Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Christopher Brault, KD8YVJ, Named 2020 Amateur Radio Newsline Young Ham of the Year

NEW YORK – Christopher Brault, KD8YVJ, of suburban Cincinnati, has been selected as the 2020 Bill Pasternak WA6ITF Memorial Amateur Radio Newsline Young Ham of the Year.
Chris, 18, is the son of Jocelyn Brault, KD8VRX, and Kimberly Brault, of Liberty Township, Ohio. Chris earned his Technician class license in 2014 and passed his General ticket about a year later. 
 He said his father was his guide into amateur radio. Chris recalled car trips, watching and listening to his father operating mobile. “We would be on a road trip somewhere,” Chris said. “We’d be talking to people along the way, it seemed like fun.” Chris is a member of the Dayton Amateur Radio Association, the West Chester Amateur Radio Association, and the Ohio Valley Experimenters Club. 
An honor student entering his senior year at St. Xavier High School, Cincinnati, Chris helped restart the school’s amateur radio club (W8GYH). He has earned recognition for his many achievements in promoting amateur radio including the Hiram Percy Maxim Award (2015); the Ohio Section Special Recognition Award (2016); and the Great Lakes Division Young Amateur of the Year (2017). In 2017, Chris was invited to join the Dave Kalter Youth DX Adventure to Costa Rica where he worked the stations with Bryant Rascoll, KG5HVO, the 2018 YHOTY award winner, and Austin Harris, WA8CCS, in making more than 3,100 contacts. 
Chris also helped in the planning of an Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contact in 2016 and spoke with Astronaut Kate Rubins KG5FYJ while she flew overhead. Chris is social media director for the Youth on the Air organization and is a contesting mentor for youth who are involved in its programs. He is also a tour guide for the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting in West Chester, Ohio, and actively assists in mentoring young operators at its amateur radio station, WC8VOA. Chris also works annually with his father on putting youth on the air in the annual Jamboree on the Air in October. He has also been a presenter at the Dayton Youth Forum (2017) and Orlando Hamcation (2017). Chris recently started working a part-time job at the Butler County Regional Airport near his home and was invited to take flying lessons. He is pursuing his private pilot’s license and is exploring a career in aviation as a commercial pilot.
The YHOTY award is traditionally presented during the Huntsville Hamfest in August in the Von Braun Center, Huntsville AL. However, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the hamfest was cancelled. Chris recently received a certificate of recognition presented in West Chester, Ohio by Amateur Radio Newsline’s Don Wilbanks, AE5DW. The Young Ham of the Year Award was inaugurated by William Pasternak, WA6ITF, in 1986. Upon his passing in 2015, Bill’s name was added to the award as a memorial to his commitment to recognizing the accomplishments of young people to the amateur radio service.
Amateur Radio Newsline, CQ Magazine, and Yaesu USA are primary sponsors of the award, along with Heil Sound Ltd. and Radiowavz Antenna Company.

2020 Tokyo Ham Fair Cancelled

The world's largest hamfest has been cancelled for this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Japan Amateur Radio League (JARL) reluctantly announced the cancellation of the 2020 Tokyo Ham Fair, which last year drew more than 40,000 participants. 

"JARL cannot guarantee the safety and perfect prevention from COVID-19 infection, even if we take all possible preventive measures," according to an announcement on the hamfest website. 

The show had already been rescheduled from its usual late August date until October 31-November 1 to avoid conflict with the now-cancelled Tokyo Olympic Games. 

JARL also noted that the date and location of the 2021 Ham Fair are still uncertain.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

New Hope for Cycle 25?

The bright spot at about 10 o'clock
is from a sunspot about to rotate
into view. (NASA/SDO photo)
A group of scientists is challenging the current consensus among solar researchers that Sunspot Cycle 25 will similar to the now-ending Cycle 24, and predicting a cycle "of major proportions." 

According to the ARRL Letter, the scientists, associated with a variety of institutions in the U.S. and the U.K., including NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the University of Maryland, say their calculations, using a mathematical technique known as a Hilbert transform to analyze 270 years of monthly sunspot numbers, suggest "that Sunspot Cycle 25 will have a magnitude that rivals the top few since records began." 
The group's paper, posted online on Cornell University's arxiv.org website, says their best estimate for Cycle 25 is a maximum level of 233 sunspots, predicting "with 95% confidence that the Cycle 25 amplitude will fall between 153 and 305 spots." The consensus prediction of a NOAA/NASA-led panel of experts is for a relatively weak cycle, with a peak between 95 and 130 sunspots. 

This group is basing its far sunnier prediction on the expectation that 2020 will see an end to both sunspot and magnetic cycles on the sun, as well as evidence from the latitude of early Cycle 25 spots (higher than usual) that suggests a very active solar cycle. However, they conclude, "only time will tell."

The full paper is online at <https://arxiv.org/pdf/2006.15263.pdf>.

Developing a "Sun Clock" to Predict Solar Storms

Some of the same researchers who are predicting a higher-than-average Sunspot Cycle 25 have also developed a "sun clock" to help predict periods of high solar activity, including solar flares and other events that can impact communications here on Earth. The ARRL Letter reports that the group, led by Professor Sandra Chapman of the Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics at the University of Warwick in England, used the Hilbert transform to create a standardized map of a solar cycle. Their research, according to a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, determined that transitions between quiet and active periods on the sun tend to be quite sharp, and their "sun clock" can provide information on when an active period may "switch on" or off.

Anchorage VEC Goes to All-Electronic Testing

Over the past few months, we've been reporting on a variety of innovations in administering amateur radio licensing exams in a time of lockdowns and social distancing. Here's the next step…
The folks who conducted the first volunteer-administered FCC amateur license exams 36 years ago now bring you the first totally online exam program. As of July 1, all exams conducted by the Anchorage Amateur Radio Club VEC (Volunteer Examiner Coordinator) have been using a web-based platform for both the tests themselves and the documents normally filled out on paper by both candidates and examiners. 

The entire process is paperless, according to an announcement by the group. "Examinees will take their examinations on a computer that is connected to the internet. All documents will be electronically completed and signed by the examinee and VEs."

"The system not only renders one-time-use examinations for each individual examinee," the announcement continues, "but also can provide a live video/audio feed using the examinee’s webcam / microphone. This feature has been utilized extensively during (the Anchorage VEC's) remote testing effort" as a result of in-person test session cancellations due to COVID-19.

In addition, the group says, "(e)xaminations are graded immediately and automatically. When video and audio monitoring is used, those data streams are recorded and become a permanent part of the examination record." 

The Anchorage ARC is also able to file test results directly with the FCC almost immediately after the end of a test session, with new licenses or upgrades issued as quickly as one hour later.

More Than 70 Speakers Scheduled for "Virtual Ham Expo"

As we reported here last month, QSO Today podcast host Eric Guth,4Z1UG, is trying to fill the vacuum left by cancelled hamfests by organizing an online "QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo," which will be accessible via your computer or mobile device on the weekend of August 8 and 9. 

The event has drawn many major manufacturers and other vendors (including CQ) as participants, and the forums will feature more than 70 speakers on a variety of topics for both new and experienced hams. There will also be a youth track, led by Carole Perry, WB2MGP. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Scott Wright, K0MD, a well-known contester and Editor of the National Contest Journal who is also one of the leaders of the Mayo Clinic's study on using blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to help others fight the disease. 

Admission is free and pre-registration is encouraged at <https://www.qsotodayhamexpo.com/>.

2021 Events Shaping Up as Mix of Online and In-Person Gatherings

Planning is under way for major ham radio events in 2021, despite continued uncertainty over the course of the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions associated with it. Both ARRL and the Orlando Amateur Radio Club are hoping that large gatherings will again be permitted by the time of next year's Hamcation in mid-February. ARRL has announced that the Orlando event will also be its 2021 national convention. Hamcation 2020 was the last big ham event held prior to the shutdowns resulting from COVID-19.

Organizers of the International DX and Contesting Convention, normally held in Visalia, California, have decided that their 2021 event will be held online and span two "3-day weekends" in April. According to the ARRL Letter, next year's "Virtual Visalia" will be held from April 16-18 and April 23-25, with no duplication of forums or other activities.

The Dayton Hamvention is hoping that we'll all be able to get together in person again next May in Ohio. The Dayton Amateur Radio Association announce in June that Rick Allnut, WS8G, and Jim Storms, AB8YK, have been named 2021's General Chairman and Assistant General Chairman, respectively.

CQ 40 … MHz, Not Meters

Hams in three European countries – Ireland, Slovenia and Lithuania – now have access on a secondary basis to frequencies in the 40-MHz, or 8-meter band. According to EI7GL's blog (ei7gl.blogspot.com), Irish hams have had permission to operate on the band since 2018, but were limited to crossband contacts with amateurs in other countries. With Slovenia and Lithuania coming aboard, actual DX on the band became possible. The first international contact was in late April of this year, between EI4GNB in Ireland and LY2YR in Lithuania. That was followed by a QSO on June 13 between LY2YR and S50B in Slovenia, and a June 15 contact between EI4GNB and S50B, using FT4, JT65 and single sideband. The latter QSO followed a 6-meter opening between Europe and North America.

Rescue Radio

Ham radio has once again proven its value in emergencies, with three different stories this month of rescues coordinated via amateur radio. All three come courtesy of the ARRL Letter. 

In mid-June, Alden Jones, KC1JWR, was hiking with a group on the Long Trail near his home in Vermont when he suffered a medical issue and lost consciousness. Fortunately, an EMT with Appalachian Mountain Rescue was nearby, but could not get a cell phone signal to call for help. Jones regained consciousness and was able to use his 2-meter handheld to get help via a nearby repeater. It took eight hours to get Jones off the mountain and to a hospital, due to its remote location. He reportedly made use of the time to talk up ham radio to the EMT, other rescuers and the helicopter crew that finally flew him to safety!
In May, Richard Tashner, N2EO, suffered a medical emergency in his Massapequa, New York, home. He couldn't get to his phone but he could reach his DMR handheld, on which he put out a call for help. His call was answered by Maxis Johnston, GM0MRJ, in Scotland, who immediately put out a call for "anyone in the States." He was answered by Ken Dix, KB2KBD, in Delaware, who contacted emergency services on Long Island and got help on its way, via a dispatcher who was amazed at the route the call took.

Finally, on June 25, the Maritime Mobile Service Net helped arrange a tow for a disabled sailing vessel off the coast of Florida. Skipper Ian Cummings, KB4SG, turned to the 20-meter net for help because he was too far offshore to be heard on his VHF marine radio. The boat was drifting toward a shallow area where it would have been in danger of running aground. Net members were able to connect Cummings with a marine tow service. The Pacific Seafarers' Net, which operates on 14.300 MHz after the MMSN secures for the night, kept in contact with Cummings until his boat was safely back in port.

Tennessee Ham's Contempt Citation Upheld

An appeals court in Tennessee has affirmed that a contempt citation issued in connection with a
(Courtesy Free-Vectors.com)
harassment complaint involving ham radio is within the state's jurisdiction. According to the ARRL Letter, the case involved two Tennessee hams, Michael Mgrdichian, ex-N2FUV, and Jamie Faucon, N3FA, and started after Faucon complained to the FCC that Mgrdichian was using racially-abusive language on the air. After that, Mgrdichian allegedly "stalked, threatened and harassed" Faucon on the air several times between 2016 and 2019. 

A local court issued a temporary protection order, prohibiting Mgrdichian from contacting Faucon by any means, either directly or indirectly. When the harassment continued, Mgrdichian was held in criminal contempt and sentenced to 30 days in jail. Mgrdichian appealed, claiming that since his actions involved the use of amateur radio, the state courts had no jurisdiction. The Tennessee Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling that the case was about his violation of the state-issued temporary protection order, not his use of amateur radio. "A party's radio usage," the ruling said, "does not automatically preempt the case from being heard by a state court."

W5KUB's Balloon a World Traveler

The route (in red) of W5KUB-18, as it made its three (so far) trips around
the world, as tracked on habhub.com.
A high-altitude balloon carrying amateur radio launched in May by "Amateur Radio Round- table" host Tom Medlin, W5KUB, completed its third trip around the world on July 12 and headed across Quebec to start its fourth lap. The hydrogen-filled balloon was flying at altitudes of 40,000+ feet and being carried by the wind. 

The W5KUB-18 WSPR (Weak Signal Propagation Reporter) telemetry transmitter puts out 10 milliwatts and transmits on 14 MHz. It operates only on solar power (solar cells plus a 2-farad supercapacitor - no batteries), so it only transmits when it is in daylight. The balloon also transmits APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) data. 

For updates and more details, visit <http://tmedlin.com/balloon-3-2/> or listen to Amateur Radio Roundtable on Tuesday evenings at 2000 Central time (0100 Wednesday UTC).

Ham Named to Order of Australia for ARISS Work

A longtime volunteer in the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program has
Member of the Order
of Australia medal
(Australian govt image)
been honored by Australia's government. Tony Hutchison, VK5AI, was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for "significant service to amateur radio, particularly to satellite and space communication." 

The ARRL Letter reports that Hutchison is one of ten ARISS "telebridge" stations, relaying radio transmissions to and from the space station via a teleconference for school contacts when the station's "footprint" does not take it over the scheduled contact location. Hutchison's involvement with amateur radio on manned spacecraft goes back to the Russian Mir space station, for which he enabled the first Mir school contact in 1993 for Australian astronaut Andy Thomas, VK5JAT/VK5MIR.

Grants Support Satellite, Propagation, Projects

Two recent foundation grants are helping to support ongoing projects in the fields of amateur radio satellites and propagation reporting. 

According to the ARRL Letter, the ARRL Foundation has donated $3,000 to the Open Research Institute, a group dedicated to open-source research and development in amateur radio. The grant will help speed development of hardware prototypes for broadband digital microwave satellite payloads.
In addition, the YASME Foundation is providing grants to national amateur radio organizations in Algeria and Tunisia for building Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) nodes in those countries and in Libya. The stations will be assembled by youth members of the two groups and will increase the presence of RBN reporting nodes in northern Africa. RBN receivers monitor CW, RTTY and FT8 signals on amateur bands and report callsigns and signal strength to an internet database, allowing hams around the world to know where their signals are being heard.