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The Foundation Licence Experience

April 01, 2024 By: john daws Category: Club, Fun, Training

Following Chris’ (G0EYO) previous article on Training  for the Amateur radio Licence, Martin M7XFD describes his journey to the Foundation Licence (and beyond)

WHAT NO CW!! OR HOW I FOUND THE FOUNDATION LICENCE ..OR THE FOUNDATION LICENCE FOUND ME

Martin (left) receiving award certificate from Lee G0MTN

Always at the back of my mind has been the idea of getting licensed as a Radio Amateur.

As a young person I was a Short Wave Listener. My father had been involved in Radar during World War II and at a very young age I discovered a crystal set in his box of ‘bits and pieces’.

We used the metal frame of my bed for the earth, strung a long wire down the garden and with a pair of ex-army headphones rotated the stiff aluminium thing with corroded vanes to pick up the BBC Light Service on the medium wave. Hearing speech and music, with no batteries or electric power involved, was sheer magic to young boy!

Following on from that we had a valve radio that had shortwave that I was able to use and added a long wire antenna. I finally bought an ex-army radio, the size and shape of the top half of a large fridge. A battleship grey Marconi 52 I think. It weighed 50lbs, had glowing valves and UV sensitive dials that also could glow in the dark. I listened to Hams around the world and I wrote to them for QSL cards to confirm I had picked up and heard their signal.

The mighty battleship grey Marconi 52

It was the CW (Morse requirements) that put me off getting my licence (sorry editor)-  [Ed.unforgiveable!!]

Years flew by……….

With a career in electronics which led to computers, I retained my interest in radio and bought an airband radio that had three crystals allocated to Birmingham Airport’s Control tower, approaches and one other: (perhaps I only used two slots as the crystals were expensive.)

Living close to an airport I have updated my scanner and noticed technology changing with the advance of digital radio.

A few years ago I noticed that Wythall Radio Club ran training courses for the Amateur radio Licences and I toyed with the idea of finally becoming licensed.

Time passed. I gained another handheld receiver.

Some of my post-retirement hobbies changed, freeing up time, and in the summer of last year I emailed the club to inquire if I could get involved. As a result Chris G3YHF invited me to a talk at Wythall House in September and a few weeks after that to a ‘Plug and Play’ Open day in the fields at Wythall Community Centre.

G3YHF’s neat portable CW Plug and Play table

I was not the only prospective new member so the talk was on Amateur Radio in the modern world of today. What struck me was that despite the  decline in  numbers of active Hams , the focus has shifted to pursuing  different  ways of doing things in this digital age and the technical challenges within the hobby. I could see this as a way of finding out what would interest me most.

I took my wife to the open day so she could understand better what I was thinking about getting into. She had a good time and could see the range of interests and the camaraderie involved. The fact that every rig and antenna set-up was portable was good for me to see as my main interest is in handheld and portable systems. ‘How much is it going to cost?’, she said. ‘Oh not much’, I replied. ‘There are very cheap handheld radios from China’.

 Neil,G1TZC , taking time out from his satellite dish, reassured me that Morse code was not mandatory and showed me a copy of the Foundation licence manual, explaining me that studying and taking the exam was straightforward especially given my background in electronics. Other Club members encouraged me to have a go and again I checked : definitely no  CW requirement!! 

I sent for the manual from the RSGB the next day.

Wythall Radio Club do not run their own courses anymore as most of the courses have gone on-line, so in September and October  I took the Essex Ham course and passed my Foundation Licence in November last year.

                            

Neil’s Pop- up shack with captive audience . (Martin in there somewhere?)

From contacting a Wythall Radio Club to being licensed took less than three months.

To reassure those that might be thinking of getting into the hobby, even taking the exam itself was a pleasant experience as there is a pre-exam chat with a person who is also a keen radio amateur and the same person is on hand to facilitate the online exam session.

Martin’s current rig

I traded my scanners in for a very good Handheld radio transceiver (right). Even though I could get something much cheaper this was going to be my sole equipment for a while. As you will recall I said I wanted portability rather than a fixed set-up at home

However to get more coverage, with advice from Ian M0LQY, I have subsequently put together a hotspot. With the handheld radio I have three options. I can make contacts directly locally and on the move, via near and sometimes far repeaters, or through the hotspot over the internet. With the latter I can make contacts all over the world, but I have enjoyed most being able to contact  club members directly and via the Wythall repeater. I am also getting to know other Radio Amateurs locally and further afield – sometimes as I pass by on my travels

        MMDVM Pi-Star Rig

It was seeing a YouTube video on a ham using a Handheld radio and a hotspot in his house, contacting the World that was one of the triggers to contact WRC which led on to the Foundation Licence.

To continue to extend my knowledge I am now studying for the Intermediate Exam which is taking longer, but  equally enjoyable.

   For me Amateur Radio has so much a lot to offer.

I am enjoying VHF/UHF and surprising world wide contacts when I want. With the summer coming then HF with a portable set up may be something to try.

Shall I learn morse code? … I am not rushing!! (you never know Ed. !!)

The Full Licence? An Introduction and Guide to the full Amateur Radio Experience- by G0EYO

February 13, 2024 By: john daws Category: Club, News, Training

The full amateur radio experience is within your grasp: read on and discover.

A recent pass of the Full Licence Examination by our Hon Sec. Clive (now M0KNP) got our Training Co-ordinator Chris G0EYO thinking about how wonderful it is that people who have an interest in radio communications, but no technical, engineering or academic training can pass an examination in which some of the questions require them to learn a high level of technical and electronic theory and scientific calculations.

Chris G0EYO has written an article “Achieving the Impossible by Getting That Full Amateur Licence”  where he describes how the structured approach of the Bath Distance Learning Team has got around 1000 amateurs through their Intermediate and Full Licence examinations with their courses which have an award winning success rate.  It is based around a Syllabus which is produced by the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) and approved by Ofcom. Each course ties in the material in Course Books (again published by the RSGB) with the requirements of the Syllabus, so that everything that is examinable is covered by the course.

The team behind the course have put in an incredible amount of time and research to make sure there are no gaps in the training and that each week’s topics tested by a quiz which the students do under timed conditions. The weekly tutorials are optional but are at the same time every Wednesday evening on Zoom. If a student is unable to watch a tutorial in real time a YouTube video of it is available to watch the next day. The tutorial is also supported by a power point presentation and this also available as a PDF to download the next day. 

At the end of the course, the student is expected to have a go at several Mock exams similarly structured to the ones set by the RSGB. It is the tutor’s job to supply the students with worked answers for all the quizzes and mock exams after they have been submitted and to help them with any queries they may have on the questions or course material. The tutor also keeps in contact with the student over his progress and will chivvy them along if they fall behind.

The BBDL Intermediate course runs for 19 weeks and the Full course runs for 20 weeks. Both of these courses call for a serious commitment from the student. In addition to the 2 hour weekly tutorial, you will need to spend another 2 to 4 hours studying each week’s material, preparing for and doing the weekly quiz.

https://www.wythallradioclub.co.uk/?page_id=13341&preview=true

 

YOU WILL FIND THE ARTICLE IN THE LIBRARY/ARTICLEOF THE WEBSITE OR THROUGH THE URL LINK ABOVE

From the Workbench – Kanga Rooster QRP Kit Part 1

December 17, 2023 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

Kanga? ROOster? Christopher Robin meets ham radio?

No, just the latest kit from Kanga products.

With Wythall Radio Club’s ‘How low can you go? QRP month looming in January, I thought I’d dig out some of my kit QRP radios. 

Back in 2000 I built the Foxx 3 kit from Kanga Products.  This 1-watt CW rig was crystal controlled on 7030KHz.  It was based on the original 1983 Foxx circuit by George GM3OXX (SK) published in Sprat – the magazine of the G-QRP Club.

Club members have had a lot of fun with this kit.  It’s produced contacts with other QRP-ers around Europe.

However, being a direct conversion receiver mine suffered from considerable break-through from the Droitwich Long Wave transmitter about 15 miles away from my QTH.

Now Kanga have produced an updated version of this design called the Rooster

Like Foxx 3, this is a QRP CW rig for 7030KHz.  However, power output has been increased to 2-watts and there is much improved sensitivity and selectivity due to its active audio filter.  This is centred on 750 Hz with a 500 Hz bandwidth.  

And rather than being mounted in an Altoids tin – the preferred method for Foxx 3 builders – the Rooster is supplied with its own aluminium case.

There are less components and tasks to undertake than when building the Foxx 3 as it uses SMD (surface mount devices) that are pre-installed on the PCB and 20 through-hole parts that the builder needs to solder in place.

The kit arrived with components neatly packaged in small bags so checking they were all there was a simple task.  The 26-page downloadable instructions are in Kanga Products’ usual excellent clear and illustrated format, with instruction for testing each stage after it is completed.

A current limited 12v supply is recommended for testing, but there is probably low risk of damage using a conventional 12v (not 13.8V) supply or battery PROVIDED the location and soldering of components is thoroughly checked after each stage

I use a magnifying table lamp for checking my soldering, especially for identifying any solder splashes that might result in short circuits.

I spent about 3 hours building and testing the kit.  I could have taken less time, but I like to savour the process of construction.  In addition, I had a couple of problems (discussed later) that added some time.  Kanga suggest that the rig could be built in an hour, eg at a Build-a-thon.  It could be with experienced builders, but it would be a rush!

I only had 2 problems.  The first was in testing the audio amplifier, where plugging in the headphones and touching a metal screw-driver to particular components should result in a ‘buzz’.  It didn’t.  There was a weak scratching noise but no buzz. 

Using the circuit diagram and my trusty analogue multi-meter, I checked continuity of the audio section, and it was all OK.

The soldering was very straightforward, so I decided just to press on.  My faith was rewarded as the next task was to install the side-tone components.  When I tested this, it worked perfectly.  So clearly, the audio-amp was ok.

The other problem was my error in installing the diode in the neighbouring holes intended for one of the inductors.  Just lack of concentration.  Unfortunately, I’d trimmed the leads before I realised what I’d done!

However, I use minimal amounts of solder, so it was easy to remove the diode and clear the holes by pushing one of the trimmed leads into the hole, heating it with the soldering iron, and pulling it through with fine-nosed pliers.

Luckily, the holes the diode should have gone in were not spaced as far apart, so I could fit it and have a tiny bit of the leads poking through the PCB for soldering!

In the final desk test I could hear CW using the short length of coax to the dummy load/watt meter as an antenna.  Always a good sign!  And the rig produced 2-watts of RF.

So it worked first time – hurrah!

Now let’s get it on the air!

I plugged in my 40-meter dipole and I could hear masses of stations within the receiver’s passband, but unfortunately they were all engaged in an international CW contest!  I copied stations in 9A, SP, E7 and YO, so that proved the receiver was working very well.  And no sign of Droitwich long wave!

Just to check, I plugged in my Foxx 3 and there it was – a football programme over the top of those CW stations!

The Rooster definitely has a much better receiver! 

It also has masses of audio output but no volume control, so DON’T POWER UP WITH HEADPHONES ON!  I need to wear my ‘phones off my ears to reduce the volume.

As the connections between components are not visible on the PCB, I can’t see how to add a small volume potentiometer similar to the one on the Foxx 3.  Maybe someone at the Club will advise!

What are the lessons from this build?

Some of the components have solder-points in close association, so if your soldering is rusty – or you’ve never soldered – find or scrounge some Veroboard and components and practice.  Check continuity afterwards with a multi-meter set to resistance.

A narrow chisel-type soldering iron tip will work much better than something bigger.  It will provide more control where there are components near to each-other.

A temperature-controlled iron will also help with getting enough heat onto the big lugs of the antenna socket so that they have a good electrical and structural connection.

A dummy load is required.  One can be built from resistors, or there are also dummy load/watt meter kits for QRP rigs available.

The fittings that go through the front and back panels (eg DC input, RIT) must be aligned with the edge of the board.  I used the panel to make sure they were in the right place, and a bit of tape helped hold them in place until the first lug was soldered.

Overall, this has been a very enjoyable little kit to build.  It’s priced at £37.99 plus P and P and given it includes a metal case I think that’s a reasonable cost. 

It’s a good first step for anyone starting out with construction, and could then lead to the QRP Labs QCX-mini one band, fully featured CW rig (not crystal controlled!) currently at £44 plus £16 for the case plus P and P.

Once I’ve had a play with the Rooster on 7030 I’ll post an update on how it performs.

 

Signals from Space with a Handheld

September 22, 2023 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

The ISS (international space station)’s digipeater can be heard with a 2 meter handheld when one of the ISS passes is overhead.
 
And if you can connect your 2m FM rig to a computer, you can send and receive messages through it – and receive the special ISS QSL card!
 
Now is a good time to try as the ISS is passing over the UK at a good elevation twice most early evenings.
 
Find the ISS pass times HERE – remember to add 1 hour as times are UTC.  Ideally, look for 70° or 80° elevation when ISS is passing close to overhead.
 
The live ISS locator is useful to track its position and digipeater footprint.
 
Tune to 145.825 FM with squelch OFF and listen for the short bursts of data.  You will only hear these for a couple of minutes during each pass.

The contents of data packages received by the ISS are instantaneously retransmitted by the digipeater and received by one of the SATGATEs where they are automatically uploaded to the ARISS web site HERE along with the list of stations whose transmissions were received and maps of their locations.
 
Only short messages can be sent, and here are some examples from earlier this evening:
 
00:00:01:12 : G0GOO]CQ,RS0ISS*,qAR,ED1ZBF-3::G7HCE :QSL and 73 via ISS
00:00:01:32 : G6UQZ-1]APDW17,RS0ISS*,qAU,DO6DD-10:!5204.75N/00034.94EyPHG200073 de Andy in Clare, Suffolk
00:00:01:39 : G3YHF]CQ,RS0ISS*,qAU,DO6DD-10:=5226.15N/00152.30W-IO92BK 73 de Wythall RC {UISS54}
00:00:01:41 : RS0ISS]0P0PS3,APRSAT,qAR,ED1ZBF-3:’v&l SI]ARISS-International Space Station=
00:00:01:42 : G7HCE]APK004,RS0ISS*,qAR,F1ZRP-3::G0GOO :Copy 59{5
 
The highlighted message is the one I sent this evening that was received and retransmitted by the digipeater after 6 or 7 attempts!
 
It gives the age of the retransmission, my call, the callsign of the digipeater – RS0ISS* is the Russian ISS call sign, DO6DD is the German SATGATE station that received and uploaded the packet to the ARISS site, and then there is my message: my APRS location in lat and long and Maidenhead square, and a few words of greeting!  The ‘ – ‘  instructs the ARISS site to add my QTH to its map.
 
Occasionally, the digipeater is temporarily shut-down for spacecraft operational activity like a spacewalk.
 
To send a message through the digipeater, connect a rig that can transmit 2m FM to a computer.  The rig will need an internal soundcard or if not use an interface like Signalink.  
 
I use my Yaesu FT7800 mobile rig on 5 watts with Signalink and a collinear. 
 
I also have an old Kenwood TH-D7 handheld with internal TNC and APRS functionality – this puts out 2.5 watts and I’ve been received by the digipeater again using my collinear.
 
Then download and configure UISS , which has been designed for communicating with the ISS digipeater.  Configure so it talks to your radio.  Then set ‘path’ to ARISS and add your APRS data and a short text.
 
There’s lots of on-line advice on how to set up UISS and use it to send a message – e.g.  on the AMSAT site
 
DON’T USE HIGH POWER!  ISS is line of sight, so 5 watts to a collinear will work very well.  High power will put exessive demand on the ISS rig’s batteries and block other stations from using the digipeater. 
 
The digipeater is simplex and lots of European stations will be calling so it may take several goes to get through.  On the current west to east trajectory of ISS, it’s best to try early on a pass before it’s in range of continental Europe
When your message is retransmitted by the digipeater, it will often appear as a highlighted message in UISS.
 
However, you may not receive this retransmit due to fading or other factors causing even one bit of data to be lost, so affecting the checksum.  
 
So it is always best to search for your call on the ‘Amateur Radio Stations heard via ISS’ page at ariss.net as a ground station operating a SATGATE may have received the retransmission and automatically uploaded it to the ARISS site.
 
Wythall Radio Club members had a go with conducting a brief QSO using the digipeater a couple of years ago, and two of us used it to score points in our Christmas Contest.  
 
Have fun!
 
 
 

Listen to radio amateurs without a radio!

August 24, 2023 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

Thanks to the internet, it’s possible to listen on amateur radio frequencies without a special short wave receiver.

There are many WebSDR (Software-Defined Radio) receivers connected to the internet, allowing multiple users to listen simultaneously.  

A list of WebSDR receivers and links to them is at  http://www.websdr.org/   

To use WebSDR…

  1. Navigate to a receiver like Hack Green, Cheshire (one of the closest WebSDRs to Birmingham) or KFS WebSDR in California (where you can listen in to the US amateurs).
  2. Once on a WebSDR site, enable ‘allow keyboard’, which permits you to tune the receiver using mouse wheel or keyboard arrows.
  3. You may have to enable audio settings on your browser – see the advice on each webSDR site; eg for listening to Hack Green using Chrome: Click the Lock in the address bar of your Chrome browser. Click Site Settings. Under Sound, select Allow.
  4. Select the band you want to listen on – you will find most stations on 80, 40 and 20 meters, in the frequency ranges in the table below.
  5. When listening on 80 and 40 meters, select LSB (lower side band); when listening on 20 meters, select USB (upper side band).
  6. Once you hear a station, it may sound like ‘Donald Duck’ – tune slowly and the voices will become clear
  7. Once you become proficient at tuning in stations, try some of the other receiver functions – e.g. narrow IF bandwidth and IF passband can be used to reduce interference.

Over the next few months, you can expect the following radio conditions:

Amateur band

(meters)

For SSB (voice) tune these frequencies and select LSB or USB as indicated Expected coverage if listening to Hack Green

(More detail on propogation predictions here)

 

80m 3700-3800 LSB Daytime – UK; Evening – UK and continental Europe
40m 7100-7200 LSB Daytime – continental Europe (sometimes UK); Evening – Europe, and occasionally further afield
20m 14150-14300 USB Daytime – Europe; Evening – Europe and often further afield

CALL SIGNS

You can identify the countries from which stations are operating by comparing their call sign prefix (the first one or two letters/numbers) with those on the list of international call sign prefixes e.g. the Wythall Radio Club call sign is G4WAC – G means the station is in England. 

 

 

Q CODES AND OTHER SHORTHAND YOU MAY HEAR

You may hear the following…

CQ, CQ – I am calling for a contact; please reply to me

DX – long distance (normally, outside the operator’s continent)

QRZ? – is anyone there?

QTH – location of the station

QRM – interference on the signal

QSB – fading on the signal

QSL – confirmation of the contact or information passed

73s – best wishes and goodbye

GAINING AN AMATEUR RADIO LICENCE

The ‘Foundation licence’ is not difficult to obtain.  There is some simple electronics and radio operating to study.  You can find details of the licence levels and courses on the Wythall Radio Club web site and there is more information at the RSGB.

 

Come and meet us!

August 20, 2023 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

Visitors welcome at Wythall Radio Club’s famous ‘Plug and Play’ event on Saturday 9th Sept. between 10 and 3.

We’ll once again be operating various radios from Wythall Park, using a variety of antennas – and hopefully we’ll have some contacts via a satellite!

You can find us on the far side of Wythall Park, furthest from the car park.  Follow the tarmac footpath on the right hand side of the small playground, and keep going bearing right at any junction!

You’ll see vehicles, antenna masts and flags – that’s where we are. 

Here’s a report on a recent ‘Plug and Play’.

We are also holding an open evening for anyone interested in becoming a member of our Club, or in obtaining an amateur radio licence so you can transmit and make new friends locally and around the world.

The Foundation Licence Manual for Radio AmateursThe open evening is on Tuesday 5th Sept. from 8-9pm in the Darts Room, on the ground floor of Wythall House.  Follow the signs.

We’ll have some radios operating making contacts outside the UK, as well as members who can chat with you.

If you can’t make these dates, there are members at the Club most Tuesday evenings – email us to fix a date to visit at:  wythallradio@gmail.com

 

 

Wythall Beavers’ Transatlantic Contact!

March 01, 2023 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

Beaver Scouts from Wythall chatted with radio amateurs on the west coast of the USA during their communications evening. 

Fifteen 6-8 year-olds talked with Doug KK7BRS and Olivia KK7HDO from Lake Washington Ham Club in Seattle.  This radio club is very focussed on young radio hams, one of whom is Olivia.

The QSOs were hosted by Les 2E0LRV from Wythall Radio Club (photo left).  He used a Yeasu FT8800 mobile radio with a patch lead as an antenna into an All Star node tethered to his mobile phone, using the phone data to connect to the internet.

 

 

Matt KN4ZXV in Florida kindly stood-by in case of any difficulties getting through to the Washington repeater.

 

 

 

The Beavers – from 1st Tidbury Green (Wythall) Scout Group – also sent and received simple messages using  Morse code buzzers, helped by John M6KET and Chris G3YHF, two of the Club’s CW enthusiasts.

And Roger M0GWM ran a session in which groups of Beavers used licence-free handhelds to exchange messages via the phonetic alphabet.

This communications evening is a regular event for Wythall Radio Club.  We held similar ones in 2018 and 2019.

At the end of the evening, each Beaver received a certificate confirming the communication skills they had gained. 

They went away buzzing, and several were overheard excitedly telling their parents about speaking across ‘the pond’ – and right across the American continent too!

 

We’d like to thank our friends in the US for assisting with the QSOs – they showed the real Ham Radio spirit!

 

 

Update on Wythall Radio Club Training Programme

March 23, 2022 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

We have paused our Foundation and Intermediate Training Programme due to recent RSGB syllabus changes that require major updates to our training materials.

There is an update from Chris G0EYO, our Training Coordinator, and suggestions for alternative providers on our training page (click here).

Foundation licence exam successes

June 15, 2021 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

New Foundation licence holders will hopefully soon be on the air, reports Chris G0EYO, our Training Coordinator.

“In our last on-line Foundation course, which finished in May, 9 students completed the course. 

Seven have let us know their results, and 5 passed – the youngest was 10 and the oldest was 80.   Most of our candidates were Midlands based.

We send our congratulations and hope to contact you ‘on the air’ with your new call signs!”

Our next online Foundation Course will start in August 2021.

Please contact Chris G0EYO at  g0eyo@blueyonder.co.uk  if you would like to take the course – more details on our Training pages.

Commitment to learning Morse Code

June 12, 2021 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

Stuart M0SRZ is the 2021 recipient of Wythall Radio Club’s Lew Williams Shield.

This annual award recognises a member’s progress with CW (Morse Code), and is in memory of Wythall Radio Club’s former CW tutor and President. 

Stuart obtained his Foundation Licence in 2016, followed by Intermediate and Full in the same year.  He took the CW Academy Beginner Course in spring 2019, and has been making great progress ever since. 

Stuart won the Lew Williams Shield in 2020, but his commitment to continuing with the CW Academy course since then means he holds the award for another year.

Stuart tells us: “The CW Academy courses have been instrumental in my progress. However, the vital element is the support, encouragement and example of a club such as our own.

The gentle introduction to the mysteries of Morse, and the inspiring, consistent example of John 2E0XET, began my present endeavour to learn and, hopefully, attain some degree of proficiency.  And that banner is now carried on by the Club’s current CW tutor David G0HVN.  

A history of CW teaching that started with Lew Williams, long before I joined this Club, continues to this day. 

Reading about the CW exploits of many club members provides further encouragement.

I shall try to earn that honour during this year by taking the CW Academy Intermediate course during September/October – and that is going to demand a lot of practice between now and then! ” 

Stuart commends the free CW Academy courses: “They are quite intensive – two online hour-long sessions each week – and you really have to put in the practice every day. If you’re interested take a look at https://cwops.org/cw-academy/