTC - 2018 was held last July in Germany.
World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) is held every 4 years on an invitation basis. Each operator requires qualification through high positions in major world radio contests. Thousands of Amateur Radio volunteers are involved with WRTC at a cost of about $600,000.
Tim Duffy, CEO of DX Engineering will be presenting a summary of WRTC - 2018. Not only was Tim a WRTC participant but DX Engineering was a Gold Level sponsor of the event. Only the very best contest operators in the world participate in this event so hearing Tim’s experiences will be a treat.
Interesting facts from WRTC - 2018:
Place - Wittenberg, Germany
First Prize - Lithuania - LY9A & LY4L
Second Prize - Germany - DJ5MW & DL1IAO
Third Prize - United States - KL9A & N6MJ
Total Teams Competing - 63
Total Contacts Made - 262,746
Contest Period - 24 Hours
Antennas constructed for the event - 65
Next WRTC - 2022 - Italy
Henry Gonzalez, K7AEL
Emily Carpenter, KD0TSE
SKYWARN is the National Weather Service (NWS) program of trained severe weather spotters. SKYWARN volunteers support their local community and government by providing the NWS with timely and accurate severe weather and flood reports.
While the SKYWARN program is open to everyone, Amateur Radio operators play a key role in this important program and comprise a very large percentage of the spotters in the program. During times of severe weather a SKYWARN net may be activated, providing a real-time way to pass information between spotters and the NWS warning desk without tying up their phone lines. The Amateur radio operators also provide vital communication between the NWS and emergency management if normal communications become inoperative. OVARC made our repeater system available for Tucson-area severe weather nets during dangerous events last year with some very good results.
Henry K7AEL the amateur coordinator for SKYWARN in Sector 1 (serving Southern Pinal, Pima, Cochise, Graham, Greenlee and Santa Cruz Counties) will be joined by Emily Carpenter the SKYWARN Training Meteorologist from the National Weather Service Tucson Forecast Center will be talking about the role that spotters in Sector 1 played in the operations during last monsoon season and Emily will discuss what to expect for this coming season.
If you’re a weather buff, this will be a meeting you won’t want to miss!
DX Contesting Tools
Bob Wilson, N6TV
Have you heard of CW Skimmer or the RTTY Skimmer? How about the Reverse Beacon Network? These are all tools frequently used by DXers and Contest Operators. During the presentation you will hear how these tools can help you, and what you can do to help others.
Bob Wilson, N6TV, is a San Francisco Bay Area contester and CW operator. Bob grew up in Southern California and received his novice license in 1972. He developed his CW skills on the National Traffic System as a teenager. His is an avid contester, and his favorite contest is The North American Sprint, which is a four hour contest. Bob received his Computer Science Degree at Berkeley and is considered to be a software expert. He spent most of his career at IBM, and is now retired. He is currently a member of the Northern California Contest Club, Northern California DX Club, and Mother Lode DX/Contest Club.Bob is also a professor at Contest University in Dayton and a three time competitor at the World Radiosport Team Championship.
QRP Operating - Do More with Less
Bob Stephens, AF9W
Operating QRP is a segment of amateur radio that focuses on low power, portablity, and home brewing equipment. Although requiring some skill for effective operation, QRP has the advantages of light weight equipment, low power consumption, and less RFI in your neighbors’s electronics. Bob will discuss why you might want to operate QRP, what radios and antennas to use, what modes are effective, and what skills you need to acquire.
Bob was first licensed in 1977 and passed his Extra class license test in 1978. Bob joined OVARC in 2011 and was an active member of the club. We have Bob to thank for the club's great website. His primary operating interests are HF CW, usually QRP, CW Contesting, Field Day, D-Star, DMR, and Packet radio. Bob was a snowbird traveling between WA and AZ until 2017 when he permanently relocated to Whidbey Island in WA state. He is president of the Island County Amateur Radio Club on Whidbey Island.
Amateur Satellite Communications, the Easy Way to Work DX for All Licensees
Patrick Stoddard, WD9EWK
Patrick Stoddard, WD9EWK will be our featured presenter. Live and in person, Patrick will present the fascinating world of amateur satellite communications. Once thought to be an exclusive communications mode for hams with big antennas and specialized radios, amateurs can operate satellites several times a day using a handheld radio and a handheld antenna. Satellite frequencies are open to ALL Amateur Class Licensees. So come and see how easy this can be. Patrick will begin with a brief history of amateur satellites and go right into the current satellites that are orbiting above us.
If you attended the 2018 hamfest, you might remember seeing Patrick working satellites right from the hamfest parking lot.
Satellite Communications is IMMUNE to the sunspot cycle so check out this easy way to work DX.
Patrick Stoddard WD9EWK/VA7EWK has been licensed since 1977 and is a Life Member of the ARRL and AMSAT. Between 2011 and 2013, Patrick was an alternate member of AMSAT's Board of Directors. After many years trying different aspects of amateur radio, Patrick began working amateur satellites in 2005. Since then, he has worked stations in all 50 US states and over 20 other countries from Arizona. Patrick has worked satellites from over 100 grid locators across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Australia. He has also worked satellites from all 15 Arizona counties, 19 other U.S. states plus Washington DC and has achieved his WAS and VUCC awards via satellite.
Patrick holds the top classes of license in the USA (Amateur Extra) and Canada (Basic, Advanced, and Morse qualifications). Although mostly active on satellites, he enjoys working HF, 6m, and other bands and modes.
Professionally, Patrick is an I.T. systems administrator in the Phoenix area, with 20 years experience in the I.T. field.
Parks on the Air (POTA)
Jason Johnston, W3AAX - POTA Administrator
Operating a portable amateur radio station from a park can make for a relaxing day out especially here in Tucson. It also provides an opportunity to expose the public to the amateur radio service.
Parks On The Air (POTA) is a non-profit organization that supports the use of amateur radio in our state and national parks. Through promotions by Parks On The Air, more people will discover and enjoy our park system. This also directly helps amateur radio meet its charter of providing communications support in times of emergencies such as after natural disasters.
POTA provides a website where amateur radio operators can find nearby parks. Hams then set up temporary portable radio stations and attempt to contact as many fellow hams as possible. Visiting a park and getting on the air is called an "activation", and after each one, hams can submit a list of their contacts to POTA. The goals are to activate as many parks as possible and to talk to as many stations as possible. Certificate awards are then given for a number of categories.
Hams, like other park visitors, must obey all park regulations and leave no trace of their operation after they leave. Some hams have radios in their cars and operate from the parking lot. Some hams enjoy backpacking and hiking and may explore throughout the park, setting up operations almost anywhere.
About Jason Johnston...
Jason was an extremely active hunter and activator during the American Radio Relay League's (ARRL) National Parks on the Air program. Parks on the Air (POTA) was inspired by the outstanding work of Sean Kutzko (KX9X) and Norm Fusaro (W3IZ) from the ARRL. Not wanting to see the fun stop since the National Parks Service’s centennial was over after 2016, he decided to create Parks on the Air (POTA) with a great team of volunteers. They have set up a website and systems to support their program, enlisting more national parks, state parks, and wildlife refuges in the United States, and other territories.
DXCC in a Weekend
The thrill of working DX in a contest and following propagation around the world as day turns into night and back again is never ending. Have you ever wondered if you could work 100 DXCC entities in a weekend? How about with a low power modest station in the bottom of the sunspot cycle? We are about to find out. Welcome Bill, K6WSC, as he presents “DXCC in a Weekend.” Don’t know what DXCC is? Then come to the January meeting and find out. How about these “sunspots” that every is talking about? If you’re after long distance point - to - point contacts, then sunspots can be your friend. Bill will help us understand these too. His presentation is also a great introduction to contesting for the DXer.
Bill K6WSC, although continuously licensed since 1969, was largely QRT for 37 years until 2008 when he got hooked on the Sport of Amateur Radio, Contesting. Primarily a CW operator, Bill enjoys both DX and domestic contests. He is a member of the Arizona Outlaws Contest Club, Chairman of the Arizona QSO Party, and President of the Southern Arizona DX Association.
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