Tag Archives: Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: #Rockin HAM Bio

Some time ago, myself and Layne, AE1N, thought it important and relevant to our club for its members to provide bios of ourselves. It’s useful to know where our collective interests lie and what our backgrounds are, so we can forge better connections with each other. In that spirit, I’ll pretend that someone asked me some questions and I’ll provide my response. And, like all bios, I suppose that it’ll be a cathartic release of what’s on my mind.

  1. How did you get involved in amateur radio? Totally by accident. I had a buddy (who got licensed as well) tell me he was driving through Salem, NH and saw a store called the HRO and asked if I wanted to check it out. After I walked in, I realized I was “in” about 50%. I went home, jumped online, and looked for local clubs. At the time the Nashua ARC site wasn’t exactly easy on the eyes, but I liked what I saw anyway so I attended my first meeting in Jan 2016 — project night. I felt like you guys were my people. I was “in” the remaining 50%. One year and change later, I earned an amateur extra license and am on the Board for the Nashua ARC. Not too shabby. I suppose you can say when I’m in, I’m all in.
  2. What’s your background and what other hobbies do you have? I suppose I identify as a physicist. At least that’s where all my training came from. Other young fellas growing up had posters of athletes, movie stars, and bikini models on their walls (full disclosure: I did have the model posters too), whereas I had Einstein, Feynman, and other physics giants. I read physics books and science lit whenever I could and nurtured the idea of being a professor of particle physics. I’ve been fortunate enough to at least get the particle/nuclear physics bit down. I’ve learned a lot of cool math and cool particle physics (like Quantum Chromodynamics, and some string theory), but that was a lifetime ago. Or so it feels like. When I’m actively not trying to figure out how to make a black hole swallow the Earth, I can be found in the kitchen or on the track. It’s true that I haven’t cooked as much in the past 2 years, but I have a TON of cooking equipment, and make a mean Chicken Tikka Masala.
  3. What are your goals in amateur radio? I don’t know if this is cliched or not, but I really enjoy building/improving my station and chasing DX. In fact I am VERY much looking forward to finishing my station this Spring (stupid impending Noreaster tomorrow). What I didn’t expect to find though was an opportunity to reignite my interest in teaching by being part of the club. I have been a part of teaching the license classes and am currently helping design a curriculum for the club’s HAB project with local area high school students. Lastly, I am trying to foster an ability in homebrewing electronics relevant to my shack. I’m looking forward to getting back to this after we launch the balloon.
  4. What do you like about being a member of NARC? Ok, this answer is certainly going to be cliched. It’s getting to build a rapport with the members and get the benefit of elmering from some incredibly talented and experienced people. Sometimes, I don’t always walk up to someone new at club meetings etc., because I’m not sure what to say. But if you can forgive any apparent awkwardness, I’d like to get to know you better. Camaraderie is an important aspect in the health of this club; it’s important (IMO) to nurture that.
  5. What should the Club’s priorities be in the next 12 months? At our March meeting, the Board outline the club’s goals for 2017. I won’t go through all of them again here. I will saw, however, that I believe it’s important to create a niche for as many diverse interests as we can. I’d like to have a “homebrewing” group, a “DXing” group, and other potential groups that I can’t ascribe a name to yet since I don’t have a sense of all the activities that you, our members, are interested in. I think it’s important that people find others within our club to gravitate towards with common interests. It’s another avenue for the club to organically grow and remain healthy.

That’s my brief not-so-impromptu bio. Please forgive the photo of me in the featured image. Not because I haven’t shaved in a dog’s age, but because I don’t want to come off egotistical. I simply want to let you know what I look like so you can say “Oh I’ve seen that funny looking guy around before.” Thanks for reading. Now it’s your turn. Tell me about yourself.

73,

Brian, AB1ZO

Member Spotlight: Frank Swiech, N1DGQ

Name:  Francis A. Swiech

Elected Club Offices: Former Vice President and Former Secretary of the Nashua Area Radio Club

Appointed Club Office: Currently a member of the Nashua Area Radio Club Audit Committee

Call Sign: N1DGQ (licensed 32 years, since November 1984)

License Class: Extra

Current Age: 72 (April, 2017 – first licensed at age 40)

How I Became Licensed:

I was always interested in ham radio. When I was in the seventh grade, I visited the Novice station of a ham radio operator about my age.  He had a Heathkit DX 40 transmitter and a Hallicrafters receiver.  He operated crystal controlled on 40 meters CW.  Since I did not know the International Morse code, his demonstration CW QSO did not mean too much to me.  I did, however, get to see some of the interesting QSL cards he had collected.  A few years later, when I was in high school, my parents bought me a Hallicrafters SX-99 receiver.  This gave me the opportunity to explore short-wave radio listening, log distant broadcast band AM radio stations, and listen to many ham radio QSOs.  At that time the sunspot cycle was at its peak, 10 meters was open, and many hams were still using AM.  The Hallicrafters SX-99 was not a single side band (SSB) receiver, but I could copy SSB signals by switching the radio to the CW mode and adjusting the beat frequency oscillator (BFO).

Many years went by, and I continued to enjoy listening to short-wave broadcasts, ham QSOs on the high frequency (HF) bands, distant AM broadcast band stations, and 2 meter repeaters on a scanner. However, I did not pursue getting a ham radio license because of the code requirement that existed at the time.  Sometime in 1983 or 1984, I attended a ham radio picnic, sponsored by John Fryer (WA1THH – Silent Key) and the Nightly Nut Net at Greeley Park in Nashua.  At that picnic I met two older women who were grandmothers and also ham radio operators.  Listening to them talk, it became evident to me that I was smarter than these grandmothers.  If they could learn the code and get a ham radio license, so could I.

In June of 1984, on a local repeater, I heard that the Nashua Area Radio Club (NARC) Field Day was being held at Sanders Corporation on Spit Brook Road, so I went to visit and inquire about becoming a ham. I met the NARC President, Bill Burden (WB1BRE), who advised me to buy an ARRL Tune in the World book with a 5 WPM code practice cassette tape, and to learn the code over the summer.  NARC, specifically Maurice Cote (K1HDO – Silent Key), would be giving a ham radio and code class in the fall.  It so happened, that Maurice knew me.  He was one of the Project Engineers who worked on a microwave switch Research and Development contract that I managed when I was in the Air Force, assigned to the Air Force Avionics Laboratory at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio.  Anyway, by the time the code class had begun, I had already learned to copy the code at a very basic level from the Tune in the World code practice tape.  Maurice invited me to his house to see his ham station and to give me some additional code practice.  He also put me in contact with the hams, who were giving one of the first Volunteer Exams at the ARRL New England Convention in Boxborough, MA that fall.  I made an appointment, and took the exam.  At that time walk-in candidates for the exam were not permitted.  After I had passed the 5 WPM code test, I was given the Novice written exam.  I explained that I did not want a Novice license, I wanted a Technician license and I needed the General written exam.  At that time there was no separate Technician written exam.  I was told that I had to first pass the Novice written exam before I could take the General written exam.  I had not understood this, and I had only glanced at the Novice test questions.  Fortunately, however, I passed both the Novice and the General written exams.  In November 1984 I received my N1DGQ call sign and Technician license in the mail.  With further code practice, mostly listening to a 13 WPM code tape and listening to the ARRL CW bulletins, I upgraded to Advanced and then to Extra in about three years.

Other Hams in Family: None

My Elmer: Dave Shaw (K1BXZ – Silent Key) was my CW Elmer.  He encouraged me to practice using the code and to upgrade my code speed.  He and I would have local CW practice QSOs on 15 meters, and sometimes on two meters FM using code oscillators.

How Often Do I Operate: Most every day

Bands I Operate: 2 meters, 220 MHz and 440 MHz FM, mostly repeaters.  I live in a condominium and I have antenna restrictions, which limit my ability to operate on the HF bands.

Types of Operation: Ragchew

My Station: Sparse

Do I Build Equipment: Very little, mostly J-pole, 2 meter antennas made from 300 ohm TV twin lead wire.

Other Ham Radio Activities:

Volunteer Examiner: I am a Volunteer Examiner with the ARRL and also W5YI.  I regularly assist in administering the Amateur Radio Exams in Nashua, NH and elsewhere as needed.

Former Database Manager and Member of the Staff of the New England Repeater Directory: I  gather information about New England amateur radio repeaters.  With inputs from others, I used to maintain and update the database for the New England Repeater Directory, until when a new daily automated update system was implemented.  Richard (W1RJC) maintains this Directory on his website, http://www.nerepeaters.com/ . This activity originally got started after I got a 220 MHz radio and jotted down a list of local 220 MHz repeaters on a single sheet of paper.  From there this list grew to a larger list of repeaters on various bands, maintained with a word processor using a Commodore 64 computer.  It has now become a web site of its own.

Has Ham Radio Influenced My Profession?: No.  I am retired from the Air Force and did not get licensed until near the end of my Air Force career.

Other Hobbies: I enjoy hiking local trails and small hills.  I walk very slowly, steadily and carefully, especially downhill.  I do not sleep outdoors overnight; I want to come home and sleep in my own bed.  I sometimes take a handheld radio and a spare battery with me when I go hiking, especially if I plan to climb a hill.  When I reach the top of the hill, I check the repeaters on the 2 meter, 220 MHz and 440 MHz bands to see which ones are actually on the air.  I use the information I gather to update the New England Repeater Directory.  But the most important thing I get from hiking is the exercise.

Frank, N1DGQ

Member Spotlight – Anita, AB1QB

 How did you become licensed?

My OM, Fred, AB1OC found out some time in 2010 that he could get a Ham Radio license without needing to pass a code test.  He took his test in December 2010 and got his Technician, General and Extra license in one exam session.  I have a background in Electrical Engineering so I picked up his books and thought it would not be hard to get my license as well.  In April 2011, I passed both my Tech and General exams and was licensed as a General.

QSL Card from FO/AB1OC and FO/AB1QB from Bora Bora

A few months later, Fred was invited to go on a trip to Bora Bora, French Polynesia.  I was studying about propagation for my Extra class and saw that this would be a great place to operate from as we were staying in bungalows out over the water.    I suggested that we take a radio along on the trip.  Before long we had a whole portable station with an IC-7000, Buddipoles, a Signalink for digital, antenna tuners, the whole works.  I was responsible for getting our operating licenses for French Polynesia.  I learned that in order to operate, we needed to both have Extra licenses.  That was my incentive to get my Extra, which I got in December 2011, just in time for our trip in February 2012.

Member Spotlight - AB1QB in 2014 JARTS RTTY Contest
AB1QB in 2014 JARTS RTTY Contest
What do you like to do most with Ham Radio?

My favorite Ham Radio activities are DXing and RTTY Contesting.   I have earned a DXCC Challenge and have confirmed 290  DX entities and I have earned certificates in the ARRL RTTY Roundup as #1 in New Hampshire, and the BARTG HF RTTY contest, where I placed in the top 5 in my category.  I have also earned the JARL Century Cities award for contacting 100 Cities in Japan.  I am just one contact short of my 5 Band WAS, looking for that last contact with Alaska on 80 meters.

My pursuit of new DX entities led me to create my current hobby project, the DX Alarm Clock, a Raspberry Pi based software program that I can customize to notify me when those needed entities are spotted on the air.

Member Spotlight - AB1QB logging for AB1OC/M during the NPOTA activation
AB1QB logging for AB1OC/M during the NPOTA activation.

I also like that Ham Radio involves such a diverse set of activities.  I have been a tower climbing ground crew,  helped to build (and rebuild) a SteppIR DB36 Yagi, was a driver and member of the Hollis site management team for WRTC 2014.  I have also operated as W1AW/1 during the ARRL Centennial and as K2K in the 13 Colonies Special Event. and operated from a mobile station in our F150 from several National Parks.

What is your background?

My educational background is in Electrical Engineering and most of my technical experience is in Software Development and Program Management.  I am currently a Program Manager at Verizon managing projects related to a cloud platform.

Nashua Area Radio Club License Training Class
Nashua Area Radio Club License Training Class
What do you like to do with the Club?

I am currently the Activities Chairperson for the club.  I have organized several contesting activities at our home QTH to help other club members to become involved with contesting.   These include the ARRL Rookie Roundups, including the latest one where the multi-op N1FD entry achieved the highest score in the contest.  We also hosted a multi-single entry for CQ WW SSB, where we helped the club get a DXCC in a weekend.  I am also an instructor for our Ham Radio license classes, where I teach digital modes and propagation.  I also use my project management skills to manage all of the logistics for the classes including the VE sessions.  It is a great feeling to be able to help people get their licenses.

Anita, AB1QB

Member Spotlight – Fred, AB1OC

What is your background?

I am a Purdue University graduate (MSEE) and I spent most of my working life at AT&T Bell Laboratories/Lucent where I worked on Wireless Systems, Broadband Access, Data Networking and VoIP products in a variety of engineering and business management roles. I also served as the Chief Technology Officer for a  mid-sized VoIP and Wireless company in Dallas, TX for about 7 years.

When did you become licensed and build your first station?

I have wanted to be involved in Amateur Radio since I was about 8 years old. Growing up in a rural area of Pennsylvania, I did not have anyone who could really help me to learn code and become licensed. School, work, and other things took up most of my attention until late in 2010 when I looked seriously at Amateur Radio again and decided to earn my license.

AB1OC/AB1QB Shack
AB1OC/AB1QB Shack

Anita, AB1QB and I built our home station in 2012. The project included a 100 ft tower which covers all of the bands from 160m through 70cm and a dedicated shack which is set up for multi-one contesting and DXing. We added a satellite ground station and equipment for EME late in 2012.

Our Mobile HF Station
Our Mobile HF Station

In 2015, we built our Mobile HF station. I enjoy working DX, running counties and doing special events like National Parks on the Air using Mobile HF. I am QRV on all bands from 160m through 10m in the mobile. We also have 2m/70cm FM setups in both of our vehicles.

What do you like to do most with Amateur Radio?

I really enjoy station and antenna building. I also enjoy Field Day, Contesting, Space Communications and Mobile HF.

Tuning the 6M Yagi
Tuning a 6M Yagi

I enjoy helping others to learn about and have fun with Amateur Radio. Finally, I am the NH State Manager for the Thirteen Colonies Special Event and I have a lot of fun every year operating during the Thirteen Colonies Special Event.

Presentation at the Dayton Contest Forum

I also enjoy speaking about Amateur Radio station building and related topics at Hamvention and club meetings. I have had the opportunity to speak on these topics on many occasions including at our and other clubs meetings, and at  Boxboro, Dayton and the ARRL 100th Anniversary Hamvention.

I write also write a Blog about Amateur Radio Station Building and related topics. This is a great way to encourage and help others to do Amateur Radio projects similar to the one that we have enjoyed.

Satellite Station Antennas
Satellite Station Antennas

Recent projects include portable HF and Satellite stations which we built to share at club events, license class, and GOTA opportunities. I am also working on learning CW.

AB1OC Operating In CW WPX SSB
AB1OC Operating In CQ WPX SSB

I have been fortunate to do a lot of operating in the 5 1/2 years since becoming licensed.

What are some of your most memorable experiences in connection with Amateur Radio?

Early in 2012, my company provided a trip to Bora Bora Island in French Polynesia. Anita suggested that we take a radio and portable antenna on the trip and do a holiday style DXpedition.

QSL Card from FO/AB1OC and FO/AB1QB from Bora Bora

We had almost no SSB phone experience prior to this trip. The response (and the pile-ups) were amazing on Bora Bora and I was able to earn a Worked All States from French Polynesia in just 5 days of operating from there. I came home totally hooked on running pile-ups and operating SSB phone in contests and during special events.

I was one of the W1AW/1 operators for the ARRL 100 Centennial Special event and had a ball operating during both periods when NH was on the air as W1AW/1.

My most memorable contact ever was working Japan for the first time on 75m SSB phone from my truck using Mobile HF.

75m SSB Contact to Japan via Mobile HF
75m SSB Contact to Japan via Mobile HF

All involved in this contact were very surprised that such a short antenna (I use a screwdriver antenna with a 4 ft rod and a cap hat) could be used to make such a contact.

Abby, KC1FFX earns her Extra Class License
Abby, KC1FFX earns her Extra Class License

The experiences that mean the most to me are those involving our work to bring young people and new Amateurs into our hobby. Being able to make a difference for people and aid them to learn means a great deal to me.

What do you like to do with the Club?

I really enjoy participating in and contributing to our Tech Night programs. It’s great to be in a position to learn about the many aspects of Amateur Radio and to help others to do the same. We have a tremendous knowledge base among our club members and our Tech Night program provides a way for us to share everyone’s knowledge and experience for the benefit of the entire club.

40m V-Beam 3
40m V-Beam at Field Day 2016

I also really enjoy our yearly Field Day. It ‘s a lot of fun to plan, build and operate a multi-multi station with as many transmitters and towers as we typically put up for our club’s Field Day operation.

Bishop-Guertin High School HAB Project Students
Bishop-Guertin High School HAB Project Students

Our club’s High Altitude Balloon Project has been a lot of fun. It was fun to be part of delivering the STEM classroom program associated with this project.

Teaching Amateur Radio Licence Classes

FInally, I really enjoy contributing to the license classes that our club offers. There is nothing that I find more rewarding than to help someone new into Amateur Radio or to help an Amateur earn a license upgrade so they can expand their participation in Amateur Radio.

Fred, AB1OC