Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Amatuer Radio Field Day

A couple years ago I decided to get an amateur radio license.  So, I bought a couple study guides, learned all about radios and their components, antennas, bands, and all that good stuff, and passed the test to get a Technician's license without a problem.  Then I bought a radio, and it has patiently sat in my desk for two years waiting for me to program it.
To be honest, there are a lot of other things I'm much more passionate about, and I'm *very* rusty on everything I learned about radios.  But...my name is in the FCC database with my call sign KE0BCA, so my interest in amateur radio is public record till at least 2024.

At the farmer's market this June, I ran into Stan Siems, a local gentleman with whom I had talked about ham radio before. He mentioned Ackley's first Amateur Radio Field Day was coming up, and suggested I stop by.  So...I did.
The ham radios were operated out of a shed at Prairie Bridges Park.  Cranes held up antennas.  An American Red Cross emergency vehicle attended.  Ham radio operators work with other emergency services during times of crises to bring communications to devastated areas without telephones and electricity.

Field day is held by the ARRL across the nation every year for hams to practice their emergency skills.  Field day is a contest of sorts, where each operating location competes for points.  The Ackley group collected points by using solar energy, having an emergency vehicle in attendance, having an elected official stop by, and making voice and Morse Code (DX) contacts.
Above left you can see the DX station.  Stan Siems is above right.  His interest in ham radio began when he was only 12 years old, working for a man who repaired radios and televisions.  

Field Day started at noon on Saturday and lasted till noon on Sunday.  Since most of the operators are local, they just went home when they were tired.  The operator who came from furthest away had driven an hour and planned to spend the night in her car.  Someone else was staying in an RV on the campground.  
Above you can see some of the operators hard at work at the voice contact station.  You can also see the solar panels, used along with a generator, to supply power.  The map shows the bands that were open.  When I visited, contacts had been made around the United States.  The operators were hoping to make some contacts with Europe, since bands were open across the Atlantic.

If you're interested in learning more about amateur radio, visit the ARRL website.  You can also read about how ham radio operators helped with disaster relief during Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, and worked as storm-spotters to warn of the EF-5 tornado that hit Parkersburg, Iowa in 2008.

It was neat to see everyone at work.  Ham radio enthusiasts in the area meet on a regular basis on the air and, I believe, as a club.  I better get my radio programmed.
Do you have an amateur radio license, or have you met anyone with one?
Have you ever tried to learn Morse Code?

10 comments:

  1. I never had much interest in it. I never had much interest in anything technology wise that pre-dates digital.

    And I can't believe anyone knows how to decode Morse Code. Makes Chinese sound easy.

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    1. In the written form, at least, Morse Code is not that hard--just dots and dashes. That said, I don't remember any more than just a few letters offhand. Listening to it and decoding it would be harder, I imagine.

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  2. You have had a really interesting hobby

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    1. It is interesting how so many communities and events exist around so many hobbies that outsiders to that particular hobby are more-or-less unaware of.

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  3. I had never really realized this is something that folks do as a hobby. Very fascinating Bethany! I'd love to see another post once you get into doing it yourself - like how you're using it and what you think of it then. ;)

    Blessings on your weekend dear Gal! xoxo

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    1. It's unlikely I ever become a real amateur radio enthusiast, as I devote so much time to my other (preferred) hobbies; there just isn't enough time in the day to do everything!
      Thanks for stopping by, Carrie!

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  4. Hi Bethany, You won't be a bit surprised that I love this post! Wow, this could get me going on a new antenna! (For the benefit of those reading this comment and might wonder ... Bethany and I share the hobby of Amateur Radio.) As usual, I was reading the earlier comments before starting to write my own and noticed Adam said he had "never had much interest in anything technology wise that pre-dates digital." I think that may be pretty common among the younger folks who have grown up with the WWW. I was about the same age as your friend, Stan Siems, when I got interested in radio ... My dad gave me a Hallifcrafters Shortwave Radio S-120 for Christmas. (See a picture at http://www.universal-radio.com/catalog/commrxvr/S120.jpg ) I was hooked the moment I heard Radio Japan broadcasting live from Tokyo in their English Language Broadcast. :-) A new hobby was born and my new goal was to see how many other countries I could hear from all over the world. Today, we can listen to almost any radio station, anywhere in the world, in good quality, via the web. Dispite that, I still find it fun to see what I can hear on the shortwave bands via the ionosphere. We've talked about it before, and I still hope to make contact with you via the ham bands one of these days. At the moment, in my current location, I am antenna-challenged. I'll keep you posted since the project to get on the air is still in the works! 73s from KC7JR

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    1. Hi John, I was thinking of you writing this post, as you are the only other blogger I could think of who is interested in radios. Neat to hear how you got started (and to see a picture of your first radio!) My interest in radio was initially perked chatting with a couple hams on the Free Internet Chess Server. All the best in your antenna project!

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  5. Guess what! We have something else in common, Bethany! My husband, daughters and I all earned our licenses about 14 years ago. After my husband's death I got rid of all our equipment except for one handheld radio. The girls and I did not practice much and have forgotten most of what we learned. My husband practiced the most with Morse Code, but it is a challenging form of communication to learn. The highlight of our experience was listening to a broadcast from the astronauts on the space station when they flew over Crescent City, CA, once. We are so dependent on cell communication now, but I believe Ham radio can be a vital help especially during emergencies.

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    1. Oh, that is awesome that you and your family got licenses, Gracie! Good to know another ham radio operator! It is *so* easy to forget everything though. So neat that you got to listen to the astronauts on the space station!

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