September is National Preparedness Month, so now is a great opportunity to get ready for the Great Shakeout, the world’s largest earthquake preparedness exercise. SPARC member, and ARES LAX Northeast District Emergency Coordinator, Oliver Dully, K6OLI has written a guide to using Winlink’s built-in “Did You Feel It?” form during the Shakeout.
Send Winlink DYFI (“Did-you-feel-it?”) Exercise reports with your group. We encourage you to send reports with Modified Mercalli Intensity V (5) or greater.
It was another fun day of SPARC in the park as our club gathered to participate in the 2023 September VHF Contest. We made around twenty contacts before closing out the log. Join our email list to hear about the next club contesting opportunity!
At our September 2023 member meeting, we learned about the latest features of Winlink from Jeff, W2JCL. In his role as Assistant District Emergency Coordinator for ARES LAX Northeast, Jeff uses Winlink extensively and stays apprised of its development.
Winlink is an email client and a network infrastructure for sending email over amateur radio frequencies. It is especially useful in emergency communications because its robust error correction ensures critical information is sent exactly as intended.
Anyone interested in learning about Winlink should visit the official site at Winlink.org. More resources are linked on our Winlink project page, and you can read an earlier presentation from Jeff here (274 KB PDF).
SPARC welcomed Bill Hacker, WB6MGT to our August meeting for a presentation on his experiences as a transmitter hunter. Bill began t-hunting in 1970 in Simi Valley using a Yagi antenna made out of coat hangers and tied to the mirror of a 1958 VW van. He’s upgraded his equipment since then as you can see in the above picture of Bill and his current professional-grade Yagi. For much of Bill’s t-hunting career, he has partnered with his college roommate Doug, WA6RJN. Bill’s longest hunt required locating a transmitter in Barstow, California; one near Las Vegas; one along the 15 freeway in Arizona; and the main transmitter in Saint George, Utah. Bill has worked in IT at USC for over twenty years and serves as net control for USC’s Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Team. He last spoke to SPARC at our March, 2022 meeting.
After his presentation, Bill led a practice t-hunt in Eddie Park. SPARC members got a chance to use their tape measure Yagis and signal attenuators to locate a transmitter stashed out of sight. Below are some pictures of the hunt in progress.
SPARC thanks Bill for a fun and informative evening!
SPARC was proud to march in South Pasadena’s annual July 4th parade and reconnect with friends from across the community. Our thanks go out to the Festival planning committee for hosting another fantastic celebration.
Members and friends of the South Pasadena Amateur Radio Club gathered in Eddie Park on June 10 for the annual ARRL June VHF Contest. Propagation conditions varied over the course of several hours, and most of our contacts were located in LA or Orange counties. We were happy to be ambassadors for the hobby to several passersby, and we discussed the city’s emergency preparedness plans with a representative from the South Pasadena police department. We look forward to the next opportunity to get on the air together and share our expertise.
At SPARC’s April, May, and June meetings, we continued working with the tape measure beam antennas we constructed in February. At the April meeting, we tuned the antennas to make sure they resonated at 146.565 MHz, the local t-hunting frequency. By adjusting the spacing of the steel elements, we made sure each antenna was ready to hear a hidden transmitter.
At the May and June meetings, we constructed an attenuator kit to pair with the antennas. Stan, KR6CV arranged a group purchase of kits from KC9ON. The V7 kit provides 4 MHz of signal attenuation. KC9ON explains how that helps:
When you’re closing in on the fox [the hidden transmitter] you may find the signals to be strong enough you can no longer find a peak or null with your antenna. Sometimes the signal is so strong that the RF will leak straight into the radio, connections and other equipment making the antenna useless. The solution is to use an offset attenuator. The circuit consists of a small RF generator, in this case 4 MHz, which will mix with the incoming fox signal (such as 146.52 MHz) and produce new signals at plus and minus the fox signal (142.52 MHz and 150.52 MHz). A potentiometer on the board changes the injection level of the RF generator which in turn attenuates the incoming mixed signal to your radio to a level where tracking can continue.
At our March, 2023 member meeting, Jim Marr, AA6QI presented “CW – The Why and the How.” Sending Morse code over CW is the oldest radio transmission mode, but it remains useful today. CW isn’t merely a nostalgic throwback. Jim explained that while digital modes like FT8 and JT65 may be more efficient, they can only exchange limited information. CW is “totally unstructured” with no limits on what knowledgable operators can communicate.
Learning CW continues to be a badge of honor for hams, as expressed on the shirt seen here on Jim’s introductory slide.
In his teen years, Jim practiced his code skills by transcribing stories from the daily newspaper. As his proficiency increased, the practice of sending and receiving CW became more enjoyable. “You like to do what you’re good at, and you’re good at what you do a lot,” Jim observed.
Jim recommended that anyone interested in learning CW should explore the two most popular training methods, Farnsworth and Koch, and see which one feels more natural. Some online resources include:
At our February 2023 membership meeting, the South Pasadena Amateur Radio Club organized a group building project. We constructed 2 meter tape measure antennas ideal for radio direction finding or “t-hunting.” The club provided a kit of necessary parts to all dues-paying members who wished to participate.
The project was led by Bob WB6YJJ, Rick KI6ZKM, and Stan KR6CV, who provided instruction and assistance as members assembled the antennas. The process involved measuring and cutting tape measure segments to the correct length, assembling a frame from PVC pipe sections, then soldering the components of the driven element (the part of the antenna that radiates).
There are various plans for similar tape measure beam antennas, or “cheap Yagis,” available on the Internet. Here is the schematic for the one we built, designed by Joe Leggio WB2HOL:
Visit Joe’s page linked above or this re-post for a full explanation of how the antenna works and instructions for building one.
Below are photos of all the steps in the building process, courtesy of Robert K6YZF, Stan KR6CV, and John KK6ZVQ.
This building activity was a welcome return to hands-on projects at our meetings, and we look forward to hosting more in the future.
Thank you to everyone who dropped by Eddie Park to hang out and make contacts on Winter Field Day! SPARC members and friends operated with the club call sign W6SPR and a “Two Oscar” class designation, meaning two simultaneous transmitters. Highlights of the afternoon included a visit from YouTube/TikTok personality Natalie NW6S (aka the Glam Ham), and one visitor making his first-ever HF contact. We hope to see you at our next “SPARC in the Park” opportunity!