Tag Archives: ARRL/VEC

New Classes Posted

Welcome to 2017!

ARRL-VEC Volunteer Examiner

Not to put too fine a point on it, 2016 had a few issues. Too many beloved performers became silent keys, and more than a few other things that will affect us all went a bit sideways. I’m not even going to get started on politics.

To start the year off on a positive note I worked a VE session in the morning January 7th and spent the rest of the day putting together a new class schedule for Technician and General classes licenses and getting started with the promotion work, posting classes and prepping presentations.

Registered W5YI Instructor

I have six classes coming up, 4 Tech and 2 General January through April. All of them are 2-day weekend classes. This time around I am using the W5YI books by  Gordon West instead of the ARRL books. My main motivation to switch books is Gordo’s reorganizing of the FCC questions into a more logical order.

While the change will save time in class, I now have to tweak a lot of slides. There’ll be no time savings on the prep side this go, but I am optimistic that the reorg will make things a lot smoother in class.

ARRL Registered Instructor

If you, or someone you know, is interested in getting their ham radio license or upgrading from Tech to General and they are local to San Jose, please pass along a link to my site. Classes are listed here.

All of the classes have been posted to both the W5YI and ARRL class listings. As I write this, they are the only classes listed in the south Bay Area. The closest classes on ARRL’s list are San Francisco and Sacramento. There are no classes listed for the area on W5YI. They won’t show up until Monday or Tuesday (2/9-10) because all class postings need to be approved by a human.

I am hoping to greatly expand my teaching and hosting exam sessions later this year. All things in their time.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG

July? Has it really been that long?

Wow, yes it has in fact been that long.

20151104_161606From a building stand point… nothing new has been going on. I am still working on the Beach 40 and the Bitx 20. The Beach 40 still needs the audio section rebuilt and the Bitx20 needs some troubleshooting . I don’t have the facilities to put up a 20 or 40 meter antenna and since both radios are QRP(p), a good antenna is vital to making any contacts.

20151121_072647From an operators perspective… ya, nothing going on there ether. I need to pull down my Frankenstein/Hill Billy mast because we are having our building painted soon. I have plans for a simpler replacement that should work out fine. I’ll post about that if and or when that happens.

From an experimenters view point…  I have been kind of busy lately. Many of the newer radio projects I have been looking at use micro-controllers and embedded Linux systems. All of which I am totally fine with. There are so many other applications besides radio that I can employ these technologies. The only impediment is getting some play time in with these technologies and getting familiar with there capabilities, use, and programming.

arduinoEarlier this year I picked up some Arduino hardware. I haven’t had much time to work with it yet as the Day Job has been keeping me hopping as well as a lot of stuff in the personal life, nothing bad, just a lot of changes and preparations.

Many projects are done with the Arduino and various shields. Some require a little more direction in the form of an embedded system with a true OS. Enter Raspberry Pi and Raspbian.

rpi3bLast week I added a RPi 3B to the hardware pile and began working with it. Along with the Pi I picked up a copy of Exploring Raspberry Pi: Interfacing to the real world with embedded Linux From Wiley written by Derek Molloy.

Linux doesn’t worry me at all. Many moons ago I was a Solaris 7/8 admin as well as a RedHat 7 admin. The problem is that well over a decade has gone by since I actively worked on those systems. I have been in a Windows only environment for so long my Unix brain has turned to mush. So now I’m re-learning the Unix command line and re-acquainting myself with the Linux directory structure along with some all new unique elements of embedded systems and the Raspbian OS in particular.

With all of the projects piling up and now adding a lot of general computer stuff to the pile, Arduino Sketches, Python, C/C++, and picking up where I left off with Perl, it almost feels like I should go back to school and get credit for all of this work. I could pick up a CS degree with everything on my “tech to learn” plate right now. Add in all of the projects and an engineering degree (EE or ME) isn’t far behind. Thoughts for another time.

Radio specific plans are to read and build along with Crystal Sets to Sideband by Frank W. Harris W0IYE, and then get back to Experimental Methods in RF Design and do the same. I don’t expect to do a lot of operating other than 2 meter until we have the facilities to put up a real antenna, and there is no solid timeline for that.

Life outside radio has taken all of my time lately and I am just now slowly getting back to things. Most of it is general electronics/computer experimentation and adding to the knowledge pool right now.

So in conclusion, no I haven’t been busy, I’ve been too busy.

:-/

hamverseryP.S. Today’s post is brought to you by Hamversary. On this day in 2013 I received my license grant about a week after I walked into the Saratoga Fire Station a non-ham. Since then I have worked my way up to Extra Class, begun teaching license preparation classes to prospective hams, and I have been a Volunteer Examiner for 42 exam sessions, most of them at the Saratoga Fire Station.

I have learned so much in so many ways in this short period of time. Thank you Amateur Radio.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG 

Back from Maker Faire Bay Area 2016

MF16_BA_180x150Just got home from Maker Faire SF Bay Area. Pulled a double shift at the Ham Exam booth. 8am to 6pm and I only managed about 20 minutes away from the booth and about 15 minutes off my feet. This is not a complaint, I’m just saying…

I had a great time. We had 14 candidates throughout the day, so we did get a lot of STS time (Shoot-the-stuff) but we managed to stay busy most of the time.

Lots of chatting about VE stuff in the morning along with a generous helping of radio stuff mixed in. Mostly radio stuff in the afternoon. I even had a visit from a friend scoping out the faire.

ARRL

That’s all for the moment, but I do have a project coming up this week, a TNC to connect a radio to a computer for use with digital modes. More to come…

73,
~Jon KK6GXG

First week of May

First week of may, and ain’t got much to say!

JT65JT9No build projects progressing, not much time OTA, none actually, but I have managed to get some reading in. I picked up a copy of one of the new ARRL books Work The World With JT65 and JT9.

Not bad, a short read, though I must admit, I don’t really see myself using the TJx mode any time soon. It looks like its pretty much a contesting mode. I’m not much interested in contesting until I get more of a station built up, and even then… I dunno.

HighSpeedMultiMediaWith some luck the UPS guy will bring me the also new ARRL book High Speed Multimedia for Amateur Radio book today. I still don’t have a TNC or HF radio up and running, but I do have some spare/old 802.11 units lying around… hmmmmmm…

There could be a project with HSMM on the horizon.

RTTY-PSK32I also have a copy of RTTY/PSK31 for Radio Amateurs 2nd Edition on the way which I think will see more action in the near future than anything else. I have a USB/Serial cable and enough toroids and cabling that I might fourgo the TNC a little longer and build an interface myself just to see if I can get it up and running.

The down side is that I will still only be running whatever digital mode on 2 meter FM rather than SSB, but that will get resolved at a later date.

ARRL-VEC VEIn other news, there is another VE session tomorrow (Saturday, May 7, 2016 08:00-10:00) at the Saratoga Fire Station. This session will be my 30th VE session!

Also this month, Maker Faire is here in San Mateo and I will be working both the morning and afternoon VE sessions at the faire. More info is available on the SF Bay Area Maker Faire VE Session website.

One last thing. I’m not going to post it yet, but since we have been planning on relocating, I worked up a new QSL card to reflect the new location. Once we are confirmed with a new QTH and Grid Location I will post a preview of the new card. Speaking of which, if you would like a QSL from my current QTH email me with your address and I will send one out right away.

Oh, one more thing… I am back to studying for my RADAR add-on to my commercial license.

I guess I have been doing stuff.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG

First week of April

Here we are, the first week of April. What has KK6GXG been up to since posting last month. Not a whole lot.

ARRL-VEC VEOne significant note, I have surpassed the 25 session count as a Volunteer Examiner! I am now up to 27 sessions. Yesterday (4/4) was also my 1 year anniversary with the Silicon Valley VE Group. I have been a VE since December 2014, but I didn’t begin working sessions until April 2015.

Working the sessions as an examiner is something I enjoy a great deal and I am always excited to see who shows up to the sessions. It is such a diverse group of people coming together in a common interest. Amateur Radio is all about diversity, and sharing common interests often regardless of  geopolitical boundaries.

I love to see youngsters at sessions pursuing their ham radio licenses, especially young ladies. While there are a lot of women in radio of all ages, it’s nice to see girls getting into radio at a young age. Radio is a place that tends to level all socioeconomic and cultural playing fields. A fellow ham is a fellow ham, period.

A couple of things have been nagging at the back of my head as of late. One is to get back to homebrew projects; get that 40 meter DSB finished and on the air. Another is to get back to studying CW, and of course build transceivers for more bands. Lastly, for now, is to get involved more.

With our QTH situation in flux for the next 6 months, it makes more sense to be involved in something less geographically ridged and that doesn’t require operating capabilities I don’t have right now or can’t build quickly and inexpensively.

This points to something administrative rather than operational. One place I would like to be more involved is with the VEC. I love being a VE, but I would like to be more involved with the process. I have no idea how I could be of service to the VEC, but I would like to.

Another thing I want to do before we change QTH is get back to the Bay Area Builders Club monthly meetings. Fortunately this one is just a matter of making the time to get over to the meeting. See you guys on Sunday 😉

KK6GXG-MakingWavesNo concrete plans, just some aspirations. For the moment that’s all I can muster. Life and the Day Job have been at the forefront but no playtime makes for cranky-pants, so I need to figure out a way to make some time. This post is one attempt at making some time.

Til next time… 73.
~Jon KK6GXG

Another month gone by

foto001mdOkay, it’s now March 11th, and I have done just about NOTHING radio related except attending VE testing sessions since what, December?

Not entirely true I suppose. I pulled down the 70cm and 40m antennas from the Hillbilly mast rig, and I have done some poking around at the 40m DSB project, though I haven’t done any real work on it.  Also the VE sessions have been a saving grace in many ways. One, I am still “participating” in the community. Two, we have been engaging is some interesting discussions in the back of the room while waiting for exams to grade. Three, I did reach a milestone in so much as I sat my 25th session this last Saturday. That at least, is something I can honestly say I am proud of.

There are so many projects I want to get going on, I just can’t justify the time right now.  The family is working towards a relocation up to northwest 7 land, and I am really looking forward to the move. There is just so much swinging in the breeze right now, making any plans or starting any projects is just not a good idea.

We are heading up north in May to look at some property. We are hoping that this trip will provide a target for relocating by the end of September at which point, all hell’s gonna break loose and I’m going to be a very busy man.

I have no idea what I will be able to do radio-wise between now and then. I do know I am itching to do something though. I will just have to see what opportunities present themselves in the meantime.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG

VE Population and Participation Analysis

What’s in a number

While looking at the number of Volunteer Examiner sessions list for California I noticed a whole lot of 0s in the number of sessions column. It seemed like a lot of hams that had signed up to be a VE weren’t following through.

I could think of a number of reasons why it might take a while to get going but the total number of VEs was holding fairly steady so it wasn’t just new people joining the ranks.

At first I was thinking it might be related to the fact that I live in California and after many years of experience in non-profit organizations the flake factor seems to be pretty high here in the Silicon Valley.

Speaking with fellow VEs at several sessions, many possibilities as to why people might not be doing sessions were put on the table. With all of these possibilities  I was developing a curiosity on the national picture of the VE population and its participation levels.

I know statistics can be twisted and manipulated to mean pretty much anything the presenter wants them to say. Qualification, classification, and various selective filtering can certainly skew the apparent meaning of raw data. Even the interpretation of raw data alone can paint a picture far from reality without knowing the real story behind the  acquisition and qualification of said data. All that being said, I am going to present my interpretation of some data.

Sources of data

When it came to the general population, where better to go that US Census Bureau. I say that tongue-in-cheek, but that’s another story. The state populations are the 2014 Estimated populations. Fortunately that data is far less important than the ham population data which is much more reliable.

Ham population data is coming from the FCC, the ARRL, and AH0A.org so I have much more faith in these numbers.

An extremely important distinction here is that the VE data is ONLY from the ARRL-VEC. There are other VECs, 13 others to be precise. (FCC VEC List) It is however fair to say that the ARRL-VEC does represent well over half of the VEs in the country. It is for this reason, I believe that the percentages will be fairly accurate, if not the total numbers.

In March 2015 the ARRL posted a report on the number of amateur radio operators along with some other demographic information. At that time the ham population in total was over 727,000 (727,354 according to AH0A.org) and the current total, according to the FCC is 733,626 as of November 14, 2015.

How it all breaks down

To put these numbers in context, the estimated 2014 US population is 322,675,314 people. That means that the 733,626 licensed hams make up only 0.23% of the national population. Of all the licensed hams in the country only 28,532 or 4.16% make up the VE population. Just for fun, this also means VEs make up 0.0088% of the national population.

Another small qualifier is in order here. District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Island, and “other” are included in the total population, total hams, and the total number of VEs. They are however excluded from upper and lower limits in the following paragraphs mainly because of extenuating geographic circumstances, also they are not statistically representative individually when compared to states. Combined they make up 4,447,151 (1.37%) of the general population, 5,774 (0.78%) of hams and 53 (0.18%) VEs.

Looking at number of hams living in each state, Oregon and Washington share the top slot by having 0.44% each of the general population holding Amateur Radio licenses, well above the national average. Louisiana and New York share the fewest number of hams in their general populations at 0.14% each well below the national average.

When it comes to the distribution of VEs by state Wyoming comes on strong with a whopping 7.9% of their hams being credentialed examiners while Utah takes the lower end of the scale at 1.8% of its ham population credentialed.

Let’s take a look at the session counts. The national average of the VEs credentialed that are listed as not having participated in a test session is 25.48%. Alaska comes in at 69.33% of its VEs having no sessions under the belt while South Dakota has only 13.04%.

In the 1-4 session category three states are in a tight cluster, Kansas at 27.65%, Montana at 27.40%, and Louisiana at 27.14%. Alaska makes a huge drop here to only 10.67% of its VEs having fewer than 5 sessions.

I didn’t go into the state totals with the 5-9 session counts because the average here drops to only 13.7%.

When we look at the overall nationwide average of VEs having participated in less than 10 sessions it is 60.07%. Alaskan VEs are at 88% under 10 and North Dakota and only 46.59% under 10.

So what does this all mean?

Well, first off it means that hams are a rare breed among our fellow citizens. We make up only one quarter of one percent of the population, and less than five percent of hams volunteered to be examiners. Of that small volunteer group, less than forty percent are actively participating as examiners.

About 11,239 people, 1.5% of hams, 0.00348% of the general population, are active VEs who have participated in 10 or more sessions.

This also means my initial response to all those zeros was not only incorrect, my whole perception of those zeros was cynical, uncharitable, and a poorly constructed knee-jerk response. Wow, what a jerk.

The fact that this tiny group of people held a desire to serve their fellow hams at all is admirable and commendable. There are so many reasons why someone might have signed up and not been able to participate. Not the least of which is there may just not be a VE group nearby.

If you live in an area that only has 1 or 2 exam sessions a year and you just happened to have a previous commitment or something happens to delay or cancel one or both of those sessions or your ability to attend them, that’s another year of 0. Even if all went well, that 10 session bar, the one I arbitrarily set, could take 5 or 10 years.

It’s easy to forget that ham radio is a hobby sometimes. Even easier to forget that we are all volunteers. I live in a very active area, in a state that has the largest ham population in the country, 14.14% of hams in the US. Which interestingly enough still only makes up 0.27% of the state’s population.

It was never a matter of thinking badly of the individuals with 0s. The thought I had was “Why bother volunteering if you’re not going to get out and do it.” I should have thought that through more clearly. Even with all the advantages I mentioned, I sent in my VE application in December of 2014 and it wasn’t until April of 2015 that I worked my first session.

In conclusion

I have been fortunate enough to have participated in 18 exam sessions in the last 8 months, and I still have at least 2 more sessions before the year is up. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to regularly participate in exam sessions and look forward to continuing the trend.

I would encourage those not as fortunate, to keep the faith and make a little extra effort to find a VE group, or start one of your own. There are few things more rewarding than handing an examinee their CSCE and congratulating them on their achievement. Young or old, new hams or upgrades, there is a spark in their eyes of all the good things to come. I am very happy and humbled to be a small part of that.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG

A First

ARRL-VEC VEToday marks a first for me. Today was the first time I participated in an amateur radio license exam session as a Volunteer Examiner.

The session went well and I had the opportunity to help usher in several new hams to the Amateur Radio Service.

Also on the hit parade this morning was an invite/recruitment to work as a VE at the 2015 Bay Area Maker Faire in San Mateo. I will be working the Sunday, May 17th, morning shift and then floating around the faire, most likely with frequent stops at anything ham or RF electronics related. It should be a lot of fun. For more information see the Maker Faire Ham Test flyer (PDF).

If you are interested in getting your Amateur Radio license there are a lot of resources, but if I were to give only one link to get you going it would be ARRL.org/getting-licensed. As always if you have any questions send me an email, tweet, or message through any of the social media links up at the top of the right column on this page. I am always happy to answer questions.

A resource page for hams and hams-to-be is in the works.