Barnstable Club Technician License Course in a Weekend Held January 13-14

All 14 of the attendees at the Tech in a Weekend course held by the Barnstable Amateur Radio Club (BARC) and performed at the Cape Cod Fish and Game Club in Harwich the weekend of January 13 and 14 successfully passed their tests at the end of the course.  The BARC team consisted of five teachers, each teaching two sub-elements and two VE teams.  Instruction was supplemented by downloaded U-tube videos. Opportunities to ask questions both during and after the instruction were provided.  An orientation session was held two weeks prior to the course to help the students prepare.  All students obtained the ARRL Technician License Manual in advance of the course and used it frequently both before and during class.  

In recognition of its status as a Special Service Club, BARC recently created an Education Committee to develop teaching experience, seek out opportunities to hold classes at all levels and generally coordinate club educational activities.  This weekend was the first course taught by BARC in several years, following the death of Paul Laconto, W1NP, and is dedicated to his memory.

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RFI Hunting with W4DD Software

Jeff, W4DD, has created a Windows-based app that maps RFI from power lines as you drive along side them.  I’ve been experimenting with the software to develop some guidelines for its use by the RFI teams.  I know several others on the teams are doing the same thing.  The Icom 705 in each team has both the GPS and CI-V capability to support gathering the required data.  The process begins by installing the app, available on request, and creating a directory or folder to receive the data.  The vehicle is then equipped with a Hamstick for 10 meters (I haven’t tried other bands but this is the one Jeff recommends) and a team Icom 705 is connected via a micro-usb port on the 705 and a usb port on a laptop that has the Icom drivers installed on it (available on the Icom America website.) I’ve installed several ferrites (available on Amazon) on the usb cable to suppress the usb port noise when in operation.  If all is connected properly, starting the RFID software displays that the GPS and the CI-V S-meter reading from the Icom 705 are recognized.

I tune the Icom 705 to 28.5 MHz in the AM mode.  Start the data gathering process by providing a name for the file when requested.  Start driving the test route at about 30 MPH paying attention to traffic so you don’t become the lead car in a caravan.  At this point I strongly recommend that you work with a partner so you can drive and not need to pay attention to the data being recorded.  The faster you drive, the further apart the data points become so you can cover more territory but you may miss the detailed location of an RFI source.  You can zoom in on a particular area of the map and examine it in Google Earth to gather more detail.  If you are hunting a real source, you may want to repeat a run.  It is helpful to have a spare laptop battery.

When you complete a run, connect to the internet and go to the GoogleMyMaps site.  Upload the data file you created into a new map.  Look at the data and use color (select style by s-meter) to single out the high noise data points, i.e. s1-s5 colored green, s5 – s7 colored yellow, s8 and higher colored red.  I used a slightly different set since I wanted a bit finer scale.

Once you’ve identified a problem location, the use of the team VHF/UHF log-periodic to find the specific pole and an acoustic dish (I use an MFJ dish) to find the particular faulty component are the last steps.

I’ll refine this process with the teams’ inputs as we go forward but my testing so far is very positive and I believe that Jeff, W4DD, has provided us with a valuable tool for finding powerline RFI.

New Hampshire Mesh Network Expansion Continues

The Merrimack Valley Amateur Radio Association has received a grant award of $46,125 from Amateur Radio Digital Communication, a California-based foundation, to expand its current 7-node microwave network in southern New Hampshire. The project includes extending the New Hampshire network into northeastern Massachusetts and southwestern Maine as a bridge between states towards to the larger goal of a New England-wide network.

The project is a collaboration with the New England Digital Emergency Communications Network to provide microwave radio backup to DMR repeaters in New Hampshire that rely on the internet for primary connectivity between sites. Collaborating on DMR sites also increases MVARA’s capability to support local emergency management organizations with amateur radio operators and equipment.

The grant proposal was co-authored by Jay Taft K1EHZ, Bill Barber NE1B and Jennifer Herting KD2BEC. The microwave network is IP-based, so amateur radio operators can use applications that normally run on the internet such as email, file transfer, weather station data, voice over IP telephone, and video streaming.

Recently, two New Hampshire towns have expressed interest in having amateur radio microwave capability installed on municipal towers so amateur radio operators can backup town communications that normally rely on the internet.

The project benefits DMR communications such as SkyWarn nets when the internet is disrupted, and allows siting DMR repeaters where no internet exists such as the current node on Crotched Mountain in Francestown. The project also benefits amateur radio operators when backing up communications for various public and private organizations.

Jay, K1EHZ is available to answer any questions about the expansion plan and is a valuable resource for anyone looking to support further expansion of mesh networking in New England.

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Mesh Networking in New England Continues to Expand

Jay Taft is leading an effort to expand mesh networking in New Hampshire in support of the NEDECN digital network.  The goal of network expansion is to provide a robust, commercially independent, emergency communications backbone as well as a commercially-independent general purpose amateur radio communications facility.  This effort is in parallel with similar efforts in RI and ME that are in progress.

The overall objective of the NH effort is establishing 5 GHz RF links among DMR and other sites in southern NH. During September the NH team established a 33-mile link from Crotched Mt to Walnut Hill which set up the potential to extend the mesh network to the east, north and south.

Participants in the September project were Bill Barber NE1B, Paul Blais KC1KMM, Bill Fortin KB1SGK, Ted Gamlin K1OX, Jen Herting KD2BEC, Bryan King KX1B, Wally O’Donnell N1GLT, and Jay Taft K1EHZ.

On September 9th, a joint team from New England Digital Emergency Communication Network and the Merrimack Valley Amateur Radio Association installed a 5 GHz mesh router on the K1OX tower on Walnut Hill in Chester, NH. (Photo of Wally N1GLT on the tower.) On September 21st the NEDECN and MVARA team updated the 5 GHz router configuration on South Uncanoonuc Mountain in Goffstown, NH. (Photo of Bill KB1SGK on the lift.)

The link from Uncanoonuc to the NEDECN site on Walnut Hill in Chester, NH (19 miles east of Uncanoonuc) turned out to be marginal due to obstruction by rock and foliage, and subject to RFI from other radios on the summit, however, the 5 GHz signal from the router previously installed on Crotched Mountain in Francestown, NH (14miles west of Uncanoonuc) is received at Walnut Hill (19 miles east of Uncanoonuc) with an excellent signal to noise ratio across the 33-mile path. The team is evaluating this path to see how it holds up over time.

These mesh expansion projects, eventually linking them in a New England – wide network, as well as others like them nationally are key to staking amateur radio’s claim to these frequencies and preventing encroachment by commercial interests.

The teams active in this effort meet semi-monthly on Zoom and communicate using  If you are interested in becoming involved, please consider joining the iogroup to get started.

Barry Hutchinson, KB1TLR, Receives Barnstable (MA) ARC Volunteer Of The Year Award

Barry Hutchinson (on left), KB1TLR, of Brewster, MA recently received the Barnstable Amateur Radio Club (BARC) Volunteer of the Year Award from BARC President Norm Cantin, WA1NLG, at the club’s August meeting.  Barry has held many club leadership and ARES positions including president of both the Falmouth Amateur Radio Association (FARA) and BARC at various times.  Barry also is the amateur radio coordinator for both the Falmouth Road Race and the Cape Cod Marathon, a member of the Cape ARES team and is a leader for the BARC Field Day effort.  Barry also is a frequent participant at club outreach events, such as the Harwich Brooks Park and Cranberry Festivals.  He has been a Technician class and merit badge instructor during the club’s JOTA activities. Barry was recently nominated for the Philip J. McGan Memorial Silver Antenna Award due to his contributions to club’s outreach efforts to the public.

Congratulations Barry!

New Tools in Development by RFI Teams to Preview at HamExposition August 26

Recently, Jeff, W4DD (Georgia) demonstrated his software for mapping RFI from power lines while mobile during a training session at Nearfest for three of New England’s RFI teams.  Since then, team members have been building on Jeff’s work to use the team’s IC-705’s and antennas to develop another tool for the team’s RFI toolkit.  Keith, W1KJR, and Jim, N1NK of the RI team have tested this Windows-based software tool for mapping power line and other RFI interference while mobile.  

Keith will be presenting the results at the HamXposition on August 26, at the RFI team forum.

Najm, AB1ZA, of the Western Massachusetts team has developed RFI mapping software that will run on a rasperry-pi, a Linux laptop or a Windows laptop.  Najm will demonstrate this software at another forum.

The mapping software will likely prove a valuable tool for reporting power line RFI issues to utilities.

Thanks to these teams for their excellent work!

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Cape Cod Ham Clubs Team Up At MA Maritime Summer Camp

The Falmouth Amateur Radio Association (FARA) and the Barnstable Amateur Radio Club (BARC) teamed up to present an overview of amateur radio to 200 junior high school boys and girls at a two week summer camp held at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Bourne on Monday, July 17.  The two hour evening program included a demonstration of HF and VHF operation, a cube sat demonstrator, a discussion of the use of amateur radio for public service and emergency operation and an opportunity for the participants to get on the air themselves.  The benefit of  amateur radio for anyone pursuing an engineering career was highlighted.  Local opportunities to get their technician license were offered including mentoring and donations of equipment to get started.  Antennas and other on-air club members were  pre-staged to provide the attendees with an enjoyable on-air experience.

Presenters Norm, WA1NLG (BARC President), Bruce, WA3SWJ and Chris, WA1CMR (FARA President) with support by club members Ralph, N1YHS, Rob K1UI and Lem, W1LEM (taking photo) answered questions following the presentation and helped get some of the attendees on the air. 

Many of the attendees expressed an interest in learning more about amateur radio and obtaining a license. 

The evening continues an initiative being pursued by the clubs to work together on projects that benefit amateur radio on the Cape and especially EmComm.  The two clubs together have a membership of 300 hams.  Cape District Emergency Coordinator, Frank, WQ1O, has recognized the need for the Cape to be self-sufficient for an extended period of time following a natural or man-made disaster.  This makes this cooperation between clubs essential to support emergency operations anywhere on the Cape, regardless of any club affiliation.

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AM Radio in Electric Vehicles (EV’s) – Why Do We Care?

The national news has recently covered the decision by Ford Motor Company to continue to provide AM radios in their EV’s, after first announcing AM radios would be discontinued.  The noise from battery systems interfering with reception was the reason cited in the news. 

We hope that this means that the RFI shielding in these EV’s will be upgraded to suppress the RFI generated from these EV systems and that other auto manufacturers will follow suit.

Hams suffer from the RFI generated by the internet of things, solar energy systems, LED lighting, faulty power line components, motor controllers, electric fences and many other sources with more emerging all the time as technology delivers more and more devices that generate RF energy as a by-product.  EV’s are yet another example but the national commitment to replace the fleet of gas and diesel driven vehicles with EV’s in the next decade is an order of magnitude more of concern.

It is reasonable to question whether the FCC’s self-certification approach is sufficient for EV’s given the potential impact to the RF spectrum, not just to amateur radio but to public service frequencies as well.  The 60 meter band, for example, is used by government services with amateur radio secondary.  If EV’s are too noisy in the AM broadcast band for them to receive many AM stations, is it likely that strong harmonics will impact signals at 5 MHz?

Congressional hearings are underway to consider the impact of removing AM radios in vehicles.  The issue appears to be uniting both progressive and conservative senators for commercial reasons.  It seems to me that this is an opportunity to surface the issue of RF pollution of the spectrum to our lawmakers, not just for the sake of amateur radio but in the broader public interest as well.

Barnstable Club (BARC) Builds Amateur Radio Station for Scouts at Camp Greenough

The ARRL Club Grant to BARC of $25,000 has enabled corporate and private donations of an additional $100,000 towards creating a platform for amateur radio in scouting.  Jamboree-on-the-Air events, licensing and merit badge classes and Field Days will make excellent use of the new facility.  Eversource, Xfinity, Mid-Cape Home Centers, Shepley Lumber and other Cape businesses, have donated utility poles for antenna supports, fiber-optic cabling for wiring up the entire camp for internet connectivity and building materials for the station itself.  Station equipment will be remotely operable allowing it to be used for training performed in a new camp Welcome and Education Center being constructed adjacent to the station.

The idea for the grant was originally conceived by BARC member Steve Boyson, N1VLG, a former BARC president and member of the local Scouting council.  Steve also helped source many of the donations received and continues to help using his extensive contacts in the community.

Good progress is being made on station construction.  The off center fed dipole antenna, to be placed on the already-erected utility poles with halyards, has been ordered.  All the old wiring in the station has been removed. Three of the four walls have been constructed and the materials to build the station interior have been acquired and staged inside the station.

New entrances and security features for the station and the other building spaces are being designed to allow secure outside entrance to the station.  Two operating positions are planned with both HF and VHF/UHF capabilities including satellite communication.

The current project plan calls for the station to be completed by the end of this year.

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Cape Cod Scout Camp Ham Station Starts Building its Antenna Field

The Barnstable Amateur Radio Club (BARC) received a grant from the ARRL to establish a ham radio station for scouts at Camp Greenough in Yarmouth on Cape Cod.  The camp hosts scouts from all over New England and BARC participates in Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) events at the camp as well as, most recently, Winter Field Day.  Donations from local businesses have amplified the value of the grant many times. These included building materials for both walls and operating desks, volunteer professional labor and even fiber-optic connectivity from Comcast.  Following removal of 18 trees, Eversource installed three poles with pulleys to suspend wire antennas on March 8.  Heavy equipment arrived in the morning with a full crew.  The poles were rigged and lifted into position once the holes were dug.  They are now ready to lift wire antennas into position, once the station build is completed and the equipment is in place. The station itself has been framed on three sides and old wiring removed.  An ADA-compliant door will be installed for station access prior to completion of the framing.  

Two operating positions , some furniture and a workbench are planned and some equipment donations have been offered, in addition to that funded by the grant.  The station will be capable of remote operation to allow on-site classroom facilities to be used for amateur radio instruction including that for the radio merit badge using live demonstrations.  BARC will relocate its satellite antenna array to the new station that will be fully HF, VHF and UHF capable.

BARC is targeting this summer for project completion.