Category Archives: Elmering

Busy, Busy: ARES Incorporation and My Son’s Enrollment in an Electrician AAS Program

It’s been too long since I’ve posted; for those waiting for my next post on the ARRL Radiogram, please pardon the delay. The last couple of weeks have been unusually busy. More important matters have largely taken precedence over ham radio and blogging, but ham radio has by no means died at the QTH of NØIP and KAØCEM!

ARES® has been thriving here. On July 5, Yellow Medicine County ARES®, Inc. was incorporated. We filed our articles of incorporation with the MN Secretary of State and also obtained vanity call sign WØYMC (Yellow Medicine County) from the FCC! Two nights ago, the board of directors held their organizational meeting at which they adopted bylaws, elected officers, etc. Now we are ready to make application for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. Hopefully I will get to that next week.

We had one emergency operation in July, though I sort of backed into it. After I received a phone call from a friend, my son and I assisted in searching for a missing girl. At first I wasn’t even thinking in terms of ARES. Intending to just help our friends, I told my son to throw on his ARES vest to be more visible, I grabbed mine, and we brought our HT’s so we could communicate. Upon arrival at the scene we found ourselves in the midst of many similarly-clad firefighters and EMS personnel as well as police officers and deputies. Long story short, by the time the search was concluded, many more firefighters would be involved as well as local K9, bloodhounds from Watertown, SD and the MN State Patrol Helicopter. Thanks be to God, the girl eventually turned up safe.

The weekly Yellow Medicine County ARES Training Net continues. In July I covered the ARRL radiogram, an introduction to the Incident Command System, and spent one session discussing lessons learned in the search for the missing girl. Thus concludes the latest ARES news from Yellow Medicine County.

And on the home front it appears that by elmering my son Antonio, KAØCEM, I have unwittingly steered him toward a career as an electrician! This past Wednesday he was admitted to the Electrician AAS program of MN West Community College, Canby, as a PSEO (Post-Secondary Enrollment Option) student in his last two years of highschool/homeschool. He surprised me a couple months ago by asking about this, and now he’s all registered for classes and already has a pile of books to study.

That’s all I have time for right now. After dashing this off it’s back to work for me. Hopefully I’ll get back to regular posting next week.

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Filed under ARES®, Call Signs, Elmering

My Son Passed His Tech!

My 16-year-old son, Antonio, has been studying hard for his Technician license, and yesterday evening three VE’s — Dean, NYØI, Scott, KBØNLY, and Terry, KCØQED — paid us a house call. When they showed up, I was out in the driveway installing a dual-band antenna on my pickup. They crowded around, watching me, helping where they could, and chatting while Antonio grilled steaks in the back yard. Pretty soon the aroma of grilled ribeye had our mouths watering!

Terry, KCØQED, left, and Antonio (nervously contemplating the exam), right

After one of the biggest feasts we have ever had, the testing began. Antonio was pretty nervous at first, but he breezed through the test easily. Terry scored it, turned to me and gave me a thumbs up! While the other two VE’s scored Antonio’s test, I went and got the Wouxon KG-UV6D HT (with leather case, high-gain antenna, speaker-mic, and emergency AA-battery pack) I’ve had waiting for him. He smiled as he opened the box and started taking things out and putting them together. Antonio called Grandpa Mitchell, NØARQ, to share the good news. Just for fun he also took the General exam, and surprised himself by coming closer to passing than he expected — now he wants to study for that!

Antonio is interested in ARES® (he got an ARES vest yesterday, too), but he’s also interested in other aspects of amateur radio. Yesterday evening he said he would like to start up our CW lessons again so he can work HF CW, and he also wants to join the ARRL and the West Central MN Amateur Radio Club.

Here’s a slide show with a few more snapshots from yesterday evening. Congratulations, Antonio!

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Gremlins Lurk in the Junk Heap

Three weeks ago my EchoLink station went deaf. Thanks to the West Central MN Amateur Radio Club’s antenna analyzer, I figured out right away that the problem was in the feedline/antenna system. Ever since then I have been either too busy or too nervous to go on the roof, so it has remained a mystery . . . until this afternoon.

Antonio Mitchell checking SWR on the Edison Fong J-Pole

Antonio, my son, went up on the roof with the antenna analyzer while I watched from the ground. He did a great job taking all the tape and coax seal off the PL-259, disconnecting the coax from the antenna, and hooking up the antenna analyzer to the antenna with a patch cord. “One point two!” he called down to me. There you have it — it was the coax! I realized what I’d done. Here I had some brand-new coax in my field-kit, but I ended up grabbing a different coil of junk coax and got bitten by a Gremlin. I found the new, already-terminated coil of coax and Antonio swapped it for the bad length, carefully wrapping the PL-259 with coax seal and rescue-tape. In short order we had the station back on the air.

All that, and Antonio doesn’t even get to use it yet. Hopefully soon! Antonio has been studying hard for his Technician exam this week. He is eager to take the test.

Thanks, Antonio, for getting the EchoLink back up and running for all of us.

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Filed under Antennas, EchoLink, Elmering, Test Equipment

The Joy of Elmering (with Congratulations to KK4FKM for His First QSO!)

I got some good news and some bad news Tuesday. The bad news came when Dean, NYØI, let me know he couldn’t get into my EchoLink station. A little investigation proved that my radio is deaf; the problem is either the feedline or the antenna itself. What a disappointment.

But the good news I got that day was so good that it more than made up for the bad news. I got a taker on my offer to be a CW Elmer! Michael, KK4FKM, found me listed over at the SKCC Elmer Page and sent me an email. Great timing — I easily pushed my antenna woes to the back of my mind and set up a SKED with him for yesterday afternoon on 20m.

Kent SP-1 Key

The Key I Used to Work KK4FKM: The Kent SP-1

At the appointed hour I called KK4FKM KK4FKM KK4FKM DE NØIP NØIP NØIP KN. I wasn’t sure I’d hear him since the band was unusually noisy and KK4FKM was running QRP. But sure enough, there he was!

He was buried pretty deep in the QRN; I quickly flipped on my CW filter to isolate his signal. I managed nearly solid copy on the first go-around, but I couldn’t make out his subsequent transmissions. I was booming in there, though, so he had the opportunity to copy plenty of code.

Afterward we chatted by phone. I was moved when Michael told me this was his first QSO! What an honor to be his first contact. Impressive, too, that Michael’s first QSO was by CW, especially considering that he has his General — he could have gone straight to HF SSB if he wanted to, but instead he went the extra mile and tapped out his first QSO on a straight key, QRP no less. Well done!

It turns out that Michael and I have even more in common than our appreciation for CW. He is a police officer in a department about the same size as the one in which I served, and he is a Baptist, too. After a delightful conversation, we set up another SKED before bidding one another farewell.

This is one QSL that I would send if it cost me a hundred stamps! It’s in the mailbox. Congratulations, KK4FKM!

If you ever have a chance to Elmer, go for it. And if you could use an Elmer, don’t hesitate to seek one out. You’ll be doing him a favor. Of all the things we can do in this hobby, Elmering might just be the most delightful one of all.

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Filed under CW, Elmering

Finished With First Half of the Electronics Learning Lab (with Guest Blogger Antonio)

My son, Antonio, has reached the midpoint of his work with the Radio Shack Electronics Learning Lab I wrote about last November. Just a few days ago he finished the first of the two workbooks (click here to view PDF). I really liked the second-to-last of the labs — a “fully adjustable siren.” Here’s the schematic, followed by my son’s take on this part of his homeschooling curriculum:

The End of Book One of the Learning Lab

The last lab of book 1: a frequency meter using 555 & 4046 chips.

I have reached the end of book one. It has taken me six months to complete the book. The things that I have learned are both great and valuable. To be able to understand parts (such as resistors, capacitors, and different types of ICs) has been a great help.

It has been a real joy to have my dad help me with my projects. We both learn something new each time we do a lab. With this lab you learn how to put together circuits. You also learn to think about what the circuit is doing. Once you really start to understand the basics you are able to figure out parts of the projects without looking at the step-by-step instructions.

Grade: A!

This lab kit has so many neat and interesting projects. You get to build things like light-dark meters, adjustable sirens and so much more. By using this lab I am able to build a code oscillator and many other useful things. Anybody who wants to know more about electronics or who has never learned about them should consider getting one of these lab kits from Radio Shack. Once again let me just say that I have really enjoyed working with this lab.

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Electronics Learning Lab

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve needed to get caught up since the antenna-project, and whatever time I have had for ham radio I’ve spent on the air! It’s been a blast, too — lately the DX has been like low-hanging fruit. I’ve especially enjoyed DX on 40m. But my son and I started something this week that is too good to keep to myself, so here I am blogging again.

My good friend and brother in Christ, Scott Paulson, spoke highly of Radio Shack’s “Electronics Learning Lab.” As a signalman for BNSF Railway he is constantly going off to school to learn about electronics, and the Electronics Learning Lab is required for his classes. (By the way, guess what one of their textbooks is? The ARRL Handbook!) So this week I dropped by Radio Shack, took a look, and promptly bought the thing to add to my son’s homeschool curriculum.

My son and I both love the Electronics Learning Lab! I have to admit that I’m going to be learning right alongside him. All of this stuff I’ve studied, of course, or I wouldn’t have my ham radio license. But with this breadboard-work I’m applying the stuff I’ve learned, some of it for the first time. And there’s nothing like fiddling with a circuit on a breadboard, swapping out this resistor for that, this capacitor for that, etc. to get an intuitive grasp of this stuff. Flipping through the workbooks to see what’s in store for us, I began to think that maybe, just maybe, I might actually be able to design some basic circuits myself instead of just building them from kits. (For crying out loud, that’s a skill Amateur Extra’s are supposed to have!)

The Electronics Learning Lab comes with two workbooks that guide you through over 200 projects:

Click on each manual to view the PDF at radioshack.com.

Just as Scott told me, “It’s like painting by number.” We only started on it yesterday, yet this morning I found my son working on the next project all by himself, so comfortable was he with the directions in the workbook. I jumped in so I could learn, too. After he finished today’s project we wanted to keep going, but exercised self-control and put it away until next time.

As a homeschooling father and as an Elmer I’d pay double what Radio Shack is asking for this kit. And no, I don’t work for Radio Shack, nor do any of my friends or relatives, nor do I get one red cent from them for lauding one of their products. Whatever your age, if you want to graduate from kit-building to circuit-design, this seems like a good way to take a step in that direction.

Antonio following the workbook.


Antonio breadboarding with the Electronics Learning Lab.

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Teaching Morse Code: The Importance of Perfect Dits and Dahs

My son and I had another lesson this evening before bedtime. This time I dug out my paddles and my electronic keyer, since I was afraid that my imperfect fist at the straight key could do him damage.

My fears were well placed!

It turns out that in our first lesson I made my “dahs” much too long. This caused him some grief when I started using my electronic keyer since the “dahs” and the “dits” sounded too much alike to him, accustomed as he was to my goofy fist (which shall now be rectified ASAP!).

So we spent most of this lesson just fixing my mistake, getting my son to discern between perfectly proportioned “dits” and “dahs.”

I’m glad we caught my mistake on this second lesson and not several months from now! But I still feel bad for exasperating my son.

So to all you would-be Morse Elmers out there, learn from my mistake! Whatever quirks you may have in your fist may be exacerbated at low speed. So unless you have a perfect fist with a straight key, use your electronic keyer right from the beginning when teaching Morse Code.

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