Spring Sprint 2020 Results

Dear SPARC Members and Friends,
 
The SPARC VHF/UHF Spring Sprint had operators making contacts on the 144, 220, and 440 MHz bands using both FM and SSB. Seven logs were submitted before the deadline, and the top three results are as follows:

  1. Paul, N6LL 15 total contacts (7 unique, 3 bands)
  2. John, AC6VV 14 total contacts (7 unique, 2 bands, 2 modes)
  3. Jeff, W2JCL 12 total contacts (9 unique, 2 bands)


Congratulations to our top finishers and thank you to all who participated. We will certainly do this again soon.

Rick, KI6ZKM

Participate in SPARC’s VHF and Up Sprint Contest on May 6

In lieu of our May monthly meeting, SPARC will hold its first-ever contest, a VHF and Up Sprint.

When: Wednesday, May 6, 2020 from 1930 to 2000 PDT. 

The goal of this informal contest is for participants to make as many VHF/UHF simplex contacts as possible in thirty minutes. All modes and VHF/UHF bands are allowed, but please be sure to follow band plans, use established simplex frequencies, and listen before transmitting. A few recognized southern California FM simplex frequencies are: 145.600, 146.520, 146.550, 223.500, and 446.000. Spotting and coordinating with others is permitted and encouraged. No prizes will be awarded, but the top scores will be recognized and posted to SouthPasRadio.org . 

Rules:

  1. The contest will be held on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 from 1930 to 2000 PDT. 
  2. The contest is open to any licensed amateur radio operator.
  3. Only amateur frequencies from 144 MHz and up are allowed.
  4. All modes are allowed, but contacts using repeaters or satellites are not permitted.
  5. The exchange is call sign and signal report (RST).
  6. Participants will keep a log of contacts.
  7. Participants will email only the number of contacts made to contest@southpasradio.org by no later than 2030 PDT. Operators with top scores may be asked to submit logs for confirmation. 
  8. Scores will be announced by 2100 PDT via email.      

Hope to hear you on the air on May 6.

Rick Besocke, KI6ZKM
President, South Pasadena Amateur Radio Club

Monthly Meetings Temporarily Suspended

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, SPARC is temporarily suspending monthly in-person meetings. This is part of a community-based effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Please note that our regular meeting location, the Emergency Operations Center at the South Pasadena Fire Department, will not be accessible to the public.

Effective Monday, March 16, all city facilities will be temporarily closed to members of the public except for public meetings of the City Council, the Cultural Heritage Commission, Planning Commission and Design Review Board, which will continue to meet to ensure the approval of projects move forward as required by law.

City of South Pasadena

We will continue to hold our weekly on-air nets on Wednesday nights at 7:30 pm. We will announce any additional club activities (on-air or online) via email and this website.

Click here for more information on the city’s response to COVID-19.

Follow the LA County Public Health Department on Twitter.

Oliver Dully, K6OLI, District Emergency Coordinator for ARES LAX Northeast, suggests the following activities for radio operators looking to sharpen their skills while “social distancing”:

– Take FEMA online courses 
– Complete the ARRL’s online introduction to emergency communication, EC-001 
– Use Winlink more regularly
– Improve your map reading skills: https://www.maptools.com/videos and https://www.maptools.com/tutorials
– Play with HF

On behalf of SPARC, stay safe and healthy, everyone!

March Meeting Wrap-Up: All About 220

SPARC welcomed ARRL LAX Section Manager Diana Feinberg AI6DF to our monthly meeting on March 4. Diana spoke about recent leadership changes at ARRL headquarters and gave a presentation about the state of “220,” a lesser-used VHF band. Our amateur privleges on the band are between 222 MHz and 225 MHz, but we refer to the band colloquially as 220.

One of the radios discussed in the presentation.

Diana has graciously offered to share the presentation on our site. It can be downloaded here (581 kb PDF).

Presentation on the 220 Band by Diana Feinberg AI6DF
Click to download the presentation.

SPARC thanks Diana for her expertise and perspective. Several attendees left the meeting inspired to operate on 220 more often.

February 2020 Meeting: Adventures in FT8

At our February 2020 meeting, Frank O’Donnell, K6FOD presented “Adventures in FT8,” an introduction to the popular digital mode. Frank received his technician and general ham licenses two years ago, and within nine months earned the ARRL’s DXCC award for verifying contacts with 100 countries — all on FT8.

In 2019, he received the Southern California DX Club’s Clipperton Award for newcomer of the year. He has verified 143 countries, has earned Worked All States certificates on two bands, and he is completing a third, also using FT8. Currently, he is experimenting with digital modes on the new 630-meter band below the AM broadcast band.

A selection of QSL cards Frank has received.

The following are links that Frank discussed during his presentation.

WSJT-X Homepage
In order to use FT8, you must install WSJT-X on a computer and set up your radio to be controlled by the computer. WSJT-X was written by Joe Taylor, K1JT. It runs on Windows, Mac OS and Linux (including on a Raspberry Pi).

WSJTX@groups.io
An active user community that discusses WSJT-X.

Frank explains all the fields in WSJT-X.

Maidenhead Grid Square Locator Map
You’ll need to know your grid square when setting up WSTJ-X.

Time.is and Meinberg NTP Software Downloads
These are tools to make sure your computer’s internal clock is accurate. If your clock is off by more than one second, you will not be able to decode incoming FT8 signals correctly.

The Daily DX Newsletter and ARRL DX Bulletin
Two useful emails covering propagation conditions.

PSK Info: Digimode Automatic Propagation Reporter
A map of beacons and signal reports in near real-time. Useful for seeing who can receive your FT8 signal.

eQSL and Club Log
Two sites for confirming your contacts.

Our next meeting will take place Wednesday, March 4 at 7:30 pm in the South Pasadena Fire Department EOC at 817 Mound Ave. Our guest will be ARRL Los Angeles Section Manager Diana Feinberg, AI6DF, speaking about the 220 MHz band.

Frank K6FOD will return in April to demonstrate FT8 with a portable station. Hope to see you there. 

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.

November Meeting Wrap-Up: Configuring Winlink

At our November 6 meeting, Jeff, W2JCL presented “Using Winlink for Emergency Communications.” This was the second in a planned series of discussions and workshops which will develop members’ skills in these useful communication techniques. Jeff’s focus was installing and configuring the Winlink email program on a Windows laptop. Click here or on the image below to download Jeff’s presentation as a PDF.

One of Winlink’s time-saving features is a collection of templates used to share damage assesments and situation reports with hospitals and served agencies. Jeff has built a custom template matching the city of South Pasadena’s preferred damage assesment format. Click here to download that template plus ARES Northeast “quick check-in” and “quick check-out” templates. Then, save the files under:

C:\RMS Express\Global Folders\Templates

To use the ARES check-in and check-out templates, customize them with your personal information. However, items in brackets such as <CALLSIGN> are completed automatically by Winlink, so they should not be edited.

Below are links from the last page of Jeff’s presentation where you can download the necessary software to start becoming a Winlink expert. (Version numbers current as of 11/6/19.)

Winlink – version 1.5.25.0
https://downloads.winlink.org/User Programs/

Soundmodem – version 1.05
http://uz7.ho.ua/packetradio.htm

VARA FM version 1.2.9 and VARA HF version 3.0.4
https://rosmodem.wordpress.com/

Click here for part one of the presentation (176 kB PDF).

Learn about Map Your Neighborhood on October 23 at Caltech

The Pasadena fire department is offering a class on “Map Your Neighborhood” at Caltech on October 23. MYN provides a step-by-step process to organize neighborhoods to be better prepared after a disaster. In the event of a disaster, your best bet for assistance will come from neighbors rather than first responders. This class will offer instruction on how to identify needs and skills that would be available when needed. 

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.