N/L notes from W4ZST

Skills Day: I'm sure Renee will write up a nice report about the Skills Day Picnic and activities. Very glad to have hosted it here at my place. The short rain first thing didn't end up causing us any problems. Thanks to all for the great food sides that we got to share and to the club (Aaron and Renee) for choosing Hickory Prime for the BBQ. It was all excellent. And thanks to all who helped clean up and take the tents and tables down afterward.

Soldering Class: Everyone did great in the class, those with no experience and those with some all made nice solder joints with no visual problems that I could find and no misplaced components. All were a little disappointed that none of the 'Audio Signal Tracer' kits worked afterward!! I had been so busy getting ready for the EME contest (below), I didn't take time to build and test one first. I have now had time to look the board over and found the problem. The supplier had sent us the wrong IC chip! The writing on the chip was so small I had to use a magnifying glass to see what it was. I had one proper chip here in my stock, put it in the board, and it worked fine. I have contacted the supplier and they are sending correct replacement IC chips to me. Since they are socketed, it will be easy to replace the IC and then test our boards. I'll let you know and we'll figure out how to get together to take care of this. The kit is actually a simple audio amplifier that can be used as a signal tracer, but you have to supply the tracing signal too! I will write up a note about using it as a signal tracer and get it to all of you and how to use it as an amplifier. I'm looking for a cheap and simple code practice oscillator that we can use with the amplifier. Then is will be useful also for practicing CW, since we've had a recent interest in CW. If I had anticipated the CW interest, I would have chosen a code practice oscillator in the first place! I'll keep you posted and I'm also writing a note for Randy to put on the web page about sources of kits, soldering irons or stations and other info I covered in the class.

CW: Speaking of CW, we have 'learn and practice' CW audio CD's available for club members interested. Last weeks GARC club program was on learning CW, I took some items for show and tell and am writing up another note to post on the web page about learning CW, keys, keyers and such stuff that might be useful for those wanting to learn and use Morse Code CW on the air.

EME contest: Those of you here for skills day saw the antennas and stations set up for the EME contest. I had not checked on that when I volunteered the date for skills day and it turned out the contest was Friday and Saturday nights with skills day in the middle. I lost a lot of sleep over that weekend. Anyway, we only made 6 contacts on 2m and 4 contacts on 432 EME Friday night. On Saturday night, I had problems with the software on my 432 station computer that I couldn't solve so I was off the air on 432 and went over to the 2m station since Johnny K4SQC was too tired and didn't come back for Saturday night. I made 9 more 2m EME Q's. Having some trouble making contacts even though we were seeing good signals. We think it's the software. Anyway, not a very good showing for us and not even close to our results for the past two years in this ARRL EME contest. We keep trying though. I was so busy the week before trying to get both stations on the air as they weren't just sitting ready. I had software and hardware problems. Even had to overcome a problem with my transverter not working the night before the contest started. That's another story. I should have started even sooner but with the VHF contest and hurricanes my schedule was greatly impacted.

September VHF Contest: This was the weekend of Sept 9 & 10. The W4NH Fourlanders went to our NC mountain top portable location as usual. Joint club member Rick Woodard KK4LPP came with us for his first time and helped us greatly with setting up, trailer pulling and got to operate some too. Unfortunately, the Park Service decided that they might have to close the Blue Ridge Parkway, our only access to the campground, and made us leave Sunday afternoon so we missed about half the contest. We did make it home without incident Sunday evening and all our members made it to their homes before any hurricane rain and wind. I will send my usual Contest Summary Report to Randy to post on the web page if any of you are interested in reading all the other details. As usual, we ate well anyway!

73, Bob W4ZST