Radio Technology Day – by Phil Parkman G3MGQ

Geoff Collins, the Principal and science teacher at Charters Ancaster, a small independent preparatory school in Bexhill, was looking for someone to help them with a radio day in their Year 6 Technology Week this year. Jakey, G3JKY, who had played trombone in Geoff’s jazz band, suggested HERC. It turned out that Geoff had previously been Head at Hollington Primary where the la te Colin May, G3KMP, had been his deputy – it’s a small world.

Two weeks later, William (G8CMK), Thelma (G8SBJ) and I rolled up after school to see the site and discuss what sort of thing Geoff would like us to do. The school, near  Bexhill High School, is in a fine old house facing the Channel and about 33m ASL, according to Google Earth, with some fine old oak trees about 45m from the house across the back lawn; a very nice radio location. In the following month, whilst I prepared some activities and arranged some skeds, William sorted out a means of getting an 80m antenna up to a decent height – a task that proved not quite as easy as it would first appear when collateral damage has to be avoided! The solution proved to be a football in a string cage, punted well up into the tree, as it was heavy enough to penetrate the curtain of peripheral twigs and drop down over a substantial bough without getting stuck.

I built a 129ft Off-Centre Fed Dipole, fed with 300 Ohm ribbon 16ft from one end, which EZNEC predicted should match 300 Ohms on 3.7MHz at a height of 30ft. I chose this configuration so that the feed was close to the upstairs classroom, with a lightweight feeder to avoid height loss and balanced so there was no RF earth problem, as one can get with an end feed and which we wouldn’t have time to check & fix on the day. In practice, I found it difficult to get a low SWR with the twin wire connection on my MFJ948 ATU, but William’s venerable KW107 tuned it to better than 1.1

radio-technology-day-phil-g3mgq-1For VHF, Mike (M0EDU) brought his J-pole which we mounted on the window sill atop two swaged 5ft poles – not ideal as it was then only at roof level but it still pulled in the local repeaters OK. The intention was to track Steve (M0SSR) on his way to Portsmouth, demonstrating the loss of signal beyond line-of-sight and extending the QSO through the repeaters. Unfortunately Steve’s mobile transceiver kept blowing fuses, so we didn’t make that contact. Mike also set up his 3cm ATV in the grounds with his receiver alongside the HF/VHF rig, my IC706 Mk2g. His ATV illustrated the principles of CCTV surveillance and the children had fun working out where the 3cm dish was located.

Whilst the team completed setting up, Geoff gave an introduction on the diverse uses of radio communication and outlined the day’s activities which included a break for a rehearsal for their music concert the next day and the arrival of a genuine Model T Ford, lovingly restored by a couple of local enthusiasts.

I then explained the way radio waves travel depends on the state of the ionosphere and hence who we can contact depends on frequency and the time of day. We then tuned around 3.7MHz, hearing French and German amateurs, identifying them by their language and by their callsigns. We then had an excellent QSO with G3JKY, with the children asking him lots of questions about amateur radio and his other interests. George, G6PHH, in Boston came back to our CQ call, being interested of course in our callsign, G6HH. I was able to show the children on Google Maps that George was in Boston Lincolnshire, not Boston of the tea party fame in Massachusetts USA, providing an impromptu geography lesson.

radio-technology-day-phil-g3mgq-2.jpgAfter a break for lunch, Jakey joined us and talked to the children about Morse and illustrated it by making contact with G6XJS on 3.552MHz using a bug key. I then called Iain, M1000/P, who had agreed to call us from the Norman Lockyer Observatory in Sidmouth, signing GB2NLO. I’d downloaded the history of the Observatory for the children and Ian filled in the details. This year is the 150th anniversary of Norman Lockyer’s discovery of Helium in the sun’s spectrum, which confirms that the sun is heat comes from nuclear fusion. Ian also explained that Galileo was the first man to use a telescope for astronomy in 1609 so, 400 years later, this is the International Year of Astronomy for which the radio section at the Observatory have a special event callsign, GB400IYA.

Jakey then made some CW contacts on 20m, mainly in the Ukraine but including RK3ZE in Gubkin.  I was able to show, on Google Maps, that Gubkin is in the Russian Federation 430 miles north of the Black Sea and 1600 miles from Bexhill, thereby illustrating the propagation principles I’d talked about earlier. From Jakey’s notes, I was able to show the children that telegraphers use abbreviations just as they did when texting their friends. The pupils were then given the Morse Alphabet sheets used in the Foundation Assessment, a key and oscillator, and all had great fun sending their name in Morse code.

There was no doubt that the children enjoyed the day – they were reluctant to go home! The radio amateurs also enjoyed the day immensely, appreciating the enthusiastic support of the staff and welcoming this opportunity to show youngsters the diverse and interesting things their hobby had to offer. It was a great team effort, and I’m also grateful for the support we had from all the other members of the Club who listened out for us.

Phil Parkman –  G3MGQ . From the Vital Spark, May 2009.

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G3MGQ’s Month on the Air

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Vital Spark Archive

Vital Spark newsletter articles

Take a look through a large selection of articles written by club members over the years which have been published in the monthly Vital Spark newsletter .

Used Ham Radio Equipment

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Every four weeks, HERC's Used Ham Radio Equipment for sale list is updated on the site. Bookmark the gear for sale page to re-visit easily and take advantage of the used equipment on sale through the club.

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UK Amateur Radio Repeaters

UK repeaters

Click button above for full list, or a local repeater callsign below for info.

GB3EB 2m in Uckfield- Active
MB6EB 2m DStar Node in Eastbourne - Active
MB6RY Wires-X DigiGate in Broad Oak - Active
GB3HE 70cm in Hastings - Active
GB7HE 70cm DStar in Hastings - Coming soon
GB3ZX 70cm in Eastbourne - Low Power
GB3JT 23cm ATV in Hastings - NoV cleared
GB7RY 70cm X-Wires Repeater Rye - Active
GB7ES Eastbourne - DSTAR Rpt. - Active
GB3ES 2m in Hastings - Active

For a complete list of repeaters, head over to
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Popular pages

Get your amateur radio licence - Find out more about amateur radio licence training.
Month on the Air - G3MGQ's popular monthly DX contest/expedition list.
Wilf Gaye Memorial Cup - The clubs annual operating event in the memory of Wilf Gaye M0GYE.
St. Richard's College Buildathon/STEM/ARISS - HERC attends St. Richard's Catholic College for their various events surrounding the Tim Peake ARISS contact.
G3BDQ - John Hey's Rare QSL Cards.
Sussex Electronics Radio Fair - SERF Sussex Electronics Radio Fair 2016.
Vital Spark - A selection of articles re-published from the Vital Spark.
RSGB News - Find out how to get RSGB news on your mobile or PC.
Experimenters Corner - A selection of Proteus projects by Bob Gornal (G7DME)
BBADL - Bath Based Distance Learning Course.
Conquest Hospital Radio - Presented by HERC member Antony (G4CUS).
Radio Rallies 2016 - An up to date list of radio rallies scheduled for 2016.
Club QSL Cards - A selection of QSL cards the club has received over the years.
Other Newsletters - Excellent newsletters and magazines from other clubs.
TX Factor episodes - Take a look at the TX Factors YouTube videos.
John Taplin - A bio of the late John Taplin.

Amateur Radio Resources

Other Radio Clubs & RAYNET

BSARS - Brede Steam Amateur Radio Society

RAYNET - The Hastings and Rother RAYNET Group.

HERC members sites

Sigord - Gordon Sweet
Hastings Radio Comms - Andrew Haas-Campbell
Hoofbags - Liz Costa