St. Petersburg Amateur Radio Club


The next monthly SPARC club meeting is Friday June 5th, 2015 at 7:30 PM.

PROGRAM:  Field day preparation and DX Cluster operation. 

The next Executive Board meeting is Saturday May 30th, 2015 at 2:00 PM. All members are welcome.

SPARC meets at DMI Research at 6699 90th Avenue North in Pinellas Park. More details and a map are available on our meeting location page available here. Please use the REAR ENTRANCE next to the patio.

March 2015 Newsletter available

The latest newsletter from the SPARC newsletter editor, Veronika Trewin is now available. You can find the newsletter by clicking here. Please note due to the resolution of the images, this is a big file this month (11 MB). It will take a few moments to download. You may want to right-click on the link to download it to your computer if you intend to read it more than once.

SPARC is on Twitter!

If you want to stay up to date on the latest happenings on the SPARC website, follow @SPARC_W4GAC on Twitter. Whenever items are added here, the website instantly sends a Tweet from the @SPARC_W4GAC account. It’s an easy way to stay up to date. If you don’t know what Twitter it, ask your grandkids to help you out.:)

Buy Sell Net

Check out Mike K4ZPE’s Buy/Sell web site, and the weekly Buy/Sell Net on the SPARC Repeater at 6:45PM or after the SPARC Daily net.

NOTE: The list has been purged of old listings. If you had an item for sale, you may need to re-list it.

SPARC Field Day T-Shirts

are still available.SPARC FD T-Shirt

Size Cost
M, L, XL $12

440MHz Repeater to require CTCSS (PL) Tone

Due to the severe intermodulation problem experienced by our 440MHz repeater, the engineering team has determined we need to add a Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System (CTCSS) to the repeater input. CTCSS, also knows as a Private Line (PL) tone will prevent the repeater from re-transmitting signals that do not contain this tone.

Once activated, all radios desiring to access the SPARC 440MHz repeater MUST transmit a 146.2Hz tone to activate the repeater.

Repeater tone access will be added in the near future, so program your radios now to be ready for the change. The 2M and 220MHz repeaters will NOT require any tone for access. Please direct any questions to repeater trustee Ron, KP2N.

Noted DX’er and Ham Nation Host Visit SPARC

A few SPARC members has the pleasure of visiting with Jerry, WB9Z and Valerie NV9L over breakfast recently. Jerry has been on numerous DXpeditions, while his fiancée Valerie is a host on the ham radio webcast “Ham Nation.


L to R: Bob, N2ESP; Jerry, WB9Z and Valerie, NV9L

After a filling breakfast, we took our visitors on a tour of W4GAC. There we presented Jerry with a donation from SPARC for the K1N Navassa DXpedition. Jerry was one of the many operators that put this rare entity on the air.

The SPARC Logo appears on the K1N Sponsors page as seen below.

K1N $100

Field Day 2015

2015 ARRL Field Day Logo Field Day

The 2015 ARRL Field Day weekend is June 27-28, 2015.

“But, Tom, I’m a new ham and I have never heard of Field Day. What’s that?” I am so glad you asked. Field Day is an amateur radio exercise where we setup temporary antennas in a portable operation to test our ability to create functioning amateur radio stations without using established communication equipment (fixed antennas, stations, etc). This event combines an emergency preparedness exercise with a contest and a fun club outing to spend the weekend hamming.

Yes, it is still March but Field Day is only 16 weeks away.

I have been appointed the Field Day Chair for SPARC this year. First, I offer a heartfelt thanks to Dave Trewin, KR4U for chairing the effort for the club for the past 8 years. Second, as you may know, SPARC normally has its Field Day on the Bay Pines VA Campus. This year it was decided to use the club facility at DMI for Field Day. However, this will STILL be a Club portable effort (Class A). To accomplish this, we will not be using any existing stations or antennas. We will be operating with portable antennas, emergency power and NOT from the regular shack. The level of the effort however is entirely up to you, the membership.

The only way we can get any kind of serious Field Day event is to have the help of more people than we normally have. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we have to have more people than the steady core group in SPARC. That being said, I believe Field Day is a great experience for all to learn how to operate HF, VHF, Satellites, etc in less-than-optimal conditions with portable antennas. Think of what you would have to do if a real hurricane knocked out power for 2 weeks to the area. We want new hams to come out and learn to operate. Maybe you are new to HF, or want to learn more about contesting. If you have not been to a Field Day before, you owe it to yourself to do it this year.

My approach for organizing this is to appoint “Captains”. This concept is taken from DXPeditions in that the “captain” is the lead person to assemble a team of volunteers to help with their particular area. You do not need to be an absolute expert in your area. You just need to know what questions you need to ask, be willing to learn and most importantly, be able to manage a set of tasks to ensure everything is accomplished. Flexibility is encouraged to allow you to contact the folks working in your area as well as report any challenges or issues to the Field Day Chair. In this light, I need to appoint the following captains:

  • Radio Captain
  • Antenna Captain
  • Power Captain
  • Computers Captain
  • Bonus Points Captain
  • Health and Welfare Captain
  • Food Captain

The following is a brief description of each of these:

The Radio Captain is responsible for securing equipment for the club to operate during Field Day. This includes club equipment as well as whatever else is necessary depending upon the number of stations we will be using. You are expected to enlist a team and manage those tasks to ensure the radios are setup at Field Day. Your team is also responsible if there are any issues during the event—such as replacing fuses, or swapping out a bad radio (you need spares).

The Antenna Captain is responsible for obtaining a team to procure, assemble and install the antennas at the site. You and your team will work with the radio team to ensure the proper bands are available, minimize station interference, and in conjunction with the Health and Welfare team, ensure antennas are erected in a safe manner.

The Power Captain leads the team to secure generators, setup them up, bring gasoline to the site, and keep the power running during the whole 24 hours of Field Day.

The Computers Captain leads the team to install temporary computers for logging and station control. Your team will work with the Radio team to ensure the computers are interfaced to the radios. Your team will ensure the computers are available for the whole Field Day session. You also ensure the final logs are saved and made available to the Field Day chair to allow the final Field Day Submission as well as uploading to LOTW. If any problems arise with the computers during Field Day, someone will call for the Computers captain and your team springs to action to fix the issue.

The Bonus Points Captain leads a team for anything that involves Bonus points as defined by the Field Day rules. This includes publicity, NTS messages, Satellite station, VHF station, the W1AW message and the GOTA station. As with the others, you are NOT expected to do this by yourself. The activities in the Bonus Points team cover many disciplines. For example, it is your job to make sure we have someone to man the satellite station and make contacts. You are not expected to be the one doing the actual contacts. Of course, you are free to do anything you can, but you MUST recruit a team.

The Health and Welfare Captain leads a team to ensure the safety and well-being of all Field Day participants. In this very important role, you have to ensure that all activities are done with safety in mind. Antenna raising during Field Day can be dangerous if done improperly. If you or your team see extension cords or antenna supports in a dangerous place that could cause people to trip, you will work with the appropriate power or antenna team to ensure the site is safe. You also need to make sure someone is watching the members while working outside to ensure folks are getting enough water. You will also ensure we have first aid kits on site in case needed.

The Food Captain leads a team to ensure the Field Day crew is well-fed and watered. This includes ensuring the club coolers are filled with ice and drinks. It also means deciding what the club will do for the Saturday lunch and dinner. Int he past this has been sandwiches and Sonny’s BBQ, but maybe you want to have a potluck and fire up the grill. The direction we go is entirely up to you and your team.

These items are not set in stone. Certainly we may find some activity is better suited in another team. Working together, we will all ensure a safe and fun Field Day for the club while at the same time, not placing any undue burden upon any single member. As we do not have 500 people in our club, you may also have some team members that are also on other teams. Maybe one of the radio team is also a satellite operator. That is fine. As long as you can ensure the task is delegated and follow up on its complete and then report back to the Field Day chair if more intra-team coordinator is required.

As I mentioned earlier, the level of effort for our Field Day effort this year is in direct proportion to the amount of interest we have members helping out in whatever roles they can. Without a decent response, our Field Day effort could be a single CW transmitter connected to a single vertical antenna with a cable strung into the main meeting space of the DMI. This will be as big or small an effort as the members want.

Please consider if you would like to be a Team Captain. Each one of these can seem like a big task, but by enlisting a team and following up with your members, we ensure all the items are completed without overwhelming any one person. I would like to have a meeting of all the prospective captains by the end of March (one evening at DMI or by phone). With everyone’s collective effort, this can be a fun event filed with new challenges as it is from a new location.

Please contact Tom NY4I at 727-437-2771 or via email as soon as possible with your interest in any roles.

General Upgrade Class

On Saturday, March 14th, the long mentioned General One Day Workshop was held at the SPARC clubhouse. This workshop has been in the works for a few months. The following 4 students attended the class:

  • Ray Farmer, KM4GHB
  • Sean Favata, KM4SFF
  • Alfie Shary, KK4MYO
  • Terry Simms, KK4TNA

The 4 students started studying back in January as this was not a cram session. Starting at 8:30 Saturday morning, the students, led by Tom Schaefer, NY4I and his fellow instructors, Kyle N4NSS, and Bob, N2ESP, were well-prepared with all having previously passed online practice exams. The goal of this session was to cover the material to offer a real-world view of it. Rather than just reading about elements on a Yagi antenna, the students were able to review the actual antenna at the club station. While having lunch, the students were able to get a hands-on look at different RF connectors (N, UHF and SMA). Again, the book covers this but giving the students the ability to touch the parts helps cement the concept. Plus it gets them ready for using that they learned on the air.

Kyle, N4NSS demonstrated PSK31 with an eye towards the bandwidth of the signals comparing them to SSB signals. Bob, N2ESP found a DX station and let the students listen to the DX station working split. Similarly, Tom were able to show the students forward and reflected power at the station with a live transmitter rather than simply reading about it. The format of this class clearly worked as their instructor is proud to report that when the SPARC VE team came in at 6:00PM, all 4 students PASSED and are now the new holders of a General class license!

This was a fun class to do as it lets the club help future generations of hams get on HF and enjoy more of what this wonderful hobby has to offer. The goal was to make sure the students feel comfortable using their new privileges. How about you? What’s holding you back from upgrading?

Given enough interest, the club is certainly willing to start a session for the Extra class test. If anyone is interested, please contact Tom Schaefer, NY4I to be placed on a list for a potential weekend workshop. No promises, but if there is enough interest, a similar session could be arranged for the Extra exam.

Thanks to all the members that helped with this class. Special thanks goes to Larry, AL4B for merciless promoting the class on the SPARC net and the SPARC VE Team: Donn, N4KII; Richard, N4BUA; Dave, KR4U; Dee, N4GD and Ron KP2N.