2022 ARDC Annual Report now available

The 2022 ARDC Annual Report is now available. As you’ll see when you read the report, we accomplished quite a bit last year, including: 

  • Approving 101 grants! Last year, we approved over $6 million in grants and distributed about $8 million for projects big and small.
  • Completing our 44Net assessment. We conducted a survey of 44Net usage that garnered more than 1,700 responses – WAY more than we thought!
  • Hiring a new technical director. In October 2022, Jon Kemper KA6NVY, joined ARDC as technical director. John has decades of engineering management experience and is already helping us get our systems in order.

You can also find a financial summary in the report, which you can download here.  Contact us if you have any comments or questions.

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ARDC Welcomes New GAC and TAC Members

Some of the most important people in the ARDC organization are the volunteers serving on the Grants Advisory Committee (GAC) and Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). The GAC reviews and advises the ARDC Board of Directors on eligible proposals and helps identify potential grant-making opportunities, while the TAC advises the board and staff on 44Net technology, architecture, and policy.

Volunteers commit to serve for at least a year, and may serve up to a maximum of three years. The terms start in January and run through December, and every year we say goodbye to some volunteers and welcome new ones.

The volunteers leaving the GAC this year are:

  • Hank Magnuski, KA6M
  • Steve Stroh, N8GNJ
  • Randy Neals, W3RWN
  • Dave Pascoe, KM3T

We are grateful for all they have done for us and hope that they will  remain part of our extended family.

Only one volunteer, Tim Požár, KC6GNJ, is leaving the TAC, but he is still an important part of the team. As a contractor, he is helping us with our IT and advising us on 44Net issues.

Here are the volunteers joining the GAC this year:

Katie Allen, WY7YL. Katie has worked in government, as well as in management for nonprofit and for-profit organizations her entire career. Her life changed when she joined the ARRL as membership manager in 2006 and she fell in love with amateur radio. Ever since, she has been involved professionally and personally in the hobby.

Judi Clark, KK6ZCU. Judi was first licensed in 2015 and became an active member of her first amateur radio club shortly thereafter. She is enthusiastic about emergency communications and community preparedness.Creating new scenarios, exercises and events is her superpower.

Dennis Derickson, AC0P. Dennis is a Professor of Electrical Engineering at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly). He was first licensed in 1975 and is now an Amateur Extra Class licensee. Dr. Derickson helps students obtain their amateur radio license to enhance their learning experience at Cal Poly.

Jim Idelson, K1IR. Jim has been involved in amateur radio since 1971, and he credits the hobby with helping him achieve a productive and fulfilling career in technology and business. He is an active contributor to the amateur radio community through his involvement in public service events, as an author, and through the Zero Falls Alliance – an initiative he created to focus on tower safety in amateur radio. Jim has also served as a volunteer with local, regional and national organizations. Other amateur radio activities include contesting, DXing, and experimentation.

Kristin Paget, KJ6GCG. Kristin is a computer security researcher who specializes in hardware hacking. She has over 20 years of experience at companies such as Intel, Apple, Tesla, and Google, designing and breaching security systems for self-driving cars, cellphones, building access systems, and much more. It’s likely that you have at least one device within reach that she has helped secure.

William Thomas,WT0DX. Bill was first licensed in 1968, and currently holds an Amateur Extra Class license. He spent 40 years working in cable TV, consumer electronics and media research as an engineer and manager. Currently, he spends his time building remote stations, operating in contests, chasing grids and DXing on 6 meters, and presenting talks at various ham clubs.

Randy Wilkinson, W4LKS. Randy is a semi-retired Registered Professional Engineer with 40 years of experience in energy engineering for commercial buildings. He lives in Spokane, Washington, and is an officer of the Washington Digital Radio Enthusiasts ARC and part owner of multiple D-STAR repeaters in the Spokane Area. He also likes riding motorcycles, working on old cars, and programming microcontrollers using Python.

They are joining current GAC members Bob Witte, K0NR (Committee Chair); John Hays, K7VE (Staff Lead); Dewayne Hendricks, WA8DZP; Douglas Kingston, KD7DK; Brian Mileshosky, N5ZGT; Leandro Soares Indrusiak, G5LSI; and Don Prosnitz, N6PRZ.

The volunteers joining the TAC include:​

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Dave Gingrich, K9DC. Dave was first licensed in 1965 at the age of twelve and earned his Amateur Extra Class licensee in 1975. It was his involvement with packet radio in the 1980s that motivated him to become a network engineer, where he used his skills to select products and services to meet specific customer needs. He owns and operates three repeaters in the Indianapolis area that are connected to the IRLP network. He is a former address coordinator for Indiana (44.48/16), and currently manages the 44Net allocation for IRLP mostly for VPN access and parts of the IRLP infrastructure. Dave is a Life Member of ARRL, and the Indianapolis Radio Club.

Rich Gopstein, KD2CQ. Rich has been a ham since 1981, and is currently a volunteer with the AMSAT engineering team working on the GOLF satellite. He is retired from a career in corporate IT and information security. He ran the networking teams for the RCA Solid State division and Bristol-Myers Squibb and managed the cloud computing group at BMS.

 

Randy Neals, VE3RWN / W3RWN. Randy holds both a U.S. Amateur Extra Class license (W3RWN), a Canadian Advanced license (VE3RWN). He is a senior network engineer/architect and has extensive experience with transmission and switching technologies including fiber, DWDM, microwave, land mobile radio systems, TCP/IP routed networks and VoIP. Randy is active on HF (operates 80-meter and 40-meter phone), VHF (helps maintain repeater systems in Seattle, WA and Peterborough, ON), and microwave (participates in 10 GHz and 24 GHz microwave contests).

Alvaro Prieto, KC2VVE. Alvaro is a firmware and electrical engineer currently working on marine sensing products. He enjoys working on open source hardware projects as well as cheese making in his free time.

Ian Redden, VA3IAN. Ian has been a ham since the early 1990s when he and his father started experimenting with packet radio. He went to Sir Sandford Fleming College and earned an Advanced Diploma in Computer Security and Investigations (CSI). He has spent his career chasing cyber-security fires as a consultant, incident responder, and digital forensics investigator. He is currently working at Cisco as a Director in Engineering developing third-party integrations. Ian spends his spare time tinkering with Fusion 360, KiCad, Arduino, Python, and 3D printing various project enclosures. He has spoken to numerous computer security conferences and is a member of the local hackspace and amateur radio club.

They are joining current TAC members Pierre Martel, VE2PF (Interim Committee Chair); Jon Kemper, KA6NVY (Staff Lead); Adam Lewis, KC7GDY; Zachary Seguin, VA3ZTS; Rob Janssen, PE1CHL; and Chip Eckardt, W9OQI.

“It’s always exciting to bring on new members to these committees,” says ARDC Executive Director Rosy Schechter, KJ7RYV. “This year I’m delighted to see more women and a variety of technical skills brought to the table. I’m looking very forward to seeing what these committees do in 2023.”

We’re happy to welcome this great group of volunteers to ARDC. To see the full list of our 2023 volunteer teams, visit the Who We Are page. If you’d like to meet these volunteers, please sign up for our Jan. 21 Community Meeting.

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Building Infrastructure in the Rocky Mountains and the San Francisco Bay Area

One of the ways that ARDC supports and promotes amateur radio is by helping groups build amateur radio infrastructure. Here are two examples. The first is high up in the Rocky Mountains. Here, Rocky Mountain Ham Radio is building a 5 GHz network that, when complete, will span three states. The second is in the Bay Area, where Bay Area Mesh is building a resilient, high-speed wireless network for use by responders, volunteers, and served agencies during disasters, emergencies, and large community events.

Linking Repeaters Across Three States

For more than ten years, Rocky Mount Ham Radio (RMHAM), a 501(c)3 nonprofit, has been building a microwave network that allows RMHAM and partnering amateur radio clubs to link their repeaters to other repeaters using the network. Using DMR technology, organizations in Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico use the network to provide voice communications throughout the region. The network infrastructure gives them coverage that would otherwise be difficult or prohibitively expensive to achieve.

The network operates in the 5 GHz amateur radio band, and is managed and monitored 24/7/365 by a dedicated network operations team. Using Mikrotik NetMetal 5 radios, the network provides 50-100+ Mbits/s of bandwidth and currently links 40 repeaters. Over the years, the network has been used to provide backup emergency communications during Colorado’s wildfire season and to provide communications for public-service events, including popular bike tours in the Rocky Mountains.

RMHAM Network

The RMHAM network primarily covers this portion of Colorado. With an ARDC grant, the group plans to extend the network east and west, and north to the Wyoming border and south to Albuquerque and beyond.


With only a few exceptions, the RMHAM network is independent of the internet. If the Internet is down, the network will remain fully functional. It may use internet connections if one of the links becomes inoperable, but only until the problem is resolved.

A $374,000 ARDC grant is allowing RMHAM to expand this network (see map)  and provide service to more outlying areas. In Colorado, for example, RMHAM will use this grant to install 23 new microwave sites and 20 new point-to-point spans to expand IP connectivity and repeater coverage across the western slope of Colorado and along the I-70 and I-76 corridors in the eastern part of the state. In New Mexico, RMHAM will add 16 new microwave sites and 15 new point-to-point spans to expand IP connectivity and repeater coverage south from Albuquerque to El Paso, Texas; along US Highway 550 to Durango, Colorado; and across the Rio Grande Valley to Alamogordo, New Mexico. They will also expand RMHAM digital repeater coverage across New Mexico through the addition of seven repeaters located at the new microwave sites.

Work is already underway on this network expansion, significant progress has already been made. According to Wayne Heinen, N0POH – RMHAM treasurer – DMR repeaters have been recently installed at the Burlington, CO, and Limon, CO, sites, and network equipment has already been installed at the Strasburg, CO; Limon, CO; and Critchell, CO sites. Heinen expects that this work will continue through 2024.

In addition to expanding their network, RMHAM will also use this grant to repair and upgrade their Colorado communications trailer. This trailer has been instrumental in serving public service and emergency communication needs for the past 11 years, but now needs some work. In addition to replacing the rear axle, RMHAM will upgrade the trailer’s microwave network radios, replace the battery backup system and refurbish the trailer’s  interior and lighting.

To complement the Colorado trailer, RMHAM plans to build a 16-ft. trailer, with similar RF (HF to UHF) and microwave IP capabilities, for members in New Mexico. Like its Colorado counterpart, the trailer will support amateur radio organizations, public service events, and SAR/ARES groups.

A Mesh Network Driven by People, Not Equipment

Bay Area MeshWikipedia defines a mesh network as a “network topology in which the infrastructure nodes (i.e. bridges, switches, and other infrastructure devices) connect directly, dynamically and non-hierarchically to as many other nodes as possible and cooperate with one another to efficiently route data to and from clients.” While this is technically true, the Bay Area Mesh (BAM)—previously known as San Francisco Wireless Emergency Mesh (SFWEM)—is more than just a collection of electronic gear. Its real strength is the group of volunteers who are installing and maintaining this gear, thereby bringing the network to life.

BAM’s goal is “to install a resilient, high speed, wireless network throughout San Francisco and the greater Bay Area for use during disasters, emergencies, and large community events by responders, volunteers, and served agencies.” They’re building this network using inexpensive, commercial-grade WiFi equipment running open-source software developed by the Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN). Using AREDN software allows BAM volunteers to set up a node with minimal expertise and effort, and because the software configures the network automatically, advanced network technology is not needed.

BAM Network

The BAM network uses AREDN technology to provide emergency communications to served agencies throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

BAM got its start when hams began experimenting with AREDN mesh networks in 2016. The communications challenges brought about by the 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons emphasized the need for better emergency communications in the Bay Area. Existing communication networks were overloaded or entirely knocked offline – often for weeks – isolating communities, hampering incident response, and delaying recovery.

These events prompted Greg Albrecht, W2GMD; Isaac Bentley, N6BF; and Kiley Davidson, KD8DRX, to start the San Francisco Wireless Emergency Network project. They spent their own money to get the project off the ground. Now, they have hundreds of ham volunteers and many served agencies, such as the City and County of San Francisco, Alameda County Sheriff, and the San Mateo County Sheriff working with them to expand the network. They incorporated San Francisco Wireless Emergency Mesh, Inc. as a 501(c)3 non-profit in 2020. They were awarded a $100,000 ARDC grant in November 2020 to expand the network

BAM is taking a bottom-up approach to expansion. What this means is that they’re using the grant to encourage volunteers within a particular region to set up a network in that region and then finding a way to connect that network to the entire Bay Area network. For areas that already have a network, the grant will allow them to update their network, improving its resilience and reliability.

Training is a big part of the BAM project. For example, BAM has participated in exercises with the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC) to provide internet service to CalFire firefighting camps. These are real-life scenarios in which the volunteers used their skills gained deploying high-speed wireless networks to provide vital services. BAM is also working with UC Berkeley students to develop mesh-linked radio direction finding techniques.

Even though expansion is ongoing, the current network allows served agencies access to services such as email, instant messaging, VoIP telephony, and live video streams. These services can be used in places where internet access is no longer in service. Recent examples include:

  • Live video feeds along the Kaiser Half Marathon route, allowing event planners and public safety officials to track the runners’ progress, crowd density, and potential security threats in real-time.
  • Backup network and telephony services to an overflow emergency operations center (EOC) during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a data link to the primary EOC.
  • An emergency phone link for staff at a remote observatory monitoring a wildfire during a public safety power shutoff that cut power to cell phone towers in that area..

The Covid pandemic has definitely put a crimp in their expansion plans, but BAM is forging ahead nonetheless. Their current goal is to be able to cover the entire San Francisco Bay Area by the end of 2023. “Our goal is not only to build out the network,” noted Bentley, “but to build a self-sustaining community that welcomes everyone to participate. The ARDC grant has certainly helped us do that.”

Do you have an idea for a project that will improve amateur radio infrastructure? If so, get in touch with us to see how you can qualify for an ARDC grant.

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Bob McGwier, N4HY, Resigning from ARDC Board

Bob McGwire, N4HYAfter serving ARDC for two years, Bob McGwier, N4HY, is resigning from the ARDC Board of Directors on December 31, 2022. 

Though he is departing our organization as a director, we don’t imagine that Bob will be a stranger to ARDC. Bob will continue to be involved in amateur radio, with plans to work with Dr. Jonathan Black of Virginia Tech’s Hume Center Aerospace and Ocean Systems Lab on the design and construction of a geostationary satellite payload. The design work will take place on the Virginia Tech campus and will rely heavily on amateur radio groups, such as Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI). One of the goals of this project will be to protect the 5 and 10 GHz amateur radio bands and prevent them from being allocated to other services. Such a project will take a great deal of his time and attention. In addition, Bob wants to avoid any potential concern about conflict of interest should this project eventually request funding from ARDC.

Bob noted, “I love amateur radio, and I want to do all I can to make it better. It has been my pleasure to serve many communities in amateur radio and communications technology over the years, and I am going to continue to do so, just in a different capacity.”

Phil Karn, KA9Q, ARDC board president said, “I’ve known Bob for 40 years. He brought invaluable experience to the ARDC board, and I’m really sorry to see him go. I know, however, that he’s going to continue to do great things for amateur radio.”

Everyone at ARDC wishes Bob the best on his next endeavors.

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ARDC helps ham radio prepare for “the big one”

Emergency and public service communications is one of the reasons that amateur radio exists. While recent advances–such as satellite communications and trunked communications systems–have perhaps diminished the importance of amateur radio in emergency communications, amateur radio still has a critical role to play.

Below are two examples of how ARDC grantees are meeting the challenge of emergency communications today. By working with existing community groups and adopting new digital technology, they are helping their communities prepare for future disasters.

Preparing for “the big one” in Tillamook County, Oregon

In December 2007, a series of three powerful storms, dubbed the Great Coastal Gale of 2007, hit the Pacific Northwest, prompting residents of Tillamook County, Oregon, to form the Emergency Volunteer Corps of Nehalem Bay (EVCNB). EVCNB is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building personal, community and regional resilience. Since their founding, the group has been promoting what they call a “culture of preparedness.”

According to Margarte Steele, president of EVCNB, one of the events they are preparing for is an earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a 600-mile fault that runs from northern California up to British Columbia and is anywhere from 70 to 100 miles offshore. The last earthquake that occurred along this fault was on January 26, 1700, and scientists estimate that this earthquake would have measured 9.0 on the Richter Scale. “An earthquake of this size, and the tsunami that it would create, would be devastating now,” said Steele, “If we can be ready for a Cascadia earthquake, we can be ready for anything.”

A big part of EVCNB’s culture of preparedness is amateur radio. According to Steele, the ability to communicate is critical. This includes communication with neighbors, between neighborhoods, and between the neighborhoods and the local Emergency Operations
Center (EOC). Accordingly, EVCNB has an extensive emergency communication plan that includes both GMRS and amateur radio systems.

In August 2021, EVCNB  submitted a proposal for a project that would improve the amateur radio emergency communications infrastructure in Tillamook County. The proposal included funds for a new UHF repeater on Neahkahnie Mountain and solar-powered, digital go-boxes to be distributed within Tillamook County.

Neahkahnie Mountain is the highest peak along the North Oregon Coast. Locating the UHF repeater there allows ECVNB to communicate more reliably throughout Tillamook County, as well as link to a VHF repeater in Clatsop County to the north. Fortunately, the site had space available for the ECVNB repeater in one of two existing buildings that were already housing public service repeaters, television and radio translators, and microwave links.

The site does not support solar or wind power, so ECVNB installed a battery system to provide power during an emergency. The batteries are kept charged from the commercial power lines and have sufficient capacity to keep the repeater running until backup generators begin supplying power.

In addition to installing the repeater, ECVNB used the grant to build additional solar-powered portable stations, sometimes known as go-boxes. They already had five go-boxes, but they needed more to support all of the neighborhoods that might be cut off in the case of a tsunami.


Margaret Steele, KG7RQZ, and Bruce Maxwell, N5GB, demonstrate
one of ECVNB’s solar-powered go-boxes.

The go-boxes include a 25W VHF/UHF transceiver, an antenna, two 20-Ahr LiFePO4 batteries,  a terminal node controller (TNC), and a 100 W solar panel capable of charging the batteries. With the addition of a Windows laptop, these portable stations are capable of sending and receiving messages via WinLink, in addition to providing voice communications.

They had originally planned to build ten more VHF/UHF go-boxes, but they soon realized that they also needed HF capabilities for longer-range communications. So, instead of building ten additional VHF/UHF go boxes, they plan to build several HF go-boxes.

“We are beyond grateful for ARDC’s support,” Steele said. According to Steele, the new repeater and the go boxes have really enhanced their communications capabilities and their emergency preparedness, and they are continuing to work on improving both. For example, they recently held a Technician class, which resulted in a dozen people getting their licenses.

Walnut Creek hams upgrade to digital

In northern California, they are also preparing for the big one. There, the Walnut Creek, California Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), in partnership with the Walnut Creek SHAMS Amateur Radio Club (SHAMS ARC), already had an extensive, amateur radio-based, analog (voice) emergency communication system in place. According to Don Prosnitz, N6PRZ, SHAMS ARC president, however, they saw the need to upgrade to digital communications. A digital system, he noted, would allow them to transmit digital information in a variety of formats and would provide more immediate and complete information to the city’s emergency responders.

An ARDC grant of $23,220 to Walnut Creek CERT allowed the club to develop and deploy the system, which includes eight VHF digital amateur radio stations all with back-up emergency power. These stations allow CERT members in the community to stay in touch with city officials by sending and receiving messages using WinLink.

It’s WinLink with a twist, though. Most WinLink systems connect to a remote message server (RMS), which then routes email and other messages to the internet. As shown below, the Walnut Creek system uses an RMS that connects only to other systems in the Walnut Creek network. This configuration eliminates the need for an internet connection, which may not be available during some emergency situations. It also improves the privacy of the traffic, reduces noise in the network, and reduces the traffic load on the public Winlink network.

Unlike most WinLink systems that connect to a remote message server (RMS), the Walnut Creek system uses an RMS that connects only to other systems in the Walnut Creek network.

The equipment itself is relatively simple. The RMS and each client system consist of a small Windows computer, VHF radio, external sound card, antenna and power source. Client systems are equipped with laptops, while the RMS system is normally run without a keyboard and monitor. The systems have been designed to run on 12V DC power, so that they can run on battery power, solar power, or mains power.

Of course, none of this works without trained operators. To ensure that enough CERT members are properly trained, the SHAMS ARC teaches several Technician Class courses every year, as well as classes that give these new Techs some real on-air experience. As a result of this training, according to Margaret Campos, AJ6LP, Walnut Creek CERT Program manager, nearly half of the CERT’s 280 volunteers have amateur radio licenses.

Training on the new digital radio equipment and using WinLink is an important part of this project, too. They initially underestimated the amount of training that would be necessary. To address this issue, they plan to purchase a loaner system for volunteers who wish to improve their Winlink skills.

To prove out the system, the Walnut Creek CERT participated in the Great ShakeOut on October 20, 2022, an annual earthquake preparedness drill held annually on the third Thursday of October. In Walnut Creek, 45 licensed amateurs participated, using the new digital emergency communication system.

The 2022 ShakeOut was a great success. Hams at the Walnut Creek City Hall and seven of eight remote stations were successful in exchanging Winlink messages during the exercise. After the exercise, they discovered that the eighth had a defective antenna system. As a result, the CERT created a maintenance team and set up a maintenance schedule to ensure the operability of all the stations.

The group’s success has not gone unnoticed. Following the ShakeOut and a Winlink demonstration for Walnut Creek City departments, the group was asked to provide amateur radio license training for city employees. The police department, the fire department, and the public works department are all interested in the training.

In addition, the group’s technical team, headed by John Trinterud, K9ONR, has given multiple briefings on their implementation of Winlink to amateur radio clubs both inside and outside of California. They have also given Winlink briefings to officials from Alameda County and the state of California and assisted in setting up four new VHF Winlink gateways in and around Walnut Creek.

This project, which started out as a way to keep club members engaged during the pandemic, has really blossomed into something special. The hams involved have developed a unique WinLink application that has not only improved emergency communications in Walnut Creek, but has the potential to do so elsewhere as well. In addition, the project has attracted the attention of served agencies (such as the public works department) in Walnut Creek, Alameda County, and the state of California.

Do you have an idea for a project that uses new technology to improve emergency communications? If so, get in touch with us to see how you can qualify for an ARDC grant..

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ARDC grantees are developing the next generation of amateur radio leaders

A question that you often hear at amateur radio events is, “Where are all the kids?” Indeed, it sometimes seems that young people are nowhere to be found. Though you may not see many kids at traditional amateur radio events, such as hamfests and club meetings, they are out there. Below, you’ll see how two organizations – with ARDC’s help – are working to get kids involved in the hobby and helping them become tomorrow’s leaders.

YOTA Camp builds skills, fosters friendships

Youth on the Air (YOTA) is a program for and by young amateur radio operators in the Americas. Modeled after the Youngsters on the Air program in IARU Region 1 (Europe, Africa & Middle East), the goal of the program is to build skills, foster lasting friendships, and connect mentors with younger hams.

YOTA Camp is one of the program’s key events. Aided by a $35,500 ARDC grant, the 2022 camp was held June 12 – 17, 2022 at the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting in West Chester Township, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati. 9 girls and 12 boys attended the camp and participated in a number of activities, including an in-depth tour of the museum, fox hunting, a high-altitude balloon launch, HF operation, satellite operation, and kit building.

I spoke with several of this year’s attendees, including Abby, KK7CFJ; Katie, KE8LQR; and Kyle, KE0ZNV; and they all said that they had a great time. Lyle described his experience as “astronomically awesome.” Katie said it was “too short.” Abby said, “All of the experiences were great, but meeting others was the best part.”

At YOTA Camp 2022, attendees built attenuator kits, which they later used in the fox hunt. Photo: Sterling Mann, N0SSC.

Abby’s favorite activities were fox hunting and kit building. The fox hunt was more than just finding the hidden transmitter, though. To help them find the fox, the campers built an offset attenuator. By building the attenuator and then participating in the fox hunt, Abby said she was able to better understand how the whole process worked, and she got a real kick out of using equipment that she built herself.

Katie’s favorite activity was the high-altitude balloon launch. The balloon’s payload included an APRS beacon, a video camera, a voice beacon, and even an insect, for a study of how high altitude affects insects. The campers also launched a smaller balloon with a WSPR beacon.

Lyle enjoyed operating HF at the camp. He noted that at least three of the campers made their first HF contact at the camp. He also said that he’s made it his mission to get more youth on HF and maybe into contesting.

Some YOTA Camp 2022 attendees made their first HF contacts at this year’s camp. Pictured here are Adam Johnson, KD9KIS; Veronica Romanek, KD2UHN; and Marissa Collier, KE8SSG.

Katie enjoyed the balloon launch so much that she’s working on a balloon launch for her high school amateur radio club in Columbiana, OH. She’s currently the club president, and in addition to the balloon launch, she’s working on getting more women into amateur radio.

Abby is also trying to get more kids into ham radio so that she can share all the fun she’s having with the hobby. In addition to her recruiting efforts, Abby wants to learn CW.

As you can see, not only is the YOTA camp teaching campers technical skills, but leadership skills as well. The 2023 YOTA Camp will take place on July 16-21, 2023, at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  A team from the Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) will serve as the local host for this event. To be eligible to attend the camp, you have to be a licensed radio amateur between the ages 15 and 25. For more information, check out the 2023 Camp web page.

4H is about more than raising livestock

When you think of the 4H club, you undoubtedly think of raising goats and pigs, but the Fauquier County (VA) 4H Club is about more than that. Their programs—including their amateur radio club—engage youth in a variety of experiential learning opportunities and community service activities. By serving in leadership roles, the club’s members learn both leadership skills and life skills.

The Fauquier 4-H Ham Radio Club provides members, ages 9 to 18, opportunities to explore science, technology, engineering, art, and math through amateur radio communications and electronics projects. An amateur radio license is not required to join, but the club encourages members to get their license if they wish to do so.

A $34,000 ARDC grant allowed the club to purchase and equip a ham radio trailer for the club. The solar-powered trailer allows the club’s young members to explore science and technology and to showcase amateur radio. It has two operating positions. The HF Station consists of an ICOM IC-7610 connected to either a whip antenna or one of the club’s homebrew wire antennas. The VHF/UHF Station is running an Icom IC-9700 with a Diamond X-6000A tri-band vertical. For portable or D-STAR operation, the club has an Icom IC-705 transceiver.

Club members were heavily involved in the trailer project. They learned how to make power cables, crimp and solder coaxial connectors (see right), and how to connect the radios and computers together. The kids also created the information posters in the trailer to explain ham radio to visitors. One of the posters, which the kids named Alphabet Soup, explains the phonetic alphabet and Q-signals. Another, titled What Does the Fox Say describes fox hunting and radio direction finding.

The club uses the trailer to demonstrate their enthusiasm for amateur radio at regular meetings and events, such as ARRL Field Day, county fairs, and hamfests. These community outreach events focus on introducing people to amateur radio by showcasing what the kids are doing and by giving community members the chance to make on-air contacts. The trailer is the club’s primary station, so if you’ve made contact with N4HKZ, chances are you’ve talked to someone in the trailer.

In addition to the operating events, the club conducts other STEAM-related activities. For example, they recently built code practice oscillator kits and have listened to transmissions from the International Space Station. As with the operating events, the goal of these activities is to give the club members a feel for what science and engineering is all about and encourage them should they express an interest in pursuing either as a career.

They’re not raising livestock, but what they are doing in Fauquier County is raising the next generation of amateur radio leaders. ARDC is proud of the work they’re doing there and is more than happy to help.

Are you concerned about where our next generation of leaders is coming from? Do you have an idea for a program that will encourage young people to become not only radio amateurs, but leaders as well? Apply for a grant.

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Ham clubs build community

Clubs are an important part of the amateur radio community. By teaching classes and conducting test sessions, they are an important source of new hams. Clubs also are an important way for radio amateurs to learn about new rules and regulations, new technology, and new amateur radio products from other club members. Last but not least, clubs are also an important social outlet for radio amateurs.

Because clubs are so important, ARDC has made many grants to clubs to further their missions, in addition to supporting the ARRL Club Grant Program. Here are two examples: the HacDC Amateur Radio Club in Washington, D.C. and the Valley Radio Club in Eugene, Oregon.

Building a ham community in D.C.

Washington, D.C. doesn’t normally come to mind when you think about amateur radio. Space for antennas is limited, and noise levels can be overwhelming. Despite these obstacles, the HacDC Amateur Radio Club (HARC) – part of the HacDC makerspace – is committed to building the amateur radio community in D.C.. They are doing this by:

  • Engaging Technician Class hams with activities and resources that build their enjoyment of and commitment to the amateur radio community.
  • Rebuilding the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) to support the District’s emergency communications needs and be a full partner with other regional and ARES organizations.
  • Providing all DC hams, many of whom live in buildings with antenna restrictions, the opportunity to operate the club’s remotely-operated HF and 6-meter station.

To aid them in building their community, ARDC awarded them a $26,000 grant in November 2021. They have used these funds to improve their HF antenna system, purchase an amplifier for the HF station, and purchase several 10-meter transceivers to loan to Technician Class members. They will also use the funds to improve their repeater system.

HacDC ARC began participating in Field Day again this year.

In addition to making these purchases, they have started a number of activities designed to help them meet their goals. For example, they now hold a weekly VHF net that not only gets Technician Class licensees on the air, but also teaches them the basics of net operation. The club has also begun participating in Field Day again, and they have joined with other clubs in the area to provide communications for two charity bike rides and the Marine Corps Marathon.

Improvements to the club’s HF station have gone a long way towards making amateur radio more accessible to General Class and Extra Class licensees. Before receiving the grant, HacDC club members had to travel to the club station to operate it. Now, the station is remotely controllable. Using RemoteHams software that runs on an Android phone or personal computer, members can operate from just about anywhere. Once the amplifier and new antenna system are installed,  the station will be even more capable.

The new club activities and station improvements seem to be working. According to John Pancoast, K2WT, HacDC ARC vice president, they have attracted 36 new members in 2022 so far. “None of this would have happened without the ARDC grant,” he said.

Club station educates the community in Eugene, OR

The Valley Radio Club of Oregon (VRC), located in Eugene, Oregon, was chartered in 1929, and is one of the oldest, continuously operated clubs in the United States. In June 2014, VRC volunteers set up amateur radio station W7PXL at the Eugene Science Center  and operated it every Saturday until the Covid pandemic forced the museum to close. The station has educated thousands of visitors (many of them children) about amateur radio, and has provided the first hands-on experience with two-way radio for many visitors.

According to Scott Rosenfeld, N7JI, one of the station managers, the station was largely assembled from equipment that was begged, borrowed, and donated (not stolen) from club members. Since much of it is now 20-30 years old, they were starting to see equipment failures. In October 2021, ARDC awarded VRC a $16,525 ARDC grant to upgrade the equipment and to keep the station operating. The grant allowed them to build a modern station to provide a better, more reliable, more effective hands-on teaching experience at the museum.

Equipment they purchased with the grant included:

  • Icom IC-7610 HF + 6m transceiver
  • Kenwood TM-D710GA 2m/70cm FM transceiver
  • 2 laptop computers
  • 65-inch computer monitor to make it easier for museum visitors to observe station operation
  • 50 amp, 12 VDC switching power supply, and a DC power distribution system  using Anderson Powerpoles
  • Station accessories, including Morse Code keys, speakers, and headphones
  • New antennas, including a multi-band parallel wire dipole, and a 2m/70cm vertical antenna

Rosenfeld also noted that the grant allowed them to purchase a custom-built, lockable enclosure with windows. The enclosure matches the room’s color scheme, prevents access to the station equipment when not in use, and permits visitors to see the equipment when no operator is present. The cabinet can also allow museum personnel to move the equipment should they need the space for another purpose.

The Valley Radio Club’s station at the Eugene Science Center features
a 65-inch monitor that attracts visitors to the station and helps them observe station operation.

The real star of the show, though, is the station’s 65-in. monitor (shown above). According to Nelson Farrier, NF7Z, one of W7PXL’s station managers, the monitor attracts visitors, and once they wander over, station operators can tell them about amateur radio. When there are no operators at the station, a video is shown that educates visitors about ham radio.

Farrier says that the ARDC grant has re-energized the station. The new equipment is much nicer to use and provides a better experience for both volunteers and visitors.

These two clubs are good examples of why supporting clubs is so important:  they are providing a real public service, and that’s why we’re happy to help them.

To apply for an ARDC grant, go to https://www.ardc.net/apply/.

To apply for an ARRL club grant, go to http://arrl.org/club-grant-program.

 

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2021 Audited 990-PF (Tax Return) & Financial Statements

ARDC is pleased to share our 2021 audited 990-PF (tax return) and financial statements, which are now posted on https://www.ardc.net/about/legal.

2021 was a year of tremendous growth for ARDC. This growth was fueled by our need to catch up on our minimum required 5% distribution: we missed the 5% mark in 2020 and wanted to make sure we caught up in 2021. To make this happen, we significantly increased our grantmaking, which required increasing staff. Additionally, our volunteer Grants Advisory Committee (GAC) members and Board members stepped up to review and approve many more grant proposals. Thanks to the stock market, we also saw an increase in our total available capital despite the increase in spending. Financially speaking, 2021 was a good year for ARDC – and our grantees.

Differences Between 2021 and 2020 (2021 Financial Statements)

The Financial Statements, among other things, outline differences between 2021 and 2020. This section provides context for these differences

Before diving in, here are a few quick concepts that may be helpful in reading these documents:

  • Accrual totals show expenses approved in a given year – such as an invoice received from a vendor or an approved grant. Ideally these liabilities get paid in the year when they were approved, though some may be paid in the following year.
  • Cash totals show expenses that were actually paid in a given year. When the IRS calculates our minimum 5% distribution, they are looking at these cash numbers.
  • The 990-PF shows both cash and accrual totals, while the financial statements primarily show accrual totals in their analysis.

As mentioned above, 2021 showed a dramatic increase in our grantmaking compared to 2020.

Year Grants & Gifts (Accrual) Grants & Gifts (Cash)
2021 $10,798,573 $9,247,203
2020 $3,155,532 $3,004,625

The accrual grant & gift totals above can be seen on page 2 of the Financial Statements. The cash totals are pulled from 2020 and 2021 990-PFs, Part I.

In order to increase our grantmaking, ARDC also increased its staffing and professional services, which resulted in more expenses – more payroll, more conferences, more computers for employees, etc. The only expenses that decreased were our legal expenses, since we needed less legal help in 2021.

Year Salaries & Related Office expenses Other Legal & Accounting
2021 $269,906 $126,610 $92,610 $23,743
2020 $40,265 $88,110 $14,083 $48,092

The totals above can be seen on page 5 of the financial statements.

All told, our overall distribution (spending) was much higher in 2021 than in 2020.

Year Total Dist. (Accrual) Total Dist. (Cash)
2021 $11,581,133 $9,760,072
2020 $3,657,234 $3,195,175

The accrual grant totals above can be seen on page 2 of the Financial Statements. The cash totals are pulled from 2020 and 2021 990-PFs, Part I.

Reading the 2021 990-PF (Tax Return)

Part I of the 990-PF provides an overview of our expenses, shown as both an accrual basis (Column A) and a cash basis (Column D).
Both our issued grants and our necessary overhead count towards our required 5% distribution. Note that when calculating the distribution for any given year year, the IRS looks at totals in the the cash category.

Category Accrual Cash
Operating expenses $782,560 $512,869
Contributions, gifts, grants paid $10,798,573 $9,247,203
Total expenses & contributions $11,581,133 $9,760,072

Part II of the 990-PF outlines our balance sheets, which show our total portfolio at the beginning and end of the year. These numbers (and our month-by-month average assets, which aren’t shown) are used to determine our required distribution for the year.

  • Beginning of year: $128,412,366
  • End of year: $139,030,662

Our assets increased by almost $11 million even after we spent the above many millions! The stock market was kind to us in 2021; 2022 not so much, for us or anyone. We’ll leave that discussion for next year’s audit overview blog post.

Part IX, X, XI, and XII of the 990-PF outline information related to qualifying distributions.

  • Part IX calculates the amount of our qualifying distribution (5% of our average assets),
  • Part X calculates the amount of the qualifying distribution minus the small amount ($29,122) of income tax that private foundations pay on their investment income,
  • Part XI lists the qualifying distribution (same amount as the cash total of expenses in Part I), and
  • Part XII outlines our remaining distribution from 2020, our minimum distribution amount for 2021, and the remainder based on our 2021 qualifying distribution. Since we spent a little more than we needed to, this remainder will be carried over towards our 2022 distribution.
Item Amount
2020 distribution remainder $2,618,415
2021 minimum distribution $6,655,368
2021 total distribution required $9,273,783
2021 qualifying distributions $9,760,072
2021 excess distribution $486,289

There’s lots more in the 990-PF than just the above. For example, you can find all grants and gifts made or approved in 2021 (Part XIV, plus continuation sheets).

Should you have any questions about our audited financials, please do not hesitate to reach out: contact@ardc.net.

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Rhizomatica: Connecting the Unconnected

One of the factors that we consider when making a grant is how much of an impact that the project will make. By any measure, Rhizomatica is making a tremendous impact – both technologically, and in terms of the many communities who benefit from their work. Supporting Rhizomatica is one way that ARDC is making an impact in digital communications outside of amateur radio.

Rhizomatica’s mission is to help communities build and maintain their own self-governed communication infrastructure. Rhizomatica’s approach combines regulatory activism and reform, critical engagement with technology, development of decentralized telecommunications infrastructure, and direct community involvement and participation.

Rhizomatica founder Peter Bloom showing Nantu Canelos, an Achuar indigenous technician in Ecuador, how HERMES works.

Through their work, they aim to create and promote technologies that reinforce community values like cooperation, trust and shared commitment. They are striving to develop technology that will serve rural and indigenous communities in ways that reinforce their values and ways of association. In doing so, they prevent these communities from being left behind.

HERMES

One of the systems that Rhizomatica has developed to connect rural and indigenous communities is the High-frequency Emergency and Rural Multimedia Exchange System, or HERMES. As shown in the figure below, HERMES uses HF frequencies and sky-wave propagation to connect rural and isolated communities to base stations in more populated areas and provides limited internet service. The reason that HERMES uses HF links is because satellite links are usually too expensive and it can take a very long time—as well as a lot of money—to install terrestrial links.

HERMES connects rural and isolated communities to base stations in more populated areas and provides limited internet service

The HERMES HF transceiver consists of the following components:

  • 12V power input, provided by either mains power or battery power.
  • uBitx HF transceiver, using the v6 base board.
  • GPS module for time and frequency synchronization.
  • 100W power amplifier (optional).
  • Intel-based Mini-PC, 4 GB RAM, CPU Intel Core 3rd gen or better.
  • Reflected / forward power meter and SWR protection.
  • Custom uBitx firmware developed specifically for HERMES. This firmware digitally controls the uBitx transceiver, measures output power and  communicates with the Mini-PC.
  • Custom enclosure, including a metal case, heat sinks, and fans.

Both the hardware and software are open source. Documentation is available at https://github.com/Rhizomatica.

Using this hardware, a typical link might range anywhere from 50 km to 800 km. The radios operate in the 5.8 MHz commercial band, and with the standard uBitx v6 power output of about 13 W, they are able to transmit data at 3 kbytes per minute over a 2.5 kHz channel. At this data rate, HERMES can provide users with some of the services afforded by cell phones and the internet. This includes email and chat, secure, password-protected image, voice, text and file exchange between community stations, and a web interface for system administration.

Of course, these services don’t run as fast over an HF link as they would over a normal cell-phone connection. For example, images sent via a cellular network are transmitted and received almost instantaneously, while an encoded, standard-resolution image of about 10 kbytes will take just over three minutes to be transferred via HERMES. Similarly, an encoded, 20 s audio message of about 4 kbytes requires just over one minute to be transferred. Text messages and text emails, since they are usually short and can be highly compressed, can be transferred at about ten messages per minute.

Even so, that’s a big leap forward for some communities, explained Peter Bloom Rhizomatica’s founder and general coordinator. In the past, he noted, it might take someone a full day to transport a photo by boat.

Making an impact in Ecuador and Brazil

According to Bloom, there are currently ten second-generation HERMES systems installed, serving approximately 30,000 people in Ecuador and Brazil. One of these installations serves a group of rural trading outposts on the Amazon River. These outposts had been using analog radios to communicate information, such as inventory data, but this approach is risky: using unencrypted voice communications allows anyone to listen in. The HERMES system allows them to transmit this data digitally, which provides some level of protection.

HERMES is also being used by rural and Indigenous land defenders who are working to protect their lands from mining, logging, and farming companies that are encroaching on their lands and destroying the rainforest. Their job is to report what they see, but are fearful that they could be easily identified using analog radios. Using digital communications allows their communications to be more secure.

In addition to making this immediate impact, Rhizomatica is working on projects that they feel will make an impact in the future. One of these projects is an open-source replacement for VARA HF, a high-performance HF modem based on OFDM modulation. They are also working on improving Codec2, an open source speech codec designed for communications quality speech at low bit rates, and are experimenting with using artificial intelligence techniques to develop error correction codes.

For more information on how Rhizomatica is making an impact, go to https://rhizomatica.org.

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Now Accepting Applications for the 2023 Technical Advisory Committee

Please submit applications by Nov. 12, 2022!

We are now accepting applications from those wishing to serve on our Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) in 2023. These are volunteer positions, with a term of one year (January to December).

About the TAC
The primary role of the TAC is to advise on 44Net technology, architecture, and policy. In 2022, the committee worked on providing feedback on a survey released to 44Net users, which garnered over 1700 responses from all over the world. Additionally, they developed a feature requirements document for an updated portal, which we use for 44Net address space allocations.

2023 Goals & Time Commitment
In 2023, the TAC will continue its work on refining 44Net use-cases and standards. Goals include further development of the portal mentioned above, researching and developing a proposal for Points for Presence (PoPs) based on existing use cases and best practices, and conversations  with the 44Net community about IPv6. Note that though there may be some prototyping and development, the majority of the work may be document-focused.

The TAC usually meets once or twice a month for at least an hour. Additional time may be spent working on or taking meetings related to the projects mentioned above.

How to Apply
If you are interested in joining the TAC, please send a resume and brief cover letter to contact@ardc.net by November 12, 2022. In your cover letter, which can be brief, please outline:

  • Your experience with 44Net, networking, development, and/or amateur radio,
  • Your experience working with networking and similar technologies, and
  • What you could see yourself contributing in 2023.

We’ll review all applications and seek to make a determination by December 7, 2022. Meetings will begin mid-January.

For more information about the roles and duties of these committees, you can read the Advisory Committee Policy in full here.

Please direct any questions to contact@ardc.net.

We’re looking forward to reading your application!



 

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