Thursday, May 27, 2010

Letter from Handiham Radio Camp

Dear Family & Friends,

Here I am at Handiham Radio Camp, and I've been having a great time. It's hard to believe that we are already leaving camp tomorrow morning. The week has gone by so fast!

Several of us arrived a day early to begin setup of antennas and stations. The photo I've included here shows Phil, K9HI, Matt, KA0PQW, and Don, N0BVE, posing midway between antenna projects and smiling for the camera. The volunteers who help us through the week are really the experts at making things happen - whether it is setting up computer networks, running coax, stringing up Field Day antennas, setting up and testing station gear, teaching licensing classes, teaching operating skills, getting campers out onto the lake to operate marine mobile, and all of the other things that happen during the week.

Nancy, our Handiham Secretary, met the campers for the first time this week. She had never been at a radio camp session before and was quite a celebrity, since everyone knew her voice from talking with her on the phone. When the radio camp was at Courage North, it was too far for Nancy to drive. Now that we are at Camp Courage, we are close enough to Minneapolis to make the drive practical.

This morning we met the V.E. team for breakfast, then the campers who were taking exams gave it their best shot. Those who got the good news were really happy, and those who didn't quite make it - well, they were happy to have an excuse to come back to camp next year. After lunch, we started taking down the antennas, at least the temporary ones, and packing up the station gear. It seemed as if we had just gotten that stuff out of the boxes and set it up, but that's the way it goes: Time really does go fast when you are having fun.

The afternoon weather is perfect today, and we are having a pool party. The campers and staff are enjoying our swimming pool while I am packing boxes. Poor me. Oh, heck, I really didn't want to go swimming anyway. While I was packing, I was listening to Jerry, N0VOE, conducting a mini-net connecting a group of our campers with an elementary school class studying geography. Arlene, KE7KNM, teaches school in Salt Lake City, UT, and invited us to speak with her students, who would locate our home QTHs on a map.

Joe, N3AIN, agreed to share a few thoughts about radio camp week with you, so keep listening, and have a great Memorial Day weekend.

The Handiham office will be closed through Tuesday, opening again on June 2.


Patrick Tice, Handiham Manager

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Handiham World for 19 May 2010

Welcome to Handiham World!

Getting ready for Radio Camp: Sniffing out problems in the station equipment

Left to right: George, N0SBU, George's dog PJ, and Avery, K0HLA, check out the radio gear.

Handiham Radio Camp begins on Friday, May 21. We have to make sure that our radio gear is ready to go so that it can be deployed when we do camp setup later this week - and that means doing a few preliminary checks that include connecting the transceivers to a power supply and testing the receive and transmit functions, making sure that there is modulation, and checking to make sure that the speech modules are speaking the frequency for our blind users.

George LaValle, N0SBU, and his dog PJ pose for the camera as they sniff out any potential problems, while Avery, K0HLA, looks on approvingly. Every project needs a supervisor, a sniffer, and a guy who pushes the transmit button!

If you listen for us on the bands during camp week, which is Friday, May 21 through Friday, May 28, 2010, give us a shout and you may earn a QSL card, providing that you send us one. We do plan to be on the Handiham Echolink net every day, including Sunday during camp week, but remember that because Fridays are camper travel days, those days are not going to be the best for making contact with the camp. You may be able to contact campers or volunteers on the road as they travel.

We are often asked, "What frequencies will you be on?" and "Can we make a scheduled contact with the camp?"

I know from years of experience trying to figure out frequencies and schedules that it is best not to promise anything. However, I can say that we will make a good effort to be on the air at Echolink net time, and if you want, you can ask the folks at camp if they are willing to get on the HF bands for a schedule. Be sure to route any requests through the net control station, whoever that might be.

Thanks to Don Rice, N0BVE, we will have Echolink repeater access at Radio Camp. Our repeater will be connected to the HANDIHAM Conference Server, node 494492. This high capacity node, sponsored by N0VZC, can accept 200 connections. The camp repeater will be on all the time, so you can always try a call even outside regular net times. You never know when someone will be listening.

The best times to contact us are:

Early morning before 08:00 CDT (Before breakfast)
Between 13:00 and 15:00 CDT (Camper recreation time)
After 18:30 (Following dinner)

As I said, you can try calling anytime and the call will go out all over camp on the camp repeater system. We do have people listening most of the time, especially those who are in Operating Skills or Extra Seminar.

We hope to hear you on the air soon!

Patrick Tice
Handiham Manager

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Handiham World for 12 May 2010

Welcome to Handiham World!

Courage Center Development Officer Walt Seibert Passes Ham Radio Exam

Walt Seibert (left) gets his Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination from VE Patrick Tice, WA0TDA.
Photo: Walt Seibert, left, gets congrats from Pat, WA0TDA.

Another New Ham

Congratulations to Walt Seibert, who passed his Technician licensing exam at the Handiham-affiliated Stillwater Amateur Radio Association VE session last Thursday. Walt works with me at Courage Center, and we have known each other for many years. As one of his duties in the Courage Center Development Department, Walt traveled with me one year to Dayton HAMVENTION and with the help of our colleague Tom Olson put on a "meet and greet" development event in support of the Handiham program.

So Walt is no stranger to ham radio, and when he decided to pursue his Technician Class amateur radio license, we were thrilled. There is nothing like being able to "walk the walk and talk the talk", and if you are going to ask potential donors to support an amateur radio education program for people with disabilities, it certainly helps to have an amateur radio license yourself. I know that Walt was amazed at the size and scope of Dayton HAMVENTION. The amazing technology, the friendly folks who visited the Handiham booth, the fun and fellowship -- I guess it isn't surprising that amateur radio looked pretty good.

Of course Walt is always busy at work, helping Courage Center to earn the trust and support of those who believe in our mission to help people with disabilities. For a time he was interested in amateur radio but couldn't take the time to pursue it because of his other professional development studies and the demands of work. However, the stars finally aligned for Walt, and he decided to earn his Technician. We helped with study materials and links to amateur radio practice exam websites. Soon Walt was reporting back to us that he was passing practice exams on a regular basis, and then every time he tried. We set up Walt with an upcoming VE session and crossed our fingers.

I am a member of the Stillwater Amateur Radio Association VE Team, so I was pleased to see that Walt showed up at our Thursday evening testing session, which meant that I would be able to personally give him the good news when he passed the test. As expected, Walt did a great job on the examination and I was able to perform one of my favorite duties as a volunteer examiner: giving a successful candidate the good news!

Congratulations to Walt, who is now waiting for his callsign to appear in the database.

Guide Dog Trawler passes away quietly

Jerry & Trawler relax at the lake cabin

Folks, it is with much sadness that I report the passing of guide Trawler. He gave no indication of any health issues. He guided at church last Sunday, and we went to the Plymouth Senior Center yesterday, where he worked well as usual, steps and all. All was normal the rest of Monday. This morning, Tuesday, Pam found him on his sleeping mat next to our computer. He was in his normal sleep position, no sign of any trauma. Pam feels it was his heart. Trawler would have been ten years old July 4 of this year.

I would like to have my ham radio friends on the net and camp staff know of this, so could you forward the information?

Jerry Kloss, N0VOE

Editor's note: Trawler guided Jerry, Handiham Volunteer & Student Coordinator, through years of Radio Camps and Handiham activities. A true team, they worked so well together that it was fun to watch them travel with confidence and poise. Our hearts go out to Jerry and his wife Pam in their time of loss, for losing a treasured animal and guide leaves a hole in your heart.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Handiham World for 5 May 2010

Welcome to Handiham World!

A new antenna goes up at Handiham headquarters

Dave gets ready to launch the tennis ball attached to a fishing line, which will be used to pull the antenna wire into the trees
Dave, W0OXB, and John, KC0UHY, compare notes as the project progresses

By Patrick Tice

As most of our regular readers and listeners know, the Handiham headquarters has moved from its long-time Golden Valley offices to a new location at Camp Courage near Maple Lake, Minnesota. We already had a vertical antenna at the new location, but we really felt that we needed a more versatile wire antenna that would be able to tune a variety of different frequencies. We settled on a 300 foot dipole fed with 450 ohm ladder line and a current balun. Coaxial cable from the balun takes the signal to the antenna tuner and to the TS-570 transceiver currently in place at our operating location.

As you can imagine, getting an antenna of that length up into the air can be quite a challenge. We had the advantage of some pretty tall trees from which we could support the antenna, and with some careful planning we were able to run the legs of the antenna out into some fairly clear spaces while still using these tall trees as supports.

Volunteers Dave Glas, W0OXB, and John Harvard, KC0UHY, had put up these "OXB Special" antennas before, so all I really had to do was follow directions and do as I was told. Dave directed the operation, as he is the real wire antenna expert. Not only had he ordered the materials and did some assembly ahead of time, he also procured the materials by getting the support of the Handiham affiliated Stillwater Amateur Radio Association, which paid for everything we needed. Dave also drove and brought the necessary tools. You could certainly tell that he had done this kind of antenna work many times before!

The weatherman cooperated on Tuesday, May 4. The sun was shining and the temperature was in the mid-70s. Although we had some wind, it wasn't really more than a modest breeze and we were able to use the wind to our advantage in launching a tennis ball loaded with a couple of heavy lead sinkers as a lead for our fishing line. The tennis ball is launched using a slingshot like device that was donated to the Handiham program by volunteer and donor Bill Rouch, N6HBO. In order to get the tennis ball over some really tall trees, Dave cut a small slit in it and slipped in a couple of lead fishing weights. This gave the tennis ball enough mass to easily fly over the tallest branches. When all was said and done, the average height of this 300 foot antenna was probably close to 45 feet. That is really pretty good for an antenna of this length held up by trees.

We did some preliminary tests and then had to head back home to avoid getting stuck in rush-hour traffic. We will do some of the final work on the station later on when we receive the expected donation of an automatic antenna tuner from Eliot, KE0N. Do you see how volunteers, donors, and staff all work together to make a project like this possible? We are so grateful for everyone's assistance. We couldn't do it without you!

Eventually, we plan to use this new antenna on a second Internet remote base station. This will increase the operating capability by adding not only the second station but the ability to operate on the 160 m band and on the 6 m band. If this new antenna system works as well as expected, we may even consider upgrading the antenna system at the Courage North location, also adding 160 m and 6 m there.

Remote base operation will be an important part of our services in the years to come. Thank you for your support.

Patrick Tice, Handiham Manager