NJQRP Meeting Summary
August 19, 2006
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We had a great NJQRP Club meeting this past weekend! Thanks to the 12 members who showed up on the short notice we gave, and special thanks to out-of-town visiting QRPer Rob Bingham, W4ROB, and newcomer Charles Lazarchak, W3DEA.
This meeting was a "first" in several regards -- it was the first at our new location at the American Red Cross center in Princeton, and it was the first of a new generation of meetings. We'll describe each aspect below.
1) New Meeting Location: American
Red Cross Center, Princeton, NJ
Most club members know that we recently lost our normal meeting place (the food court at the Forrestal Center) due to its being turned into a fitness center. Although we NJQRP members are Adonis-like models of physical fitness, we felt that the universal machines and exercise bikes would tangle our antennas too much during the regular show 'n tell portion of the meetings, so the secret search began to find some new digs. NJQRP patriot Gerry Jurrens, N2GJ came to the rescue by securing the meeting room at the American Red Cross center just off Route 1 right there in Princeton. N2GJ is the Communications Officer for that notable organization and he found the leaders to be quite receptive to the notion of us conducting our monthly meetings at their facility at 707 Alexander Road. As you can see from the photos below (and especially in the Photo Album), the conference room is perfectly sized for up to about 25 people, and when the attendance numbers more we can use a larger room in another area of the complex. Gerry and some of the guys provided coffee and lots of donuts, and everyone had a grand time.
It was an absolute pleasure sitting around a nice conference room table and discussing projects and technical topics without the hustle-and-bustle of the large, noisy food court that we'd been using for over eight years. The quiet, comfortable, clean and amiable atmosphere was such a treat! One of the greatest joys I personally have when attending NJQRP meetings is getting a chance to see others' projects and ask questions about all the things *they* are expert on ... that's what makes me smarter upon leaving than when I arrived. This new meeting venue offered that same opportunity for learning, but it was so much nicer than before because of the intimacy and opportunity for quality time with my radio buddies. A handful of us around the table each took a turn describing his project and/or a particular problem he was trying to work through. Some had an item for touchy-feely demonstration, while others got up and drew some pictures to describe their activities.
Jim also showed off his TiCK keyer and ["backwards"] non-iambic paddle from the American QRP Mfg Company. We gave him some tips on how to program the TiCK chip so as to not have too long a delay after playing the stored message.
Rob Bingham, W4ROB shared details of a very cool antenna that he's been having some great success with at his QTH in Norfolk, VA. He constructed a 42-foot tall wooden mast tower using numerous 2"x2" lengths of lumber secured in a well-considered design that provided non-overlapping end segments, no knots where structural strength was needed, and a tapered design that started with four 2x2 pieces at the base and progressively went to three, two and then a single 2x2 at the top. This weatherproofed mast was placed alongside a garden shed in the backyard and it supported one end of an Carolina Windom antenna (off-center fed dipole), as depicted in the diagram the he drew on the easel for us (see photo.)
Joe Everhart, N2CX described his antenna solution for a space-challenged backyard that also happens to be full of power lines. Joe constructed a fairly efficient 20m Half-Square antenna that enables him to radiate signal above-and-beyond the power lines strung in to his, and neighbors' houses. N2CX went on to describe a pet project he's been working on for some time: a minimalist-design and -power, remotely-controlled ATU at the base of his half-square. In fact, Joe had some electronics there at the meeting to demonstrate the controlling principle he has for the latching relays used in the design. Keep your eyes peeled for this project in a forthcoming Joe's Quickies installment in QRP Quarterly.
Lenny Wintfeld, W2BVH
told us about an interesting 2m yagi that he was installing ... through the
roof of his house! That's right, he bore a hole through his roof and
has a pretty strong galvanized pipe sticking up through it to hold up a 2m
beam. (Yes, he also have an effective weatherproofing boot to keep the
rain out of the house.) The pipe is secured in the attic "floor",
and at the moment I've forgotten how he intends to rotate the array;
although we chided him about how he could have the pipe go all the way down
to his operating shack in the basement and use an Armstrong method of
turning the antenna with an old Mustang steering wheel. Who knows, he
may try it out!
George Heron, N2APB showed an updated version of his SDR-908 transceiver project, which is an HC908 microcontroller-and-display console (called the DEV-908 project board, coming soon in kit form) that controls a SoftRock-20/40 quadrature sampling receiver. George also described how his lawnmower has a propensity for eating up the ground radials he has pinned to the ground by his Butternut antenna. Although he wanted a way to lay down chicken wire as a more effective ground plane that would provide better staying power against his Edward Scissorhands lawn mower, Joe and others derided him enough to consider just burying the dang wires with a nifty tool from the Home Despot.
Club Giveaways -- We had a couple of neat items for those members in attendance at the meeting. One was a simple little combination of a coin battery, superbright LED and a pair of magnets that hold the LED leads to the sides of the battery. This powered LED arrangement can be used for several weeks in the shack, on the fridge, or for fooling the night janitor who's chartered with turning off equipment in the lab at work. [Where *does* Joe get these ideas??] The other item was a bunch of cool, flashing multi-colored pens that AB2PD has found at the Dollar Store ... great for logging at night on Field Day, or for driving epileptics into a catatonic state.
2) New Generation of Meetings: Monthly <gasp> and Scheduled <gasp gasp>
As advertised in advance of this meeting, we had a special agenda item set up to discuss where the club currently "was" and where we wanted "to go". Given that we now have a new venue for the meetings, Joe and I wanted to take this opportunity to rejuvenate the club membership ... to generate greater enthusiasm in its activities, to help instill a greater sense of ownership in its functions, and generally bring us back to the regular 40-plus attendees we've had in years past. Admittedly, when Joe and I cannot regularly conduct the meetings because of our crazy work schedules, members naturally lose interest and/or have other family activities planned on the aperiodic meeting dates that we announce on relatively short notice.
So in order to counter this "diminishing results" path we are on, we proposed having a club brainstorming session over the course of three consecutive meetings, thinking that we would be able to get most members' opinions over this period and have some good suggestions come out of the process. This first meeting had some brilliant observations and we list them here in somewhat of a neutral itemization. But even so, we already are taking some of the recommendations to heart and proposing them as our new charter.
Okay, those were the main topics of our first brainstorming session. Please give some thought to these items, discuss them on the reflector, and/or bring some additional ones to the next meeting ... to be held on September 30th. Mark your calendars! (There hasn't been much opportunity to say that in the last couple of years, so let's get on the bandwagon and start attending :-)
73, George N2APB
& Joe N2CX
Gerry Jurrens (N2GJ), John Cawthorne (KE3S), Al Miner (WA1CZG), Richard Bitzer (WB2ZKW), Bryan Williams (AA3WM), Lenny Wintfeld (W2BVH), Denis Albisser (AB2PD), Jim Dicso (K2SZ), Rob Bingham (W4ROB), Bob Sturke (KC2GKG), Bryan Williams (AA3WM), Charles Lazarchak (W3DEA), Edwin Roswell (K2MGM), Joe Everhart (N2CX), and George Heron (N2APB).