OCRA Membership Meeting – July 8, 2019

Dave, W4SAR, club president opened the meeting with introductions, the topic for tonight’s meeting being Field Day results and call for officer reports.  In attendance tonight were 8 license-seeking candidates, one of our largest membership meeting testing groups.

Dan, KR4UB, treasurer reported 73 members are current with their dues with 26 members needing renewal. Club treasury balance is in line with ongoing expenses.

Nick, KA1HPM, stated two towers near Lowes hardware in Chatham County exist with antenna and feed-line.  Steve, W3HAL, and Dan, KR4UB, would assist in assessing the possibility of usage.

Field Day Results:

Dave, W3SAR, provided a Field Day point breakdown, and will post final results on this    website soon.  The unofficial count was 2997 QSO points, with 1727 QSO points awarded multipliers for a total of 14,985 points.  We had less points this year, but propagation was poor, except for 40 Meter.

Steve, KZ1X, proposed running 100 Watts rather than 5 Watts next year. While QRP, or low power…5 Watts, gets you multipliers, 100 Watts would allow more stations to hear, which would be more fun. Additionally, if sun spot activity is nearing a null, then 100 Watts may a sound strategy for the next couple of years.

Wilson gave thanks to Steve, W3AHL, for doing a great job on the N1MM network.  Steve, W3AHL, stated the 10 dedicated computers along with static IP addresses provided more resiliency and up time than last year. Wilson also appreciated John, KM4MDR, for doing a wonderful job managing the food preparation and service…at a’boys!

Additional Notes:

Dan, KR4UB, stated Phillips High School still has an antenna and transceiver used from an earlier ISS contact needing reclamation.  If interested in assisting, please leave a reply!

Finally, Dan, KR4UB, will present FT8 at the next DFMA meeting!

Point me in the right direction

Dan KR4UB accepted the satellite challenge for Field Day, a noble challenge indeed.  Aiding his effort, Dan reclaimed and repurposed available parts and materials to build an industrial strength satellite antenna boom…materials and instructions follow.  Nicely done Dan!

  • army surveyors tripod non magnetic construction, no ferrous metals added below to disturb compass reading.
  • left over 2″ PVC electrical conduit and elbow..
  • some ironwood strips inside the PVC to take the floppy/flexy out and balance out weight of antenna.
  • wood doweling, epoxy, brass screws to reinforce compass support elbow butt glue joint onto PVC elbow
  • good quality surveyor’s compass bought to rough out new boundaries when  purchasing adjoining land some years back
  • section of left over central vacuum cleaner return pipe (near perfect fit over PVC electrical pipe).. rotates for quick antenna polarization adjustment.
  • Brass  screws (where used) so no ferrous metal near compass
  • Arrow VHF/UHF gamma matched antenna. The foam covered handle fits perfectly inside the end of the 2″ dia PVC electrical conduit used as the boom.
  • powered by arm-strong…..

OCRA Membership Meeting – June 10th, 2019

Dave W4SAR, club president opened the meeting with introductions, the topic for tonight’s meeting being Field Day Planning and call for officer reports.  He reported that at the last VE Session on June 8th, 6 candidates were tested with 5 passing the exam earning their license.

Dan, KR4UB, treasurer reported 74 members are current with their dues with 25 members needing renewal. Club treasury balance is in line with ongoing expenses.

Dan also covered the need for attendees who plan to have a Saturday dinner or Sunday breakfast meal from the field day grill to pre-pay for the food to be purchased on their behalf. Costs for some food items have increased as much as 15% from last year and we need your help in keeping the cost per meal low.

Nick, KA1HPM made an announcement of a request he had made to the ARRL via Carl Bowman, Section Manager requesting that an ARRL contest be organized to celebrate the 150th birthday of Hiram Percy Maxim on September 2nd, 2019.  The ARRL responded with an alternative option of a Special Event Station be set up to celebrate the event. Nick made the call for volunteers to set up and run such a station, using his call sign KA1 H(iram) P(ercy) M(axim)  on September 2nd from 8am to 8pm.

Next, Dave W4SAR began the planning discussion for the 9A class battery powered 5 watt station operation for 2019 OCRA/DFMA Field Day to be held at the Wilson, W4BOH QTH on   3117 Moorefields Road , Hillsborough.

Starting Friday morning at 8am focus will be on tower setup and all other outdoor ground activity to get as much as possible done prior to mid day heat.

Stations and Band Captains are as follows:

  • CW Stations – Bruce N1LN Captain – 3 stations located inthe MCU covering 80 -10M CW operating antennas onf 3 towers. 2 sets of headphones are on each radio so interested observers can listen in on the operation. Operator slots are available.
  • 80M SSB Station – Steve, W3AHL Captain – located in the W3AHL motorhome using two 75M dipoles. Typically band conditions mean 75M is a 6pm to 6am operation. New operators are welcome.
  • 40/15M SSB Station – Joe, K4SAR Captain – located in an air conditioned trailer using a 3 element 40M wire beam and 3 element 15M beam. Joe needs operators to sign up.
  • 20M SSB Station – Lad, W4ORD Captain – located in an air conditioned trailer using tower mounted team, solar power charged batteries.
  • 10M SSB/Digi Station – Dave, NA4VY Captain – located in the air conditioned “red barn”  using a Moxon beam.
  • 40/20M Digi Operation – Dave, W4SAR & Sherri, WB4OSU are co-captains operating PSK-31 and maybe FT-8 located in the handicap accesible garage at the food area.
  • 6M VHF Station – Doug, KA5ETS principle operator also located in the “red barn” building.
  • Satellite Contact: Dan KR4UB & Bill N8BR will be out on the grounds at the scheduled times for satellite overflights.

Additional operators are needed on all stations.

Bonus Point areas were covered next. Volunteers signed up for the various areas are listed OCRA website home page.

Bruce, N1LN then gave a presentation and demo of the N1MM logging software to be used at field day. The presention is available on the OCRA website home page.

Steve, W3AHL discussed the networked logging setup using the pre loaded and configured laptaps that will be available to each station.  All stations need to be ready to participate in the isolated WiFi network setup test at 9AM Saturday morning.

Scroll down for further detail for Field Day planning in the next article.

Dan, KR4UB filling in for Keith, W1KES club secretary.

OCRA Membership Meeting – May 13, 2019

Treasurer Report:

Dan (KR4UB) Balance is still strong, current membership is 67 with 30 needing renewing.   The cost for maintaining our repeater is increasing. The high cost of tower climbers is one reason OCRA maintains a heathy financial balance.  You can easily assist in keeping our financial balance strong.  For those who purchase from Amazon and want to add to OCRA’s coffers, Amazon Smile donates 0.5% to eligible charitable organizations.  For more information, please visit the following site.

DurHam Fest:

The 45th Annual Durham Fest occurs over Memorial Weekend.  OCRA will provide a table to sell members items.  We would ask for a small donation or percentage of sales to off-set the cost of the table.  Admission is $5 and prizes may be won.  For more information, please scroll down for more information.

Repeater:

The OCRA 442.150 MHz PL 131.8 repeater is programmed to notify the club of cancellation due to poor weather.  We encourage all members to listen for announcements and check the groups.io email reflector if storms are present on meeting days.

Field Day – June 22-23:

Field day will again be hosted on Wilson’s (W4BOH) property over the weekend of June 22-23. 

Bruce (N1LN) Station setup will occur on Friday, June 21.  Band captains are responsible for procuring the necessary bill of material and station coverage throughout the event. Please register your station of interest and availability on the website under Events, OCRA/DFMA Field Day Signup Summary.  Again, Elecraft radios are the standard for this year.  Band captains that borrowed radios last year need to ensure their availability again this year.

Bruce will provide N1MM logging software instruction training in June.

Steve (W3AHL) mentioned wireless connectivity for multiple computers with N1MM is difficult to manage.  However with the laptops donated for Field Day by Adam Caudill (WX4WNC) this will be much easier. Thanks to Adam!  The computers will contain a standard configuration image, providing a more stable and consistent approach for management.  

Bruce will provide N1MM software training in June.  Elecraft radios are rig of choice, making interfacing and configuration easier.

John (KM4MDR) will be facilitating Potluck on Friday around 6:00 PM night.  Saturday 5:00 dinner and Sunday breakfast. Attendees will need to prepay for meals. Please see payment options and meal details on the 2019 Field Day post.

Field Day Materials – Operators may want to have present the following as conditions are likely to be hot and humid.

  1.  Helmet – if assisting with tower construction and placement
  2.  Gloves
  3.  Safety kit
  4. Water bottle
  5. Bug spray
  6. Sunscreen
  7. Hat
  8. Smile

OCRA Membership Meeting – March 11, 2019

Introductions:

Treasurer Report:

Dan (KR4UB)

We have 68 paid membership current and 33 requiring renewal.   You can renew membership easily and securely on the website under the heading of “Members.”   

Chatham county continues moving forward with establishing new radio towers.  Currently they are writing specifications to publicly bid the work.  They plan to establish additional towers beyond current need for anticipated growth, with the understanding it is more cost-effective to erect the additional towers now than re-bid the work at a future date.  

WordPress is the most common blog and website platform in use around the globe.  OCRA uses WordPress as our primary club communication channel.  WordPress has many additional features and functionality that we can leverage for multiple uses.  One such use is capturing interest and availability for Field Day. 

With just under four months to go, Field Day 2019 is quickly approaching.  However, we can more easily start planning now.  Dan has created an on-line sign-up form to capture availability to volunteer for food, station, and field site preparation, staffing, and dismantling.

You can easily complete the sign up form on your computer or even phone!  The steps for expressing your interest and availability follow:

 1.     On the site, navigate to the “Member” tab and click “Receive Access Link”.

 

2.      Enter your call sign, answer the math question, and click “Submit”.  An email will be sent to your registered public email address.

3.       You will receive a confirmation screen notifying you the link has been sent to your email.

4.     Login to your registered email address and click the link.  If you bookmark this link, it can be used to update your profile…be sure to bookmark!

5.     Complete the Field Day sign-up sheet.  Be sure to click the “Save” button located at the end of the form.  If there are any data corrections, they will be highlighted in red.  Band captains will reach out to you regarding the specifics. We look forward to seeing you during Field Day!

Program:  Connectors

As many Hams know, it is important when making decisions about getting the right coax for your Ham Station to understand that there are trade-offs that have to be considered between transmitter power, antenna gain, coax loss, and your total Ham Station system performance.  Your bank account may also enter into the equation like most Hams.

Cables and connectors are no exception to the above as they make up the lifeline of your entire station, allowing all of the components to work together.  Steve (KZ1X) shared that oxygen is the enemy of every connector, as oxidation due to poor connections will limit the performance and life of the connector.   Dan (KR4UB) and Steve (KZ1X) further explain the importance of having the right connectors, wires, and crimpers to produce a gas tight crimp.  As Dan shared, in his experience most poor transmissions are the result of bad connectors.  However, with quality material and practice you can build connectors that provide decades worth of radio fun and enjoyment.   

Dan (KR4UB) explaining contact spring tension  Steve (KZ1X) explaining Power pole connectors

Vendors who sell quality connectors and supplies include the following:

·         DXengineering – https://www.dxengineering.com/

·         Digi-key – https://www.digikey.com

·         Mouser – https://www.mouser.com

If you attended this meeting, we would welcome your feedback.  If there are other topics of interest, please let know.

73

OCRA Membership Meeting, August 13, 2018

Introductions:

Treasurer Report:  Dan (KR4UB)

Club balance was reported.

Dan created a new attendance sheet.  He also went through old club records to capture the date members joined.  There are many current members who helped establish the club in the early 1990s, when the club was called the Orange County Wireless Pioneers.  Steve Jackson (KZ1X) was the spark plug for establishing the club.  The first meeting was in the community room of OWASA.  Anyone with club records, please let Dan know. Dan will scan and add the content to the site, which will help preserve club records.

Dan has a repeater still occupying space in his basement.  The current repeater market in Durham and Alamance is rather saturated.  However, as Chatham County is growing, so is the need for communication towers.  Nick (KA1HPM) mentioned that the county is planning to install several new towers for 2020.   There may be opportunities to relocate the repeater to a tower in Chatham County for amateur radio and CERT usage.

Field Day results:

While radio propagation was sketchy, we were able to accumulate 2000 more points this year over last.  Every station, minus 80 meters, was able to increase their score, with digital exceeding last year by over 1000 points.   This year’s numbers will change slightly as Dave (W4SAR) thoroughly combs the combined log to eliminate duplicate contacts, fix broken exchanges, and eliminate broken exchanges that cannot be made good:

For more detailed information on Field Day, we encourage you to read the July 2018 DFMA newsletter. https://www.dfma.org/TheLink/2018/Link1807web.pdf

Show and Tell

Steve (KZ1X) was cleaning out an old radio box and brought in a Micron SWR field strength meter, which may have been purchased as the old Radio Shack in University Mall.  The Micron measures the amount of signal transmitted by your antenna system, and a signal pattern can be plotted by taking readings around your antenna.  The meter covers 3 to 30 MHz and can handle up to 1KW.

He also brought alligator clips with magnifier glass used for splicing wire and adding connectors.

Dave (KW4XL) brought in several 3D printed products, including a raspberry pi hotspot case and working crescent wrench.

The next membership meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 10.  Hope to see you there!

OCRA Membership Meeting, July 9, 2018

Meeting Attendance: 28

Treasurer:

  • Club balance is still strong. Current membership is 79, with 24 requiring renewal.  The club has added 17 new members this year.
  • Field Day – Thanks to all who assisted, supported, and participated in the Field Day food preparation and delivery. The pre-paid approach for Saturday’s evening meal and Sunday’s breakfast was very successful.  For Saturday’s meal there were 44 pre-paid with 6 people paying at meal time.  Likewise, for Sunday’s breakfast there were 36 pre-paid with 4 people paying at meal time. The success of meal pre-pay may become a new payment model for future field day meals.
  • Overall, the club profited $174 from meals, which will be added to our club coffers.

Field Day (FD) Recap:

Dave (W4SAR) provided a comparisons of 2017-2018 point totals.  For 2017 the total point was 19,760.  For 2018, we had an estimated total of 21,635.  Dave should have final 2018 totals in the next several weeks.  Congratulations to all for the great work securing the additional points…and the fun had by all.

This year, the Digi mode was a good success.  Dan (KR4UB) mentioned that Digital radio mode success in amateur radio has been partly attributed to the work of Joe Taylor (K1JT), who developed the WSJT-X software.  Joe is a noble prizing winning physicist, who has focused the past two decades on weak signal communication.  Joe is the developer behind several popular digital protocols like FT8 and JT65.

General FD Observations:

  • Less interference on 40 and 15 SSB than years past.
  • Accessible stations in garage worked well for all.
  • N1MM network may require piloting the software and associated computers a few weeks prior to FD. This may help reduce complexity, however, much of the issues are not the result of the application.  Rather, the issues are more likely attributed to the Microsoft OS and configuration of personal computers. Other clubs purchase refurbished PCs for FD from NewEgg to reduce configuration mismatch.

Band Captain Comments:

  • 40/15 SSB propagation and noise on the bands most of Saturday. By Sunday morning the bands opened with much less noise.
  • CW worked well…3 stations covered all night. Better scheduling provided coverage through the morning hours.  Power was more stable this year over lasts.
  • 20 SSB – had similar propagation and noise issues like other SSB stations. The station ran on solar power directly or from batteries recharged by solar throughout the entire FD.
  • 80 SSB did not have as many operators as years past. Was difficult getting confirmation due to static on the receiver.
  • Digital was well covered and enjoyed throughout the event. However, next year more comfortable seating will be needed.
  • VHF was challenging, but the 5 element Yagi provided a noticeable return on the points.

FD Logistics

  • For the larger antennas, a dedicated spotter on point for ensuring safety should be available, with agreed upon standard communication and terms. Additionally, a tower safety demonstration and additional guide wires for support may reduce operational risk.
  • Replace the wood antenna support “walk up” with metal. This will reduce the likelihood of the wood splitting and causing the tower to fall and potential hurt people.
  • The scheduling spreadsheet helped ensure adequate coverage of stations throughout the event.

Should we plan to add a Sunday lunch? Please reply to this post with your suggestions. We would enjoy reading your ideas!

 

2018 Field Day Operator Schedules

Link

Here are links to spreadsheets or whom to contact to schedule operating time for the Field Day stations below.

For spreadsheets, enter your call sign (or name if unlicensed) on any unoccupied block of time. For the other stations, contact the band captain with times you are available.

The 40/15 SSB station (air-conditioned trailer) scheduler can be accessed via this link:

http://tinyurl.com/W4EZ-40-15-SSB

The Digital Stations (40/20 and maybe 15 meters) will also double as accessible stations for those who cannot negotiate stairs. One station (Access1) will be available for accessible SSB operation, and change to that mode as required, and back to digital when not.

https://tinyurl.com/W4EZ-Sched-Access-SSB-DIGI

For the 20 Meter SSB station (in a trailer) see this link:

https://tinyurl.com/20M-SSB-Operator-Schedule

To operate a CW station, coordinate with Bruce, N1LN.

For 80M SSB, contact Steve , W3AHL.

For VHF, contact Doug, W5ETS

For 10M SSB, Dave NA4VY

Dave, W4SAR