Atlanticon 2005 Recap
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Read about the Crystalizer Bake Off (contest)
Once again, Atlanticon was a terrific success and everyone had a really exciting time! Although it was raining like crazy outside most of Saturday, over 140 of us QRPers were warm and cozy in our spacious meeting room and heard from some of the smartest and most entertaining hams in our hobby.
Although each of the presentations was a wonderful treat, perhaps the most exciting highlight of the weekend was the presentations from our keynote speaker, Dr. Paul Shuck, N6TX. Paul was absolutely amazing! He is a longtime QRPer, and as part of the SETI organization, he develops advanced digital signal processing techniques in search for the ultimate DX - extraterrestrial signals that are very weak when received on Earth. Paul's presentation was a dazzling technical overview of the problems confronting humans searching for communications from other world, and some of the techniques to overcome those challenges. Much to the surprise and extreme enjoyment of everyone present, Paul would occasionally pick up his guitar and break into a song explaining more about the topic he was currently addressing! We heard stories about the NRAO (National Radio Astronomy Observatory) sung to the tune of John Denver's "Take me home Country Road". It was hilarious! All in all, there were some twelve songs presented like this as we all gained a much better appreciation of the technology and pioneers of this branch of science. All of us effusely thanks Dr. Shuch for spending his valuable time with us this year.
Joe Everhart, N2CX, actually led off the speaker lineup on Saturday morning with his usual eye-opening humor ... ask him sometime about the three QRPers and the three DXers on a train! First by necessity and later by inclination, N2CX has always been a homebrewer ... and he shared his insight and experience in the area of oscillators: different types, uses and ways to stabilize their frequency output. Joe's presentation was a natural extension of the "Crystallizer" - the Atlanticon Kit that all attendees receive in advance of the weekend. QRPers in attendance now know a great deal more about temperature control and uses of stable oscillators as a result of the N2CX eye-opener presentation. We are always blessed to have such a gifted RF designer and innovative thinker amongst us, and we thank you Joe for continuing to share so much with others in the hobby that you love.
Lyle Johnson, KK7P was next up for presenting his material on Saturday morning. Lyle is the designer of the very popular DSPx Daughtercard used in the DSP10, Elecraft K2 and Micro908 products, and he described an approach for "Digital Building Blocks for Analog Radios" that utilize the power contained in these very capable DSP and DDS modules we homebrewers have available to us today. KK7P kept the discussion at a high level, yet provided enough detail and written material that gave the audience all sorts of insight as to the projects, kits, radios and equipment we'll soon start seeing (and using!) in proliferation. I was very pleased to have Lyle Johnson make his first appearance at Atlanticon this year, and I'm sure all those who were captivated by his fast-paced, subtle-humor presentation were too. Thanks for coming all the way from Washington State to join us this year Lyle! I think this is a start of a wonderful relationship ;-)
Jim Kortge, K8IQY returned by popular demand for yet another engagement as an Atlanticon speaker. Jim's presentation overviewed the design, construction, and performance of his 20-meter, discrete-component CW transceiver based on his previous award winning 2N2/40 design. Jim carefully reviewed where his new and revised circuits are employed, providing improved performance over the 2N2/40 while retaining the straight forward, Manhattan-style construction approach. K8IQY is a master craftsman of Manhattan-style construction projects and has contributed many solid and useful designs to our QRP community. He passed around components of his latest creation, and offered matched crystal sets to many of the homebrewers in attendance who wanted to build up his design. Thanks Jim!
Rich Arland, K7SZ is back ... and man, is he back! By popular demand again , our Master of Ceremonies and Wit did double-duty for us this year by emceeing the seminar series, as well as by making a presentation himself addressing the topic of "Emergency Communications for QRP" and the many options we QRPers have available when we go to the field. Now you must understand, this is the "New and Improved K7SZ" ... Rich has lost more 150 pounds and he looks fabulous! Rich's presentation showed us how ham radio, and even QRPers have a track record of coming to the assistance of our communities, especially after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. We especially benefited by seeing what constitutes his own "jump kit" of radio and survival gear in the event of needing to quickly take to the field with supporting communications. Rich's emceeing of the entire day's activities was expertly done and we all appreciated his efforts in making the seminar successful.
The Grand Prize
Each year, at the end of our full day of QRP presentations, we have a grand prize drawing for some lucky winner. This year the prize was a DSW-II 40m DDS-based Transceiver Kit from Small Wonder Labs. After much drum roll and holding of breaths, the lucky winner was Dana Hager from the EPA-QRP Club. The really neat part of this is that Dana was not yet a ham but was scheduled the next day (Sunday) to take the exam for his license! We'll have to see how that worked out. Regardless, Dana has been involved with the QRP clubs for many years and was very appreciative of the prize he won.
As you know, we sponsor two contests each year at Atlanticon and the winners in each category get some pretty cool prizes. One of the contests was the open category of "homebrew construction", whereby one brings along his latest, most innovative, or best-constructed project for display and judging. David Porter AA3UR was this year's judge and he had a difficult time selecting the winners from among all the good entries. At the time of this writing I do not have the list of winners, but we'll shortly get the names and pics posted on the website.
The second contest is the one based on the theme of the weekend: the Crystallizer Kit. The idea this time was to construct this small pcb-based voltage-controlled crystal oscillator and get it calibrated as much as possible to 10.000000 MHz (WWV) and then see how well you could keep it on frequency with changing temperature. I think everyone really learned a lot about the effort required to do this, as the crowd around Joe Everhart's measurement station was pretty thick watching the testing. N2CX made a precisely-calibrated, and stable fixture based off a "DDS VFO Calibration" article written by Earl Morris N8ERO (published in the Proceedings, and included in issue #5 of the Homebrewer Magazine), and Joe was able to measure each contestant's VXO while connected to this fixture. A pair of blinking LEDs indicated when zero-beat was established with WWV (i.e., the blinking slowed to a stop) and a calibrated frequency counter actually read off the beat frequency down to 1 Hertz. Again, at the time of this writing I don't have the list of those who were the top entries, but they included water-cooled VXO's, Micro908-controlled VXO, circuit boards insulated in Styrofoam, vacuums, cooled and heated environments monitored by thermisters, and one was even insulated in a cardboard box stuffed with dirty socks (thanks K7SZ ;-) We'll have pics and further details shortly on this contest as well, but for now we can tell you that the winner was Steve Holton, N1NB who had the VXO controlled by a nifty software algorithm running in his Micro908 controller. He dubbed it the "TC-908" for its temperature controlling control characteristics and we'll be publishing his novel approach soon in Homebrewer Mag. Congrats to all entries!
"QRPers of the Year" ...
awarded to Tom W8KOX and Nancy NJ8B Feeny
As anyone who has ever opened an AmQRP kit in recent years knows, the quality and attention to detail involved with the actual kitting and packaging of the project is just superb. This is great part due to the detailed nature of the effort put in by AmQRP's main kitting engine, Tom & Nancy Feeny. These wonderful folks have completely revolutionized the kitting of our club-based kits by color-coding SMT components, carefully labeling other sub-bags and in general they provide astounding value to all of us QRPers. Recent kits to their credit include the DDS Daughtercard Kit, Micro908 Kit and its two Service Pack mailings, the Islander Pad Cutter and Amplifier, the IQ-VFO (board, partial kit and full kit), and more. Additionally, Nancy has been proofing the Homebrewer articles since issue #2, and recently has taken on a major part of the editing job for issue #5, whereby all of the articles have first been through her creative, eagle-eye before it comes to me for final composition and layout prior to disc duplication. Nancy has even started contributing original material to the magazine! We surprised the Feeny's with the AmQRPer of the Year" plaque during Atlanticon and they received a standing ovation from the attendees. Thank *you* NJ8B and W8KOX!
The NJQRP Club
staff makes it all happen
As in previous years' weekends, Atlanticon could not be conducted without the tireless involvement of a good handful of club volunteers. With thankless jobs ranging from manning the check-in table, to handing out the Proceedings, to making the nice, laminated badges before hand (see the cool logo at the top of this page for an example of what the badges looked like), to setting up the AmQRP / NJQRP table each evening, to arranging/coordinating the lunches provided for everyone during the day, to the handling of door prize drawings throughout the day ... the list goes on and on. For all this, we sincerely thank Bryan Williams AA3UR, Michael Bower N4NMR, Ed Lyon N4LRR, Denis Albiser AB2PD, David Willmore N0YMV and David Porter AA3UR.
Prize Donors make
it fun for everyone!
Atlanticon attendees regularly look forward to the door prize drawings throughout the day on Saturday, and to the prizes awarded during the Saturday evening contests. We couldn't make this happen without the generous contribution by some very altruistic QRPers and organizations ... the NoVAQRP Club, the EPA-QRP Club, John Grow VE3EQL, Howard Weinstein K3HW, Gil Kost and his "American Manufacturing QRP Company", Dave Benson K1SWL and his "Small Wonder Labs", and Elecraft. We thank each and every one of you for helping to make Atlanticon a success this year!
How do you guys
do it all??
Someone asked a question during one of the Q&A periods during the day: "How on earth can you guys provide all this for just the $10 registration fee??! We have incredible facilities, outstanding speakers flown in from all corners of the country, a free lunch provided for everyone, printed proceedings of all the papers, and even a kit!" The answer is really simple ... the AmQRP and NJQRP members work their tails off during the whole preceding year on various fundraising activities in order to conduct QRP forums like Atlanticon. The proceeds from the Homebrewer Magazine subscription sales, and from all the kits and extra activities we do pour into making these QRP forum the best around and most enjoyable for all who attend. So the thanks for this more appropriately goes out to the designers, the kitters, the magazine article contributors and (especially) to all the QRPers throughout our community who buy these goods. Everyone's participation in these various activities helps support more and better kits, helps support a bigger and better magazine, and help support an even better Atlanticon (and possibly other) QRP forums every year. Thank YOU!
Hope to see you all next year at Atlanticon 2006!
George Heron, N2APB
Joe Everhart, N2CX
Rich Arland, K7SZ