HAM Radio 80th Anniversary “Field Day” This Weekend

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A HAM radio newcomer gets on the air for the first time at a GOTA station. Photo: Gerry Sikora, WC6O, FARS, K6YA, 2011 Field Day.

Every year on the fourth weekend in June, the largest amateur radio event in the US and Canada occurs. It’s called Field Day. The first Field Day was in 1933 and this year’s event— June 22-23—is the 80th anniversary.

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Chris, KG6O, listening intently operating a CW morse code station. Photo: Michael Pechner, NE6RD, FARS, K6YA 2012 Field Day.

During the event, amateur radio operators spend the weekend making contacts with each other. Many clubs  also show they can setup a communications site off the grid showing readiness for an emergency event. Field day sites can be quite impressive. Some boast 30-foot tall towers with huge antennas at the top and a large array of electronics equipment. Other are simply a solo operator using a home brew radio, a wire in the tree for an antenna, and a solar panel for power. Some sites just logging each contact on a pad of paper. Others setup their own network with VIOP phones between stations and all the computers logging contacts connected together. Communication modes are true old school morse code or voice, as well as digital modes like RTTY and PSK31 that are computer to computer communications. People setup computer controlled antennas to track and communicate using satellites. Some will bounce signals off the moon to communicate.

Education is a big part of Field Day. Most club sites are open to the public and most also have a Get On The Air stations, GOTA, an opportunity for for people who are not licensed to dip their toe in the hobby. If you are interested in visiting a Field Day site, they can be located  here.

Getting involved is much easier these days since there is no more morse code requirement to earn your license. Almost every Maker Faire has an Amateur Radio presence. Check us out at the next maker faire near you.

New in the Maker Shed: Telegraph Decoder and Calculator Kits from Spikenzie Labs


Spikenzie Labs has a reputation for making innovative, wonderfully designed kits. I’m always excited when I hear they have something new in the works, because I know it’s going to be good! Their two newest kits are no exception. The Telegraph Decoder Kit is a modern twist one of our first forms of electronic communication and a great tool for learning Morse Code. It takes about an hour to solder and can be done by even novice makers.  Once the solder cools, just assemble and connect the laser cut acrylic telegraph keyer you’re ready to tap out Morse Code. It takes a bit of practice to get the timing of your ‘dits’ and ‘dahs’ right, but when you do, the corresponding alpha-numeric character will display on the Arduino based reader. Because the kit is Arduino based, it can be hacked using an FTDI breakout (not included) with your own programs from the Arduino IDE. A piezo buzzer provides audio feedback but can put into silent mode for clandestine communications (or to keep from annoying your spouse.)


When was the last time you saw a calculator and thought “wow – that looks cool”? I don’t think I ever thought that until I saw this one. The Calculator Kit is also Arduino based and is housed in transparent acrylic which looks great on any desk. The kit features 17 reverse-raster laser-etched captive buttons which sit atop tactile switches giving a highly addictive “clickly-clicky” sound and feel. The bright red LED display shows the results from your addition, subtraction, multiplication and division operations. I may not have any affection towards my stapler, but this calculator is the new favorite addition to my home office.

Both the Telegraph Decoder Kit and Calculator Kit are available now in the Maker Shed!

Explore the Airwaves with Weekend Projects

In just a few hours you can make a completely batteryless AM radio receiver with a range of around 25 miles. Built with a small assortment of components, some scrap wood, and a beverage bottle tightly wound with magnet wire, we call this project Bottle Radio. Similar to other “crystal radio” projects, the crystal in this build is contained inside a germanium diode, which rectifies incoming audio signal. The radio operates on the power from radio waves, and receives signal from a long wire antenna. When this signal enters the diode, it contains positive and negative peaks, however the diode, only allowing signal to pass in the forward direction, converts the alternating current of the signal into direct current. That current then vibrates a diaphragm inside a crystal earphone, allowing you to hear the radio without any visible power source![ad_block]mz_radioshack_125x125[/ad_block]

If it sounds difficult, it’s not. In fact once you have your parts in hand, this project will only take a couple hours to assemble. Watch the video below to see how the entire circuit works, and we also provide some tips on the project page for extending the range of your receiver using a loop antenna and RF amplifier.


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