Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Handiham World for 21 April 2010

Welcome to Handiham World!

Did you miss us last week?

Did you miss us last week?

Image: Pat, WA0TDA, in the ham shack

Your weekly Handiham World E-Letter and the Friday audio notification were on holiday at the very same time that I was on Spring break. What a coincidence that was, eh? I am grateful for our volunteers who still help us to maintain continuity in the Handiham program even when paid staff are out of the office for one reason or another. Volunteers quite simply keep things running behind the scenes as they work with those who need text read into audio format, tapes made and sent out, or a friendly phone call to explain a learning concept or how to operate a radio. Volunteers who give us hands-on help with projects and equipment really make a huge difference in how we are able to serve our Handiham members. When Nancy or I, the Handiham program's only paid staff, take vacation or have to attend meetings or training related to other aspects of our work, we do still get somewhat behind in our member contact and program administration duties. It can be a little frustrating to have so much work to do and so little time to get it all done. If it weren't for the volunteers, the Handiham program would never have survived for all of these decades -- since 1967. We are so grateful and appreciative for all of the hard work our volunteers do every day.

Thank you, volunteers!

Patrick Tice, Handiham Manager

Camp Courage to go on the air with a new repeater system

Icom IC-706M2G transceiver showing 145.23 MHz on the frequency display

Image: ICOM 706 Mark 2G displaying the new repeater frequency of 145.23 MHz

Can you believe it? Handiham Radio Camp begins exactly one month from today, on May 21. As part of our preparations to build a solid amateur radio presence at Camp Courage, our new location near Maple Lake, Minnesota, we are ready to install a 144 MHz repeater that will be on the air 24-7, available not only during the week of camp but all the rest of the year, each and every day. Not only that, but the repeater will be Echolink-enabled. That will provide a valuable resource to any amateur radio operator living or traveling near Camp Courage.

We chose 2 m for several reasons. Many of our Handiham members already have 2 m handheld radios and can bring them to camp. A handheld radio will work perfectly at low power because the repeater will be right at camp and very easy to access. Another very practical reason is that a couple of years ago we received the gift of a used repeater. It needed some repair, and thanks to our volunteer Claire Robinson, K0CJ, we got it in excellent working order. It wasn't actually put on the air because we didn't really have a place for it. However, we did get it prepared to go on the air using a pair of 2 m frequencies that is shared and unprotected for purposes of repeater coordination here in Minnesota. Several weeks ago volunteer Don Rice, N0BVE, was helping me with another project at our new headquarters office and I showed him the repeater. Don has taken the initiative to locate the necessary repeater parts such as a duplexer so that we can get the repeater on the air prior to radio camp next month. Dave, N0KP, donated a tone board and tuned the duplexer. There was still the question of an antenna, and Matt Arthur, KA0PQW, has led an effort to procure a new 2 m antenna so that we can do the project right. Several donors have stepped up to the plate to help us with the cost of the antenna, and I will write more about them and the project later on, once we have done the installation. I will also have some photos to share with you.

This new repeater system is not intended to be a wide-area repeater, and the signal will probably not exceed a 20 mile radius from the transmitter. However, reception will be rock-solid at radio camp and the nearby surrounding area. Furthermore, the availability of Echolink on this repeater will make it a fantastic resource that will allow us to stay in touch with Handiham members who cannot make the trip to radio camp but who want to talk with their friends during radio camp week.

In recent years we have had a repeater system and a simplex Echolink node available at radio camp, thanks to Lyle Koehler, K0LR, and Don, N0BVE. These systems operated only during radio camp week and had to be set up and taken down for every camp session. This added to the work that we needed to do during every camp session. The addition of a permanent repeater system will be a welcome improvement to our new headquarters location at Camp Courage.

The new repeater will operate on a frequency of 145.23 MHz with a negative offset and a tone of 114.8 Hz. The antenna will be a Hustler G7 with a gain of seven DB.