Our campus amateur radio club, which was established to support the amateur radio interests of University employees, students, and our alumni, aims to attract people to the ‘hobby’ by providing access to appealing work. Because everyone’s interests vary, this means we need to have a wide variety of projects on hand that are ready for students engagement.

The club leaders have been putting together a list of projects, and I thought it would be good to publish the current version, here. The list is certainly going to grow and change over time, so this list will quickly become an historical document. If you have a question of what projects might be available today, reach out to me or another group leader.

  1. Modeling and Mapping coverage of University Park - Learn to use MatLab and it’s radio propagation modeling tools, learn about different databases of elevation data, map predicted signal strength and propagation from various points on campus (repeater hill, del norte roof). Propagation from multiple transmitter locations can be mapped (e.g., rood of Del Norte Hall, future site of club repeater on Watertower Hill, GOTA expo sites in the quads). Validate coverage map using other hams with handheld radios.
  2. Club branding. Club logo and trailer wrap design work.
  3. Club repeater. Put together the club’s Yaesu System Fusion repeater and create documentation for its deployment. Initial deployment can be in the radio room, but it’s eventual deployment will be on the top of Watertower Hill. (Dr. Jason Isaacs is willing/eager to consult on this. Paul Strauss is a local radio expert.)
  4. GOTA Boxes. Assemble Get On the Air (GOTA) boxes. We have components for two, and we have a prototype that can form the basis for the others. Michael Spencer, Kevin Cortez, and Jason Miller can advise on their experience with the prototype. Also , write up instructions for building and operating one of our GOTA boxes. Instructions should include charging the battery box before and after use, checking the charge of the battery. Instructions should also include setting up a dual band antenna and setting up an HF antenna (e.g., the buddipole or an inverted-v dipole). As a bonus, design a beter GOTA box for the club to build in the future.
  5. Set up an AREDN network node on campus - Set up, test, install the hardware for an Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN) node on the roof of Del Norte Hall. Install appropriate software on computer for use over the AREDN network, and test the connection to the Ventura county AREDN network. Determine if AREDN is an effective way to transmit pictures from a game camera at the repeater location (connex box) to a computer on campus. (Dr. Geoffrey Buhl is interested in this project.)
  6. APRS Digitpeater. Design, build, and test an igateway for APRS messages using one of the Yaesu 300DR radios in the campus radio room and one of the desktop computers. Can a display for APRS be configured to show where on campus club members are beaconing? (Such a setup can be used to support on-campus events like the Autism Run and Commencement.) Note: this project may also require learning how to have an always-on PC in the radio room that the club can maintain and configure.
  7. AIS Digipeater. Design, build, and test a igateway for AIS messages using one of the Yaesu 300DR radios in the campus radio room and one of the desktop computers. Can a display for AIS be configured to show the location of ships moving through ther Santa Barbara Channel? (Such a setup can be used to as part of a potential exhibit at the CI Boating Center.) Note: this project may also require learning how to have an always-on PC in the radio room that the club can maintain and configure.
  8. Design and build a directional antenna that can be used to make contact with the International Space Station (ISS) using a handheld transceiver.
  9. Design a plan and build the elements needed to put on a ‘fox hunt’ event on campus. The plan would include the rules for the fox hunt, the location of the course, and the instructions given to participants. One element needed for the fox hunt is a camouflage ‘fox’, which is a beacon that participants are searching for. Design its container and control mechanism.
  10. Learn how to set up one of the club’s Yaesu 500DR radios (in our GOTA Boxes) to be a crossband repeater. Write up the instructions for doing so.
  11. Write up instructions for using amateur radios to scan for radio traffic of interest to the club (e.g., NPS radio on the Channel Islands, Island Packer traffic, police communications, local repeater traffic). The instructions may need to vary according to radio type; try to include as many radio types as we have in our inventory.
  12. Install open source firmware on UV-KR dual band handhelds and experiment with different functions that the non-factory radio offers. This may be an easy to way to explore digital data modes.
  13. The campus radio special interest group (aka, club) owns several Yaesu handheld transceivers. Specifically, we own the FT5D (3 units), the FT-65 (3 units), the VS-6R (3 units), and the 70-DR (3 units). All are sold with one of those ‘wall wart’ chargers, but the radio room doesn’t have enough outlets (or table space) to charge all the radios at once. This project aims to solve that problem. Design and prototype a multi-radio rapid charger that can charge at least three radios at the same time off the same ‘wall wart’ plug. The design can be prototyped using CAD software and the 3D printing capabilities at FathomwerX. The designer might consider a ‘drop-in feature’ that has a generic base that fits a radio-specific ‘cup’ to allow it to charge. This would allow a single base serve multiple radio types.
  14. Help prepare the radio room for use by the Amateur Communication Service (ACS) in the event of a regional emergency that leads to the activation of the county Emergency Operation Center (EOC) in Ojai Hall. Ideally, this preparation will be completed by August 31, 2024. Using information we have about WD6EBY’s portable 2m radio repeater (i.e., the radio used to support the Aut2Run), design a portable 2m radio repeater for the club to use and deploy for its events.
  15. Design and plan a generic ‘public awareness’ event for amateur radio that involves club members staffing a static booth protected by our red pop-up tent. What technology would we want to bring? What technology would we want to operate during the event? Would there be any supporting efforts we would want to arrange to occur simultaneously (e.g., others off-site on-the-air to make voice contacts with people at the event)? What documents would we want to bring, either to provide as hand-outs, to have as posters, etc.? These plans would serve out presence at events that rely on volunteer amateur radio operators to provide communications such as the Autism Run (April), Wings-Over-Camarillo (late summer), University Commencement, any number of running events (e.g., Santa-to-the-Sea, Ventura Marathon, Ride for the Red) where we would set up at a high-traffice area as part of the event.
  16. How would you lead the club in planning to support an event like the Autism Run? Use documents from the 2024 event to plan communication support that is economical and efficient. This should include orientation for volunteers and reconnoitering afterward, site locations and task assignments for each site, repeater set-up and take-down, along with a plan to recruit volunteers leading up to the event. Also, where would you put the event repeater knowing that it need to serve stations on campus and deep in University park? What is the lightest and most efficient repeater set-up you can design?
  17. Do you remember in 2023 when U.S. media reported these ‘high altitude object events’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_high-altitude_object_events_in_2023) people thought were spy craft from China? One of these ‘events’ resulted in a U.S. military jet shooting down such an object over the Alaska Yukon only to learn later that it was a high altitude baloon launched by an amateur radio club in Illinois (see https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/feb/17/object-us-military-shot-down-amateur-hobbyists-balloon)? Well, we should developing a process for building, launching, tracking, and reporting on such a balloon. The launching and tracking of such a balloon is interesting by itself, but we should also ask if such a balloon could collect information of value to others (e.g., chemicals in the atmosphere).

Santa Rosa Island Project, Summer 2024

The following describes a summer 2024 project for students in an independent research course (MATH 494) on amateur radio. The students have an interest in operating radio on Santa Rosa Island, so Jason and Geoff met with Robyn Shea to talk abou project objectives that would align with needs of the research station. This is what we came up with.

Note that the below objectives for a summer 2024 trip are also consonant with a longer-term goal of establishing a radio station at the research station to support student club activities and to be an emergency resource for the research station. The summer 2024 students will not be concerned with those longer-term goals.

Use matlab radio propagation tools to create a propagation map of the island for a variety of transmitting locations and a variety of radios. The research station radios are subject to many dead zones on the island, and sometimes they cannot reach the Diable repeater without climbing the hill behind the bunk house. How does propagation vary by location, frequency, and power? It would be interesting to compare the propagation maps we generate with those that the NPS shared with SRIRS. Once we have propagation maps, we can work to verify the deadzone on foot.

  • Transmitting locations: pier, manager’s residence or the laboratory, bunk house
  • Radios: SRIRS handhelds (Motorolla Motorobo XPR 7000e Series, specifications), KN6ZYB handhelds, baofang handhelds, FT500DR dual band, 991a
  • Frequencies: 70cm, 2m, 1.25m, 6m (991a only)
  • Establish how well APRS can be used on the island to track individual and vehicle movements. This might involve setting up a temporary digipeater on the island for the experiment.
  • Make contacts from the island to the mainland on 6m and 10m (using frequencies that are available to the Technician class licensees)

Possible trip date: 5-7 August.