January 2020 Meeting Wrap-up

SPARC held its first monthly meeting of 2020 on January 8. In February, we will resume our normal schedule of meeting on the first Wednesday of the month (7:30 pm at the SP Fire Department, 817 Mound Avenue).

Newly-elected SPARC President Rick Besocke, KI6ZKM led a roundtable discussion of members’ radio goals for the year. Rick shared his experience taking a SOTA hike on Barber Benchmark in the Mojave National Preserve during which he made a contact in Washington State on 20m.

Some housekeeping matters followed. It’s time to pay dues for 2020. Dues remain $20 per household and can be paid via cash, check or PayPal. If your contact information has changed, please fill out a new membership form and email it treasurer@southpasradio.org.

We have six SPARC T-shirts left, all in size XL. Email treasurer@southpasradio.org to purchase one. We will print another run in more sizes as needed.

Bob Vanderwall, WB6YJJ is developing a training schedule to teach club members how to run net control from the Emergency Operations Center using the city’s new Kenwood D710GA. Full details to follow. Our goal is to expand the number of net control operators and get all of them comfortable with the Kenwood.

SPARC’s executive board has accepted the Pasadena Radio Club’s invitation to once again manage a Get on the Air (GOTA) station at Field Day. The dates this year are June 27-28.

Next, we watched the trailer for A High and Awful Price, a new documentary about the destruction of Paradise, CA during the Camp Fire of 2018. Several members who have seen the documentary urged everyone in attendance to watch it. What happened in Paradise is a sobering reminder of how quickly a disaster can overwhelm a community and how emergency plans must be flexible.

We concluded by announcing some upcoming volunteer opportunities:

Eliot Science Night — The Eliot Arts Magnet Academy Middle School in Altadena will host its annual Science, Technology, Engineering, Environment and Health Night on January 24. Both ALERT and PRC will have a presence. Email website@southpasradio.org for more information.

Firecracker Run/Ride — Chinatown’s annual run and bike ride event takes place Feburary 15-16. The 40-mile bike route cuts through the San Gabriel Valley and Pasadena. Radio operators are needed for follow vehicles and net control. Email volunteers@firecracker10k.org.

LA Marathon — This year’s Los Angeles Marathon takes place March 8. If you’d like to help with communications, click here then click the blue “Sign Up To Volunteer” box, and in the next screen click Volunteer Shift “G1- Radio Operators” and fill out the form. Follow-up information will come from Greg Powell, KD6AIS, who is the Marathon’s amateur radio coordinator.

Hope to hear you on the air or see you at our February meeting.

October Meeting Wrap-Up: Digital Mode Training Begins

At our October 2 meeting, SPARC president Stan, KR6CV and SPARC treasurer Bob, WB6YJJ reported on the club’s sale of radio equipment from the estate of founding SPARC member Tim Cox, WA0PTC. Funds from the sale are being set aside to fund the purchase of a dedicated SPARC repeater. 

Bob and Rick, KI6ZKM discussed our demonstration of the new city-owned amateur station during the ARRL September VHF Contest. We logged twenty-three contacts over approximately four hours.

In recognition of September being National Preparedness Month and October’s upcoming Great Shakeout, Stan led a discussion of home preparedness best practices. Several members and guests shared ideas and experiences, and there was an informal show-and-tell of radio go kits.

The main topic of the meeting was a presentation by Jeff, W2JCL entitled “Digital Modes for Emergency Communications.” This was the first in a planned series of discussions and workshops which will develop members’ skills in these useful communication techniques. Jeff demonstrated the Winlink email program by exchanging messages with Oliver, K6OLI and Mike, KM6KAQ. Click here or on the image below to download Jeff’s presentation as a PDF. The last page includes links to further information and software downloads.

Click to download (176 kB PDF)

SPARC Demonstrates New EOC Station to the Public

On Saturday, September 14, SPARC demonstrated a new amateur radio station that has been added to the city’s Emergency Operations Center. Our fire department has invested in a dedicated antenna on the roof of city hall and a dual-band VHF/UHF radio. This equipment will help keep communications open even if traditional phone and Internet systems stop working.

In honor of September being National Preparedness Month, SPARC invited city officials, CERT members and Neighborhood Watch captains to see the station in action. The demonstration coincided with the annual ARRL September VHF contest to ensure there was sufficient on-air activity to test the station’s capabilities. SPARC members operated four additional radios to compare against the EOC station. The new station performed well, picking out signals that the others were unable to hear. The station is a valuable addition to the city’s preparedness resources.

SPARC thanks the city fire and police departments for allowing us to use the EOC for this open house and test. We appreciate the hard work that the city and other civic groups do to keep our city resilient and ready. 

Public Demonstration at September VHF 2019
Testing the EOC’s new amateur radio station.
EOC Kenwood
The EOC’s radio is enclosed in a protective case.
Antennas in Courtyard
A new permanent VHF/UHF antenna has been installed on the roof of city hall. For our test, temporary antennas were set up in the courtyard and on the roof.
Logging contacts on the big screen
The new EOC station was tested against radios and antennas brought in by SPARC members. Contacts were logged using N3FJP+ and displayed on the main monitor to the right.
Tribander and Homebrew 6m Dipole
Left, the Ed Fong TBJ-1 triband antenna. Right, a homebrew 6m dipole constructed by Rick, KI6ZKM. A SPARC member stands between them for scale.

New Operating Event: Harvey Houses on the Air

Ginger Eldridge, KC5MTI contacted us to promote an operating event, the third annual Harvey Houses on the Air. The event will take place from 8:00am to 4:00pm PDT on Saturday, September 14. Hams will operate from the sites of historic hotels and “eating houses” founded by entrepreneur Fred Harvey beginning in the late nineteenth century. Locally, Union Station in downtown Los Angeles once had a Harvey House. Just under a year ago, the Harvey House space was reopened as the Imperial Western Beer Company and Streamliner Bar.

Full information on how to participate is listed on the event’s QSL.net page.

Ginger writes, “We hope you set up your mobile unit and practice your field day skills and have some fun. … Let us know you’re participating so we can try to chat with you on the air.”

Note that this event takes place during the ARRL VHF Contest.

Pictures from the Summit of San Gabriel Peak

On Sunday, August 11, SPARC members Rick Besocke, KI6ZKM and Jeff Liter, W2JCL hiked San Gabriel peak and performed a SOTA (Summits on the Air) activation. Together they logged seventeen QSOs on 146.52 MHz and 446.00 MHz. Jeff also conducted a mesh chat with Oliver, K6OLI over the AREDN mesh.

Rick KI6ZKM operates a “tape measure” beam on FM. A mesh go-kit operated by Jeff W2JCL is in the foreground.
Rick makes a contact on his beam. Antennas of Mt. Wilson are visible in the background.

If you’d like to know more about SOTA, check out this talk by Scott, WA9STI from our November 2018 meeting. Then use the following links to join in on the fun.

Main SOTA site: www.sota.org.uk
SOTA logging: www.sotadata.org.uk
SOTA Watch (alerts and spots): www.sotawatch.org
SOTA Mapping Project: www.sotamaps.org
SOTlas (SOTA altas): www.sotl.as

Prepare for an Emergency with These Member-Submitted Tips

We’ve added a new page to the SPARC website: Preparing for Emergencies. It is accessible from the navigation menu under “Resources.”

The inspiration for the page came from a discussion started by Bob Vanderwall WB6YJJ during our weekly on-air nets in 2017. Net participants discussed the state of their own preparedness, shared advice and recommended various tools. In the aftermath of the July earthquakes near Ridgecrest, there was renewed interest in emergency prep and new urgency to share our ongoing club discussion.

If you have suggestions on how to improve the page or corrections to any of the contact information listed there, don’t hesitate to contact us. Thank you!

Ham 101 Returns – Reserve Your Spot

‭ARES LAX Northeast, our local branch of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, will hold a new session of “Ham Basics 101.”

Saturday, July 27
9:00 am – 12:00 pm, followed by informal mentoring
Huntington Memorial Hospital
conference room adjacent to the cafeteria

Ham Basics 101 is a two-hour workshop for amateur radio beginners and those getting back into the hobby or seeking to improve their skills. Topics covered include:

  • • basic operations and radio options
  • • how to use simplex and repeater frequencies
  • • how to program your radios manually and using software

For more details and to sign up please visit this link:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/laect-ham-basics-101-tickets-64313738122

This workshop is open to all licensed amateurs.

Pictures from the 2019 Festival of Balloons Parade

Members of SPARC were proud to march in South Pasadena’s 2019 Festival of Balloons Parade with friends and neighbors involved in CERT and Neighborhood Watch. Mike KM6KAQ wore a fully-functioning mobile rig in a backpack, complete with a portable antenna mast. Tran K6NHI, who works for the Southern California Earthquake Center, had a busy morning thanks to the magnitude 6.4 Ridgecrest earthquake which occurred shortly before the parade. We thank the festival committee and our police and fire departments for organizing another fun day out for the whole community.