MSU’s Radiosport Team Takes Home MIQP Contest Honors

The Michigan State University Amateur Radio Club (MSUARC) Radiosport team turned in a record performance as the highest scoring college radio club in the 2017 Michigan QSO Party (MIQP).

With nearly 600 contacts and over 101,000 points, after multipliers, the 7 operators, comprising both students and alumni navigated poor band conditions and stayed the course for the 12 hour contest time frame.

Best of all, “The Ole Log” trophy remains in East Lansing for another year. W8SH outpaced our University of Michigan friends at W8UM, earning the top score for an official College Amateur Radio Club the annual competition.

Thanks to everyone who contacted us from 33 counties, 60 cities and 12 DX entities.

The MIQP is an annual Radiosport event, held every Spring, where radio amateurs are challenged to contact stations located in the State of Michigan. Ham radio enthusiasts regularly participate in contests as a way to practice emergency communications skills and prepare to support local government and public safety organizations in cases where commercial communications infrastructure may fail.

W8SH is the Michigan State University Amateur Radio Club Station, located at 2121 Engineering building on the MSU campus. It boasts state of the art communication equipment and is available to students, staff and alumni. The club is sponsored by MSU’s College of Engineering and was founded in 1919.

Memories from 1958

With the latest School Club Roundup in the books, here’s a look back to a contact confirmation from 1958 between MSUARC and the Wisconsin Badger Amateur Radio Society. Special thanks to Tim Czerwonka  for sending scans of this classic W8SH QSL Card our way.

The Michigan QSO Party – April 15

It’s the most important radiosport competition of our year. The Michigan QSO Party happens April 15-16. It’s our annual competition with our friends in Ann Arbor to see who can generate the highest overall score.

Come join us as we compete to keep the “ole log” here in East Lansing. 2121 EGR Saturday April 15 from Noon to Midnight.

Spring Build Night

Congratulations to all who converged on the MSU Maker Space rm# 2228 Engineering Building on March 23 for MSUARC’s Spring Build Night!

The magical aroma of solder was in the air as 12 club members constructed a capacitance meter (right). The device reads out the values on the 4 element LED display and can also feed data through an interface in real time to a laptop computer.

The club treasury provided funds for the kits and our group was able to take advantage of the full resources of the Maker Space for soldering irons and other tools.

Special thanks to Gregg, WB8LZG for making the arrangements and to Dennis, KB8ZQZ for watching over us as we tried to read resistor values and place the components into the right spots on the PC board.

Gregg WB8LZG gives a thumbs up while Ed, W8EO concentrates on construction.
Anton, KK6NA pays attention to detail as he applies solder to a connection.

March Meeting: DXing in Today’s Internet World

Chasing that rare operator is one of the greatest joys of amateur radio. And few in our area do it better than Joe Levine W8JRK.

Joe was first licensed in Connecticut in 1958 as K1GMR, earning his MSU undergrad degree in Music. He was one of the leading Michigan based chasers in last years National Parks On The Air contest and has a long history of dedicated support for MSUARC. He spoke at the March meeting about the tools he uses to snag the rare ones.

Here’s a link to Joe’s resources.

Watch his presentation on demand, below..

February Meeting: 3D Printing!

Once upon a time, it was the province of science fiction, but creating three dimensional objects with a printer is now a common activity and the device can be found in a number of student residence hall rooms across campus. We learned the ins and outs of 3D printing from Michigan State University engineering freshman, Jacob Bruner KW4EV at the February club meeting. Did you miss it. Watch the Facebook Live Replay, below.

What we learned at the Collegiate Amateur Radio Forum in Orlando

It’s no secret that recruiting a new generation into our essential avocation is a challenge these days. Technological innovations can diminish the wow factor of amateur radio and the time constraints college students face make it tough for them to get actively involved in ham clubs. But it turns out that the same things that enticed many of us more seasoned souls to engage are still important, and still work.

A group about 20 of us gathered at the 2017 Orlando Hamcation as part of the ARRL’s Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative. Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, opened the conversation, expressing the league’s total support for our efforts. He’s doing a terrific job at the helm of an evolving organization that must walk a tightrope to serve an eclectic and often opinionated constituency.

Then it was time for the conversation.

We covered a number of topics which I’ll try to collate into some common buckets.

Getting the word out: Andy Milluzzi, KK4LWR is the President of the University of Florida’s Gator Amateur Radio Club. He pointed out that the fast-growing maker community is where potential radio amateurs are most likely to be found. Maker spaces exist in just about every college town and partnering with them is an easy way to get at the low hanging fruit.

Ed Oxer, W8EO, talked about MSUARC’s activities at Sparticipation, our annual fall gathering of student run organizations. Having a highly visible and attractive presence there yielded productive leads and prospective members.

Some clubs hold their own mini-hamfests, where the swap and shop dimension often yields gifts to the club as the shadows lengthen and alumni don’t want to haul their gear back home.

And, as always, showing off the magic often is the most effective way to grab attention.

Demonstrating the Art: Taking station operations public was suggested by a number of participants. Setting up radios, or remote connections in high traffic areas, where the curious might collect, had the festive feel of the broadcast remotes that many of us who pursued our hobby into a profession used to do. Holding an alumni tailgate with a special events station turned out to be a great way for former students to reconnect and selling club t-shirts there raised some symbolic funds.

Keep your antennas connected to software defined radios that display a visual bandspread in colorful waterfall eye candy for all to see.  A corollary might be to set up an automatic downlink and display of NOAA satellite pictures. Install a flat screen monitor outside your shack, or negotiate a campus wide cable channel and create a rotating presentation of real time DX spots, weather radar and live screen grabs from active rigs. Hook up a webcam that automatically streams live video and rig audio from your shack. Install an APRS I-Gate and connect trackers to your school’s mascot on game day (Like we do with Sparty). Make your shack accessible over the Internet for students who might want to log some contacts from their dorm rooms.

Creating and promoting browser based SDRs can help the curious get a taste of the bands before committing time and energy towards a more active role.

Sponsoring build nights, in concert with maker space partners, with a particular focus on the newest generation of small footprint processors, like the Arduino and Raspberry Pi, demonstrating the latest in digital RF technology and participating in every radiosport event possible gives participants a taste of the depth and breadth of amateur radio in the new millennium. Alumni play a huge role here and can offer both expertise and equipment.

Strategic Partnerships: Find a person or organization who regularly offers ham-in-a-day classes and strategically funnel prospects to them. Reach out to faculty and staff to determine internal interest and solicit mutually beneficial relationships. This might lead to professors offering and automatic 4.0 to those who got licensed. And identifying the right staff member to be the club’s steward is crucial. It needs to be someone who has bought into the vision and has the clout to help execute it.

Work side by side with students and teachers to help create trackers for balloon launches, telemetry for robotic projects and expertise with the 3D printing applications that many hams use to build cases for our own projects. All of these activities position the ham club as a go-t0 resource.

Scouting and amateur radio have a long and storied relationship. Eagle scouts are ideal prospects for any higher education institution and many have likely been exposed to our art during Jamboree On The Air.  Working with local schools, perhaps facilitating an Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contact or advising a high school ham club can fill the pipeline with hot leads for future membership.

The Gear: In a world where students are always upgrading to the latest smart phones, it’s important to keep your shack state of the art. Alumni can assist, perhaps with a “rig on loan” program, crowdfunding for new equipment purchases or outright donations of radios, antennae and associated accoutrements. As mentioned above, access should be easy, perhaps available on line even to alumni who have contributed to the club’s endowment.

One of your club committees should be a shack update group, who focuses solely on the care, maintenance and cool-factor of the gear and the space that displays it.

An ideal club set-up might include one or more repeaters, the second an ever evolving platform for testing new modes; at least two HF operating positions with remote access, a fully automated satellite station, and a plethora of handheld rigs that students can check out.

Mentorship: And herein lies the ultimate key to success. Once a prospect has raised a hand, seek out a cadre of experienced hams who are willing to shepherd the willing into our world, inviting the to attend events and meetings, accompanying them to hamfests, assisting them with programming their radios and encouraging the to take steps outside of their comfort zone. At some point in each of our careers, someone did exactly that for us. There was that one person who fired our imagination, enabled our enthusiasm and cheered our participation.

Quality time is the most valuable thing we can give. It also has the potential to create the biggest return on investment, cementing lifelong friendships and inspiring the mentees to ultimately become mentors in their own right.

If we are to preserve the true magic of amateur radio, the most important thing we can do is “pass it on”.

Hear the entire ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Forum at the 2017 Orlando Hamcation:

Winter Preparedness

NWS Signs of HypothermiaWe had our first measurable snow on campus this weekend! There are a number of good things about winter. The chance of lightning in Michigan is almost non-existent so those 80 meter static crashes vanish. You won’t get burned if you forget to turn that antenna switch to ground when you shut down the rig. And there’s something magic about pulling in some great dx as the terminator dances over your QTH.

At the same time, there’s a whole new layer of preparedness questions you have to ask yourself when you leave the friendly confines of your dorm room or your ham shack. Speaking of layering, that’s the secret. Make sure you have enough layers to keep out the cold and protect you from the moisture. Electronic components can behave differently at extremes of temperature, so give that car (and your gear inside of it) time to warm up if the operating temps get below those recommended in your manual.

And be aware if you start to feel any of the symptoms shown in the NWS graphic and check out this handy reference from our friends at NOLS. Hams need to be prepared to serve in extraordinary times. Be ready to help by taking care of yourself first.