YOTA Month 2014

As well as helping to co-coordinate a summer camp each year, such as YOTA Finland, the Youngsters on the Air programme also has a project known as YOTA Month. YOTA Month is an activity month held during December which allows each country in IARU Region 1 to operate a Special Event Callsign, using the suffix “YOTA”. The purpose of the month long event is to encourage youngsters to get on the air and develop an interest in the hobby.

This year saw a record number of participants, with 37 nations taking part, from Algeria as 7X2YOTA to South Africa as ZS9YOTA. You can see the full list here.

An award scheme also exists where amateurs are encouraged to work as many of the YOTA stations as possible. The level of awards ranges from bronze, consisting of working 10 different YOTA stations, to platinum where all 37 stations are worked.

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An example of the award certificate

In the UK, YOTA Month was the first project to be led by the newly formed RSGB Youth Committee. Thanks to Ofcom’s support, the committee were able to secure the callsign G15YOTA, as well as the national variations (GM15YOTA, GI15YOTA etc.). A number of schools and clubs took part in the event, as the callsign toured the UK; such as The Priory Academy LSST, Silcoates School and Wirral & DARC. This was the first time that the UK had participated in YOTA Month and it was clear that it had been a big success in giving young amateurs a chance to operate a sought-after callsign and for some, a taste of what amateur radio was all about.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have easy access to a radio throughout December, so was only able to have a single QSO with a YOTA station, which was LX4YOTA in Luxembourg. I made the QSO on New Year’s Eve, with literally hours until the end of December!

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My LX4YOTA QSL card, with a picture of me (1st photo, 2nd on the left)

After the event, a total of 37,037 QSO’s were made across all 37 YOTA stations, showing an impressive amount of activity.

To read more about YOTA Month in the UK, including a report from a number of schools, check out Pages 44-45 of the March 2015 (Vol.91 No.3) edition of Radcom. Or check out the news items on the YOTA website, including a detailed analysis of the final QSO count.

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A snapshot of the YOTA Month Radcom article

Formation of the RSGB Youth Committee

After returning from Finland in July, I gave a Skype interview with Bob, G0FGX from TX Factor as well as Martin, M1MRB from the ICQ Amateur Radio Podcast. I discussed the activities that we had been doing in Finland and also the feeling from the UK team members in Finland that there should be a space for young amateurs in the UK to get their voice heard. Whilst I was in Finland, YOTA UK was happening simultaneously and the feeling there was much the same; that there should be a group of young amateurs who can represent our collective views and help to encourage more youngsters into the hobby.

It was put to Steve Hartley, G0FUW the then chairman of the RSGB Training and Education committee that perhaps such a committee should be formed within the RSGB. Having a “Youth Committee” within the RSGB would give young amateurs in the UK a clear voice, being part of the hobby’s largest national organisation and ensure that the RSGB would be able to target and meet the needs of young amateurs. Steve was very sympathetic to our cause, as he was responsible for helping to organise YOTA UK as well as select a team to attend YOTA Finland.

It was in early September that the RSGB board approved the formation of a committee to represent young members and the committee was to be known as the Youth Committee. Members of the Youth Committee were to be under 26 years old and members of the RSGB. Membership is free to RSGB members under the age of 18 and free if under 25 and in full-time education. The committee’s principle aims are to be responsible for establishing and organising youth participation in events (YOTA etc.) as well as to promote amateur radio to young people in the UK and to increase the number of young RSGB members. Applications to become a member of the committee opened up in early September and after a number of weeks, Mike Jones 2E0MLJ was appointed as Chairman of the committee. I also applied to become a member of the committee and was elected a few weeks after submitting my application. After the committee’s first official meeting on the 26th November, I volunteered to take on the role of Financial Advisor and was also elected into this position at the next meeting on the 15th December.

The future now looks very bright for young amateurs and I’m grateful to the RSGB board for giving us this platform in which to promote the hobby to young people and also to assist the RSGB in their approach to attracting more youngsters.

You can find out more information about the Youth Committee and their aims/projects here, as well as read the minutes from the committee’s meetings. The Youth Committee meets monthly on Skype, usually on the 3rd Monday of the month.

CQWW SSB 2014

It was time again for CQWW SSB. However, this year was going to pose a potential problem, as I had just started a full time job in Aberdeen in September. Normally, I travel to Stirling and contest with the Stirling & DARS, but I was quite busy and it seemed doubtful whether I would make the contest at all.

However, a few months back, I approached Stewart GM4AFF and explained that I would be living and working full time in Aberdeen, now that I had graduated university and was now in full-time employment. Contesting from the Stirling Club would become difficult and time-consuming to get to, so I enquired as to what contest opportunities were available in the North-East of Scotland. Stewart confessed that there was little interest or activity in HF contesting in this part of the world, but he was happy to see I was interested and ultimately offered to host me at his shack for CQWW SSB, operating as GM3F Multi-One High Power Assisted. I was very grateful to Stewart for the opportunity and accepted his offer. This was not going to be a serious effort; having only 2 ops for Multi-One operation is close to suicide, as Colin MM0OPX and I found out at CQWPX SSB earlier this year. Additionally, Stewart explained that he was in the process of revamping his antenna system and so capabilities would be somewhat reduced, especially on 20m, where we would only have use of a vertical. Stewart also explained that due to the topography of the local area, we couldn’t be a serious contender, but I reassured him that I would be using the contest as an experience builder and to gain more confidence running long shifts in a contest.

Due to work commitments, I couldn’t make the contest start on Saturday morning, so Stewart began the contest just after midnight. I took the train from Aberdeen to Montrose early on Saturday morning and arrived in Montrose at around 7:30am. Stewart picked me up and drove me to his house, around 10 minutes from Montrose train station. When we arrived, I was given a quick tour of the shack and then it was time to get to work. Conditions seemed good and the morning and afternoon flew by. It was then time for dinner and I was very appreciative of Stewart’s family for allowing me to join them. Stewart then spent some of the evening operating, before I took over again to do some more operation on 15/20m until around midnight. I then decided to head to bed and Stewart offered to do a small shift into the early hours.

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Stewart operating on 40m late on the Saturday night

Sunday morning and it was another early start. I began by clearing up some multipliers on 40/20m, whilst waiting on 15 and 10 to open up. It was just after lunch (approx. 12pm) when 10m exploded. US, South America, Europe and even some African stations were booming in. Although I have only been licensed for just over 3 years, so I can’t say what the days of old were like on 10m, it was truly incredible. 28.300 to 28.800 were wall-to-wall with signals, with only a few spaces here and there that were truly QRM free. It was unprecedented seeing so much bandwidth filled with stations! I worked a large pile of US stations, but found that there was just so much activity on the band, that it was hard to stand out from the crowd unless you were spotted. The afternoon continued with some good pile ups, as well as a frantic hunt for more multipliers.

Before long, it was late afternoon and I wanted to get back to Aberdeen before dinner, as I had some work stuff to do before Monday morning. I thanked Stewart’s wife for her hospitality and Stewart ran me to Montrose train station. We had a chat about the contest on the way there, commenting on the good conditions during the contest. The train was on time and after around 40 minutes, I was back in Aberdeen.

Reflecting on the weekend, it was great to have the opportunity to contest from another location other than the Stirling Club and I was privileged to have operated alongside Stewart, given his impressive DXpedition and contesting history, most recently when he was a referee at WRTC 2014. I was very humbled with Stewart and his wife’s hospitality and I hope to contest with Stewart again very soon. In terms of the contest, the bands were in great condition and I was really impressed with the condition of 10m, something which I’m sure I’m unlikely to hear again until the next sunspot cycle! The contest was a great experience in a multitude of ways, including the fact that we had to operate some very long shifts as there were only 2 of us. I look forward to taking the skills I’ve learned into next year and utilising them in the WRTC 2018 qualifying contests.

EDIT – July 22nd 2015: A few months ago, the final results of the CQWW SSB 2014 contest were announced. On the 22nd July, Stewart received a certificate awarding us with #1 in GM within the Multi-One High Power Assisted category with 2,645,050 points. A very good achievement, given the antenna set-up, having only 2 operators and only operating for around 30 of the 48 hours!

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Some nice shack wallpaper!

GA14CG: Golf Alpha One Four Commonwealth Games – The Report

Between the 21st of July and the 3rd of August 2014, the Stirling & District Amateur Radio Society (GM6NX) hosted a Special Event Station to celebrate the 2014 Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow, Scotland. The Special Event Station was run at the Stirling & DARS’ QTH, located a few miles east of Stirling and approximately 25 miles north-east of Glasgow.

It was decided that to mark this special occasion, a suitable callsign would need to be chosen. Throughout 2014, stations located in Scotland can apply via an online NoV to use the prefix GA, MA or 2A to celebrate Homecoming Scotland. It was therefore decided that using the prefix GA would not only capture the spirit of the Commonwealth Games as part of Homecoming Scotland, but that GA is in itself a rare prefix and would certainly attract a lot of interest from prefix hunters. Therefore, with permission from Ofcom, the callsign GA14CG; Golf Alpha One Four Commonwealth Games was chosen for the operation. The activation would begin at 0:00 BST on the 21st of July and run part-time until the 3rd of August at 23:59 BST. It was agreed that a target of 20,000 QSO’s would be set for the duration of the activation.

The aim of the Special Event Station was threefold; to have fun running a large Special Event Station, to celebrate and represent the Commonwealth Games using Amateur Radio and to allow clubs and individuals from across Scotland and beyond to participate in the activation. The club wanted to promote its open door policy and encourage as many people as possible to join in with the celebrations, with the aim of fostering greater links within the amateur community. Invitations went out to many clubs and groups as well as adverts in many amateur radio news outlets about the activation.

The Stirling & DARS has excellent facilities at its QTH, including 3 HF stations  and a 6m VHF station which are permanently on air and available to club members and visitors throughout the year. The three HF stations utilise similar set-ups, consisting of Icom IC756 Pro IIIs, Acom 1000 amplifiers and networked computers for logging. Each station is set-up to work on a specific band(s) and antennas range from the Optibeam OB9-5 on a 70 foot tower for 20-10m, to the Cushcraft XM-240 2 element Yagi for 40m on a 60 foot tower. There is also a quarter-wave vertical for 160m. Throughout the activation, GA14CG would be QRV from 160 through 6m; using SSB, CW and Data.

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Antennas in use at GA14CG. Photo Credit: Col, MM0NDX

As soon as the station went on the air at 0:00 BST on Monday 21st July, the station was immediately generating a lot of interest within the UK on 40/80m, whilst 20m was yielding good results into both North and South America. Within the first 24 hours of the operation, almost 1,500 QSO’s had been made.  As the activation progressed, the pileups continued, forcing some of our operators to run split, or even “work by numbers”. Whilst HF conditions were generally disappointing, 40m continued to surprise, with lots of VK and JA being worked during the evenings. After almost 4 days since the start of the operation, a QSO was still to be made on the 15, 12 and 10m bands. This was very disappointing, but a result of poor propagation. Even 10m E’s were virtually non-existent.

However, by the end of the first week, conditions began to improve and the QSO count on 15m was starting to ramp up, but both 12 and 10m remained disappointing. At around 10pm BST each night, 17m would open to North America, bringing in the west coast of the US with strong signals. Working into CA, OR and WA was as easy as working the east coast of the US and Canada, with the large pileups continuing well into the early hours of the morning. Even during the day, 20m proved to be popular into Europe and Clive, 3B8CW from Mauritius even found the time to call in and spot us on the cluster!

The 40m station was also proving very popular, as the band was always open to somewhere in the world. The nights would bring in lots of exotic DX, whilst the band was open for Inter-G and Europe during the day. Several highlights on 40m included working a young amateur who was at his local club studying for his Foundation licence as well as operators who had just received their licence and were contacting GA14CG for their first ever QSO!

There were a number of dedicated operators who ensured that the GA14CG call was on the air as much as possible. Jonathan, MM0OKG used his holiday off work to keep at least one station on the air throughout much of the day and night, which resulted in him working very long shifts throughout the operation. Robert, GM3YTS, chairman of the GMDX Group ensured that the call was very active on CW whilst Frank, MM0HST was able to put in a number of long shifts and managed the pileups well into the night. John, MM0GCF was one of the many volunteers working at the games and his role as a Team Leader Driver was to transport competitor’s family members across venues throughout Glasgow. John also managed to attend and operate the station and his contribution to the successful outcome of the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the GA14CG activation were much appreciated.

John, MM0GCF operating the 40m station

After 14 days of part-time operation, the station went QRT on the 3rd of August at 23:59 BST and achieved 22,234 QSO’s, breaking the original 20,000 QSO target. It was clear the callsign was well sought after and that the station was delivering a strong and reliable signal across the globe, despite the often poor conditions. On the final night of the operation, GA14CG was the most active callsign on Clublog, having been in the top 3 for a number of days. Even after going QRT, GA14CG remained in the top 10 for a number of weeks. The callsign also attracted over 1,470 spots on the DX cluster with many stations working us for additional band and mode slots. Special thanks and congratulations goes to Roland, G3VIR for working GA14CG on an impressive 7 bands and 9 slots, with just 12 and 10m missing! Roland will be receiving a special prize to commemorate his achievement and support of the activation.

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Celebrating the 20,000th QSO

As well as an impressive QSO count, the station also worked 173 DXCC entities; with 92 confirmed on phone, 71 on CW and 101 mixed via LoTW at the time of going to print. 32 of the 53 Commonwealth Nations were also worked during the period of the activation, including all Commonwealth Nations located in the Caribbean and Americas.  The station also achieved basic WAS as well as WAS on phone, with 45 states confirmed on CW via LoTW. Only a confirmation from MT is missing to complete WAS on both 20 and 17m. Finally, 912 prefixes have been confirmed on LoTW to date across multiple bands and modes, resulting in the achievement of the CQ WPX mixed award.

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Operating all 3 HF stations simultaneously

Surprisingly, the GA14CG activation was able to beat the QSO and DXCC count of the 2012 Welsh Olympic station 2O12W, which ran for 6-7 weeks as well as matching the QSO count of the London Olympic station 2O12L on most days, despite our activation being a part-time operation and only lasting for 14 days. It is believed that GA14CG has set a new record for the number of QSO’s by a Scottish Special Event Station, something which the team is very proud of.

The activation was well represented on all forms of social media and in the Amateur Radio Press, receiving coverage on TX Talk, DX World, Southgate Amateur Radio News and on many other outlets. The GA14CG Twitter and Facebook accounts were used to share news and photos from the activation, announce operating frequencies and provide updates on QSO progress. The activation was also supported with a website, providing information on everything from QSL procedures to allowing visitors to book an operating slot. The GA14CG QRZ.com page received around 54,000 lookups in only 14 days, with most people visiting the page to find out more about the operation and to check the real-time online log, hosted by Clublog. Additionally, various Youtube videos were posted to the GM6NX Youtube Channel showing off the shack and the various operators who attended the operation. Some videos were even uploaded to Youtube from operators all over the world who had worked the station.

The event was supported by amateurs from right across Scotland and beyond, which was one of the original aims of the operation. Visitors from Ayr ARS, Dundee ARS and the GMDX association operated various slots throughout the 14 day activation, with other individuals travelling great distances to support the event. Even a member of Ofcom staff stationed in Glasgow for the duration of the Games found the time to visit the club and operate the station. A tribute to all clubs and individuals who operated and supported the activation can be found on our website.

The Stirling & DARS would like to thank the support it received from the RSGB as well as the GMDX association, who not only helped to operate the station, but who also provided a loan of an HF Yagi for the duration of the operation. Thanks also go to members of the Stirling & DARS who not only operated the station, but who also provided logistical and moral support. An operation of this size required a great deal of planning and had it not been for the technical and logistical expertise of John, GM1BSG in particular, the station would not have been a success. It was clear that the technical and operating aspects of the hobby came together successfully at the event and much experience has been gathered with respect to planning and hosting large events at the club. The friendly characters at the club also ensured that everyone had a great time and that visitors were made to feel very welcome. We hope to see many of them back!

Finally, thanks to everyone who worked the station and remained patient in the pileups! Without your support, we would not have reached our 20,000 QSO target or achieved our other equally impressive milestones and awards. We hope you enjoyed the activation!

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Some of the GM6NX members who operated the station throughout the activation

QSL for GA14CG is via e-QSL or LoTW. Paper QSL’s can be requested using Clublog OQRS. Please don’t send cards direct or via the bureau, as they will not receive a reply.

Commonwealth Games – GA14CG

The evening of the 23rd of July marked the opening of the XX 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.

It was at the beginning of 2014, when it suddenly dawned on me that hosting the Commonwealth Games is not only a huge achievement by the people of Glasgow and Scotland, but that Amateur Radio should play a crucial role in supporting and celebrating the Games.

I quickly put around the idea of hosting a Special Event Station to members of the Stirling & District Amateur Radio Society, where I am a member. The idea was well received, so I decided to knuckle down and do some planning.

I then got in touch with the RSGB who also seemed very supportive of the idea and gave me a direct contact at Ofcom, with whom I could arrange the NoV. As we wanted to set ourselves apart from a “traditional” special event station, we decided on the callsign GA14CG; Golf Alpha One Four Commonwealth Games.

Usually, special event stations in the UK start with GB1 or GB2 and are then followed by 3 letters which usually represent the nature of the activation. For example, GB1JSS (Golf Bravo One June Summer Solstice) which the Essex Hams ran last month to celebrate the longest day of the year (21st June). As Scottish stations are permitted to use the Prefix MA, 2A or GA throughout 2014 to celebrate “Homecoming Scotland”, we thought it made sense that our station should also make use of the GA prefix as a special event station, with special permission from Ofcom.

As we are making use of the existing facilities at the Stirling & District Amateur Radio Society, we have been well prepared on the equipment side of the event. We have 3 HF stations and 1 VHF station, all of which can be used simultaneously. Each HF station uses an Icom 756 Pro III and Acom 1000, whilst the 6m VHF station utilises an Icom 7600 and Acom 1000.

Antennas range from our Optibeam OB9-5 for 20-10m, to our Cushcraft X240 Yagi for 40m and 1/4 vertical for 160m.

The activation began on the morning of the 21st July and at the time of writing this post (evening of 25th July), we have made 8,160 QSO’s.

The activation closes on the evening of the 3rd August and our target is to reach 20,000 QSO’s.

You can keep up to date with the activation through Facebook, Twitter (@GA14CG) or by visiting our website.

Visitors are most welcome to the station to operate. Just complete the booking form found on the GA14CG website!

See you in the pile ups or at the club!

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John, GM0FSV on 20m

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Optibeam OB9-5

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All antennas in use at GA14CG

GA700BOB – Battle of Bannockburn

On the 28th and 29th of June, the Stirling & DARS operated GA700BOB, to celebrate the 700th Anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. This event was unique, as it was the first Special Event station permitted by Ofcom to use the GA prefix, which is available to Scottish stations throughout 2014.

The main station was hosted at the Bannockburn Live event, where a simple station consisting of an Icom IC 7600, an Acom 1000 amplifier and a vertical antenna was used to showcase Amateur Radio to the public.  On both days, outside of the event opening hours, the operation moved to the Stirling Club premises, which are only a few miles from Bannockburn. There, the club utilised its 3 HF stations and 6m VHF station.

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Robert GM3YTS on 17m CW at the Bannockburn Live event

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From left to right; John MM0GCF, Frank MM0HST, Jonathan MM0OKG, Jim GM4VGR and Hugh GM4UYE at the Bannockburn Live event

The event was a huge success, with a large number of visitors to the station, including interest from younger people who were keen to learn more about the hobby. Pile-ups lasted throughout the duration of the event and it was evident that the callsign was highly sought after. Highlights on Sunday evening included working Iran on 17m, the 34th most wanted DXCC, when they called into the pile-up and VK7AC calling in on 40m. West coast US was loud and easily workable at 23:00, with only an hour left of the operation!

By the end of the 48 hour activation, having only operated for around 20 hours, around 2,700 QSO’s had been made in 76 DXCC entities; using a mix of SSB, CW and Data.

I’m now looking forward to GA14CG! That’s sure to bring in some major pile-ups!

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From left to right; Adam MM0KFX, Frank MM0HST and John GM1BSG at the GM6NX shack, after the Bannockburn Live event

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GA700BOB QSL card

Dayton Hamvention 2014 and more

Today saw the launch of the 2014 Dayton Hamvention in Dayton, OH. The Dayton Hamvention is one of the largest amateur radio conventions in the world; boasting a range of lectures, demonstrations and of course, a giant flea-market!

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Some of the crazy hats on display at Dayton!

A few months back, I was seriously considering whether or not to attend the event, but decided against it in the end. Flights to Dayton were not too expensive, at around £800 return and accommodation prices were reasonable. However, I’m due to finish university in about 12 days time. I still have to submit my dissertation (thesis) as well sit an exam. Thankfully, I only need pass grades in both the exam and the dissertation in order to graduate, thanks to the work I put in earlier this year. So, although I could have gotten away without doing some work for a few days, I thought against going and have decided to make sure my university work takes priority.

Also, the whole trip would have cost anywhere between £1000-£1200 and that doesn’t include the inevitable purchase of goods at the hamfest! So, a lack of funds and with university work to do, It’s with a heavy heart that I won’t be attending this year.

However, I start my gradate job this September, so finance wouldn’t be an issue for attending next year. However, I am cautious about using up valuable holiday time, as I will only get around 2 weeks each year. But, I’ll keep my options open. If I could attend next year, it would be an amazing experience and I would love to meet up with many of my Twitter followers as well as meet other notable people in the hobby. It would also give me a chance to form new connections and I love meeting new people!

However, this summer is shaping up to be a great one for playing radio. I’ll be heading to Finland in July to represent the UK during the YOTA event from 15th-22nd July (more on this soon). I’m also in the planning stages of setting up a Special Event Station to celebrate the Commonwealth Games when they come to Glasgow this summer. Finally, I’ll also be up to my usual contesting activities and will be playing around with VHF as well, hoping to catch some of those summer E’s!

Lastly, my dad is planning a trip to Chicago during the summer for business, so I’m hoping I can try and ride along with him. This would give me a chance to visit the US again and I could even travel around and hook up with a lot of the hams I’ve spoken with on Twitter and on the air and who have become good friends.

If you’d like to watch a live stream of the Hamfest at Dayton this weekend, you can check out the official stream here: http://www.hamvention.org/

Alternatively, check out W5KUB’s excellent broadcast which includes prizes: http://tmedlin.com/mainpage.htm

If you are using Twitter, make sure and use #hamvention to keep in touch with everyone at Dayton!