AREG Members On Air: 2017 Remembrance Day Contest

WIA RD Trophy

The weekend of August 12-13th once again saw the running of the Wireless Institute of Australia’s annual Remembrance Day Contest. While AREG did not mount a club station, the club did encourage as many members as possible to get out there on the air! The members didn’t disappoint with 7 members active over the weekend.

Three members put together a team entry, known as “AREG: Team One”. The teams category is an additional endorsement available for the contest where pre-nominated teams scores are aggregated. Pitched at clubs and groups, it is a great way to foster comraderie among members. The other members each put in individual efforts.


AREG: Team One – Grant VK5GR, Mark VK5QI and Marcus VK3TST (aka VK5WTF)

Sunset over VK5QI’s QTH

Grant, Mark and Marcus joined together to run a team entry this year. Mark VK5QI ran from home, and managed with the help of a borrowed tuner to operate on 160 and 80m as well during the contest. Meanwhile Marcus and Grant elected to run portable operations.

Marcus this year again used an SO2R setup (Single Operator 2 radios) from a location inside the Murray Sunset National Park (hence he used VK3TST).

Meanwhile Grant VK5GR went north west and operated from Tickera on the eastern shores of Spencer Gulf. No SO2R but three different antennas were tried,including a 160m dipole, a G5RV for 80-10m and a elevated feed folded monopole which could be tuned from 40m to 6m. The purpose for the antenna mix was to gauge the effectiveness of the vertical, which is the antenna Grant will be taking to Niue in the South Pacific in September (where he will operate as E6AG – see e6ag.net for details).


Theo VK5MTM Portable

Also out in the field was Theo VK5MTM who operated for a few hours from the back of his car! Now there is dedication for you!


Home Stations

Operating from home, we also had Chris VK5SA who said “62 unique contacts in around 4 hours of operation, in around 6 blocks. Mainly 40m, with some huge signals on 20 from VK6 and VK4”.

Peter VK5KX also put in an effort and was worked several times by Grant VK5GR and others from the club.

Also on air was Chris VK5CP who operated his remote station from the comfort of his lounge room {smile}. Way to go Chris!

Conclusion

All up a lot of fun was had by all, playing what amounts of electronic pokemon where you are competing against the other operators and the ionosphere. Rumour has it a number of points records have fallen this year according to Alan VK4SN, the contest manager, so it will be interesting to see if any of the AREG team place anywhere in the rankings this year.

Thanks to everyone who participated around Australia for making this year’s RD Contest yet another great event.

Annual General Meeting – Friday August 18th @ 7.45pm

Featured

The next meeting of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group will be held on Friday August 18th, at the Reedbeds Community Hall, Fulham.

The doors will open at 7.45pm for an 8.00pm start.

To start the proceedings, the committee will recap the year’s events before moving into the reports and then the business of the meeting. All positions will be declared vacant and nominations will be sought.

The outgoing committee wishes to thank in particular Scott VK5TST and Ben VK5BB who have both indicated that they wish to step down in 2017/18. We look forward to new enthusiastic members joining the committee and continuing to drive the club forward as we enter the club’s 20th year!

A general meeting will follow the AGM, with a general coffee and cake discussion to be held afterwards. if you have a project you have been working on why not bring it along and show it off during the coffee discussions.

AREG Develops new DX Pileup Defeating Technology

Introducing the DX Buster(tm)!


SORRY! ALL SOLD OUT on APRIL 1st 2017 – Stay tuned next year for more Amateur Radio products from the mad scientists division of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group!


After months of rigorous testing, the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group Inc is pleased to announce the beta version of our new DX Buster(tm)! is nearly ready for initial release. What is it you might ask? Well, it is designed to help you to break through pile ups during DX Contests and DXPeditions, ensuring your signal is the one heard clear and true, first time, every-time!

There will be no more disappointment that the DX got away when you are using a DXBuster!(tm), even if you are only a small 100W pistol or 400W VK “high power” station located more than double the distance from that rare DX station compared to the majority (as is often the case when comparing VK to Europe, North America and Japan where they run 1kW or more). Now, with DX Buster!(tm) on your team, you can rest assured your signal will always be clearly heard among the pileups at the DX stations end, guaranteeing you will get that rare one in your log, even with modest power.

How does it work?

DX Buster!(tm) is a DSP device you insert into your microphone audio stream, and then also connect to the Internet. It works by mixing your transmitted audio with an anti-phase, time correlated / corrected version of the signals that the DX station is listening to, based on what is being received via any WebSDR located close to the major source of the DX calling pile-up stations.

Using patented Flux capacitor technology, and augmented by feeds from the Reverse Beacon and PSK Reporter systems tuned to the WSJT JT65 networks as well as space weather predictions from the NOAA and Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the propagation channel between your station and the rare DX is computed. Then, the anti-phase signals matching the majority of the pile up stations within 4kHz of your signal are delay matched to your station and then injected into your audio. The rest follows the laws of physics! When the out of phase signals are combined at the DX stations receiver with the other pile up traffic, that traffic is attenuated, while your own audio laid over the top passes through unaffected. The end result is a minimum 10-30dB improvement in your apparent signal to noise ratio as measured at the DX station.

Don’t quite believe it? Take a look at the following waterfall charts and sample audio streams to be convinced!

How can I get one?

Currently only a prototype of the unit is available, as a number of technical details are still being refined to make it adaptable to as many transceivers as possible. As soon as these are resolved, we will open our books for orders!

Keep watching the AREG website for further details!

 

 

VK5RSB Repeater Extended Outages

Photo of downed powerlines courtesy ABC News

AREG’s VK5RSB Summertown repeaters  have been off air since Tuesday evening’s violent storm which has taken out power lines that feed the site. The restoration work according to SAPN is still progressing. The latest estimate for restoration is now 1.00pm today (31st December)..

We apologies for the outage on these major Adelaide repeater services, and are looking to see what can be done to reinstate the battery backup at the site which has failed.

AREG at the WIA STEM Symposium – November 2016

The Amateur Radio Experimenter’s Group has taken an active role in promoting STEM in Schools programs for a number of years now, particularly through our involvement with LaunchBox, who work with us and our Project Horus sub-group to fly high altitude balloons. Our recent foray into the Maker Faire and HackerSpace community through our participation in the Adelaide Maker Faire also has been an area where we see a great potential to improve the link between Amateur Radio and STEM in schools, particularly with secondary and tertiary level students.

AREG Road Trip to Canberra

It was against this backdrop that the group endorsed it’s President, Matt VK5ZM and Treasurer Grant VK5GR to make the 2400km round trip from Adelaide to Canberra to attend the inaugural WIA STEM symposium.

AREG saw this as an opportunity to firstly share it’s own experiences with others, as well as build networks with other like minded amateurs who either were already engaged in their own contact with the STEM programs in schools or who were wanting to initiate programs of their own. The group also saw this as a way of tapping into the resources of the WIA to help facilitate the communications between affiliated clubs engaged in these activities, and also as an opportunity to contribute to resources that the WIA could develop to support the regional clubs in their STEM endeavors.

The speakers at the Symposium

The event itself, enabled through the hard work of the Canberra Region Amateur Radio Club on behalf of the WIA, provided a fascinating insight into the world of STEM and the challenges STEM faces in schools. (Thanks in particular to Amanda VK1WX, CRARC president).

The WIA Introductions

AREG received presentations firstly from Fred Swainston VK3DAC on the WIA’s vision of STEM, followed by one technological idea from Phil Wait VK2ASD on kits that could potentially be made available to schools based around cheap RTL-SDR Dongles as a way of introducing radio spectrum and communications studies into schools.

Geffory McNamarra wins PM’s Science Prize

STEM from a Science Teacher

Next up was a presentation by Geoffrey McNamara, a science teacher from Melrose High in the ACT who has been doing amazing work encouraging students to take an interest in science based investigations in secondary school. Geoffrey has implemented a program along an apprenticeship model where he has brought in experts from their fields to work with students one on one in a field of research. Many of those who are lucky enough to go through that program have gone on to a career in science.

Two principle points however came out of talking with Geoff that any initiatives need to take into account.

  1. You need to show students the “Wow Factor” behind any scientific endeavor, to spark their interest and light the fire to drive them to take it further.
  2. Science Teachers are incredibly time poor and severely under funded.

Radio Astronomy and STEM

The Lewis Center provides the gateway to this program via JPL

Next the participants received a presentation from Dr David Jauncey, talking about programs like GAVRT (Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope) where students in the USA can access a decommissioned radio telescope at the Goldstone Deep Space Network station in California. He also discussed how Tidbinbilla in the ACT is engaged in some schools programs (although not to the extent that Goldstone is). Out of this it was again clear that the principle aim of STEM programs is to garner that spark in students that science is “wow” and has something genuinely interesting and inspiring to offer as a career or at the very least as a life skill and perspective.

Practical Science and Physics Experiments enabled by Amateur Radio

Next up was Dr George Galanis VK3EIP, who is attempting to construct a system that could be used to demonstrate practical physics experiments using radio at schools. His idea is that you take a portable EME station to a school and conduct experiments such as measuring the echo delay from the moon, and even bouncing SSB voice off the moon and letting the students gain a real appreciation of the time delay involved in transmitting radio waves that far into space.

Other uses of the same equipment were also discussed in the field of radio astronomy. The ability to look at the microwave radio noise from the sun and show how to calibrate the dish, as well as other radio astronomy experiments are all practical demonstrations of radio that are relevant to the classroom. Again, the underlying theme to come out of this was to find ways to spark an enthusiasm in students and give them a memorable ‘wow’ experience, to implant science and technology as something worth following up later in life through tertiary studies and beyond, was the core theme of Dr Galanis’s presentation.

Accessing STEM through the Maker and Hacker-Space Movements

The final formal presentation was given by Matt and Grant from AREG. Matt opened with a story about a conversation he had once with a good amateur radio friend, Harro VK5HK (sk). Harro once asked Matt “What is radio?” Matt gave a very engineering focused answer about Maxwell’s equations etc, to which Harro politely pointed out “Yes, but no…. What is it really?” he asked again rhetorically? “Magic” was his answer.

It is the magic of radio, and getting people to the realization that it really is a form of magic that was the “wow” moment amateur radio can bring – when presented in the right way. It is the magic of being able to talk into a box on one side of the globe, and have someone on the other side talk back. When you think that there is no other infrastructure in between, and yet this is still possible, then you again have that hook or spark that leads to a “Wow” moment in young people that you hope will stick with them throughout their years. Undertaking that sort of communications in inventive and awe-inspiring ways, such as talking to ISS, or via live TV where the internet is not involved is a definite opportunity to “light the fire of imagination” in young people today.

It was this theme of “Radio is Magic” that Matt and img_3237-mediumGrant spoke to, explaining how they had brought amateur radio to young people through things like Amateur Television at JOTA, or through High Altitude Ballooning via Project Horus that members of AREG have been involved with now for nearly 6 years. The very recent foray into the Maker Faire and the group’s contacts with people in the Hackerspace movement were also discussed.  It was shown how lighting that spark even as people are in their tertiary studies was a way to leave a lasting impression and would and does lead to people taking up Amateur Radio in their twenties – a key demographic that AREG sees as fertile ground to recruit into amateur radio and to also promote the ongoing relevance of amateur radio today.

The high altitude ballooning in particular was discussed in some detail as a way of engaging with schools programs. The AREG representatives explained how that had worked through LaunchBox as a great way to inspire even primary school children to develop a wonder of science. The example of how the Project Horus balloons have been used to fly simple experiments to answer a child’s question of “will my corn kernel turn into popcorn in the near vacuum of near space?” hits home to how activities like this can spark someone on a journey of scientific curiosity that will potentially stay with them for the rest of their lives. (By the way, sadly the answer was no – the corn stays as a corn kernel).

One particular STEM area that was then discussed was that there are multiple facets to how you engage with STEM in schools. The obvious way is to undertake direct interactions with students, and you can also take the second tier approach and market amateur radio as a tool to the science teachers themselves. There are conferences and science fairs around the nation completely untapped by amateur radio where with the right presentation, the magic of radio could reach the classroom by recruiting the teachers who are already there. As a result, there was discussions around 1) trying to identify existing teachers who hold a license and 2) looking further at avenues and support requirements to recruit new teachers into the hobby, so as to enhance that conduit into the classroom as well.

Where to from here?

After the presentations the symposium broke for lunch, during which many useful discussions were had. After the break, we went back into the hall and broke into three working parties. The aim was to develop initial ideas around the following three questions:

  1. The Way Forward to further develop the concept
  2. Promotion and Marketing that can be developed by the WIA
  3. Other Technologies not identified at the Symposium

Lots of good ideas were put forward and are now being collated by the WIA for distribution. The WIA indicated that all of the presentations that were made, the papers that were received and the data generated from the three working parties will be made available in due course via the WIA website.

Conclusion

Overall, Matt and Grant came away feeling that the WIA had made some good first steps into addressing how to get amateur radio engaged with STEM in schools. It also was clear that this is not an initiative that can be driven solely by the WIA. It will take the formation of teams of people in each state and territory who can then begin the work of building local responses in alignment with a national Amateur Radio in STEM framework. The WIA can play a facilitation role here that will be positive for both Amateur Radio and STEM education in Australia.

The next step AREG see’s is that the WIA needs to establish an Amateur Radio in STEM advisory committee, made up initially from the general WIA members who attended the symposium plus others who couldn’t make it but still wish to contribute. This committee needs to take the work already started and complete building the national frame work for Amateur Radio in STEM. It can then turn that into a set of individual regional initiatives driven through the radio clubs network so that collectively the Amateur Radio Service can set forward on the task of tackling this multi-faceted arena.

AREG would like to thank the WIA for taking the time to run the symposium and in particular would like to thank all those who made the effort to attend and participate, as well as thank those who contributed papers and inputs. It is hoped that this is only the beginning of a new focus on how to demonstrate to a new generation the ongoing relevance and importance not only of Amateur Radio to the country, but also STEM education in general in Australia. Getting everyone together in one place was a fantastic start to this as it has established new networks and shared many different perspectives on how to tackle the issue. There very much is an exciting future ahead for Amateur Radio and STEM studies nationally.

 

AREG at the AHARS Buy N Sell 2016

It has been a busy month and this news is a little late – but better late than never! The committee wants to thank all of those members who participated in the club’s fundraising efforts leading to the AHARS Buy N Sell event this year. The club again was able to muster a wide variety of items for the tables and trade was brisk.  A lot of preparatory work went into the event lead by Scott VK5TST who hosted many working bee’s preparing items for sale.  On the day, the club was represented by Grant VK5GR, Mark VK5AVQ, Chris VK5SA, Andy VK5AKH and Scott VK5TST . Thanks team for a job well done!

img_3202-crop

AREG Members Help out! Thanks from VK5GR

Being a member of a radio club has many advantages. Once of the not so obvious is when it comes time to engage in some mast construction. Grant VK5GR discovered just how helpful fellow club members were prepared to be today when over 10 members volunteered for the “Olympic Concrete Wheelbarrow Pouring Tryouts” at his QTH as the footings were finally poured for his new tilt over tower.

Having had the hole dug with an auger the day before, assistance came from many directions within the club, from a member welding up additional leveling steel-work for the base to the concrete laying relay team and the concrete finishing team who helped put the final touches on what in about 4 weeks will become a new HexBeam HF station.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Digging the hole

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pouring the Concrete

Membership of the club put Grant in touch will all of these helpers. So why not give it some thought. There is more to being a member of your local radio club than just attending meetings and using the club repeater systems

Thanks to VK5FDEN, VK5SA, VK5ZM, VK5BB, VK5FJ, VK5IX, VK5KX, VK5JG, VK5TST, VK5FGRY and VK5FSAW for all of your help and support. It is very much appreciated!