[Bloominglabs-announce] Ham Cram - Sat. March 2nd

Corey Shields cshields at gmail.com
Fri Feb 22 21:01:27 EST 2013

Hi all!

tl;dr - if you are interested in learning about amateur radio (ham radio)
and getting a license, keep reading.

Saturday, March 2nd, 9am-5pm I'm going to offer a 1-day "ham cram" at the
space where I attempt to cover everything you need to know to pass the
Technician class license exam.  Some people follow these cram days
immediately with a testing session, but we have another group, a Monroe Co
CERT team, looking to do a special testing session in March as well.
 Amateur radio testing is not done by the FCC these days but by Volunteer
Examiners (VE's), that are vetted by a couple of authorized organizations
to administer tests.  It takes a minimum of 3 VEs to administer an exam
session.  So, to avoid stretching some of these guys too thinly I'm going
to forego any testing as they will already be offering a special session in
March.  This will be on Sunday March 10th at 4:30pm (logistics below).
 This gives you a chance to listen to me for a day and try to soak it all
in, and have a week to practice and brush up on flash cards online.  If
that date does not work, they also do testing the first Saturday of every
month in Bloomington at noon (I can get details if you'd like)


There is a lot to cover and it will be a long day, so we will start early
(9am) and promptly on 3/2.  The class is free, though I will ask that if
you are not a Bloominglabs member you make a donation to help pay for the
use of the space (which you can do in person or through paypal at
http://www.bloominglabs.org ). I will arrange for some pizza to be
delivered so please bring a few bucks for that, and PLEASE RSVP to me
directly (even if you don't need pizza) so I know how many are coming and
can arrange the space accordingly.   The next available test will be on
3/10 at 4:30 (registration opening at 4:00) at the Maple Grove Christian
Church, 1503 W Simpson Chapel Rd. I am told that "the meeting room is in
the building next to the airplane" which I can only hope is a literal
interpretation. There are NO MORSE CODE requirements to ANY amateur radio
exam since 2003. Testing is $15 (not refundable if you fail), and when you
pass you will typically get your callsign through the FCC ULS database
within a few business days and then are legal to transmit.  Also required
is a photo ID and SSN or FCC FRN.  More details on that at

About the test:

The nice thing about amateur exams is that the entire question pool (and
answers) are publicly available.  For the technician exam there are 35
questions from a 394 question pool.  Don't let that number scare you, there
are a lot of questions that are repetitive in topic. A lot of them cover
electronic topics that many of you know already (ohm's law, anybody?).
Since the question pool is public, there are plenty of online practice
exams and flash card style sites.  My recommendation is
https://hamstudy.org/browse/E2_2010/T1  Basically, you can in fact "study
to the test" and pass.  If you fail, you're out $15.  Don't sweat the test!
 There is no age requirement to getting a license, and I won't put an age
requirement on the session - though this is a "cram" session and as such
I'll be going through topics quickly.

Why Ham Radio and Bloominglabs?

I have many reasons for proselytizing ham radio:

1 - Amateur radio gives you a license to experiment in various radio waves
(within certain boundaries, of course). This goes hand in hand with the
Hackerspace movement.  For example, there are radio shields for Arduino
that would allow you much longer range communication, albeit slower, than
with wifi.

2 - It is another way for hackerspace members to communicate!  Sure, IRC
and email are great; radio gives you all a chance to chat on the air as

3 - A more selfish reason, I am the emergency coordinator for Monroe County
ARES (amateur radio emergency services).  Along with a very similar RACES
organization (radio amateur civil emergency services), we offer
communications during emergencies and serve the county and state EMA.  I'm
always looking for more volunteers, especially as we branch out into more
digital communications in emergency situations.   Oh, and that point about
ARES and RACES providing communications in times of emergency, that's a
question on the test.  You're getting this already..

4 - Similarly, we do a few public service events throughout the year where
we provide communications across an area that makes cellular difficult, and
we always need more help.  A good example being the Hilly Hundred bike
ride, where we provide SAG vehicles with voice communication and GPS
tracking through the hills of the course, along with communications to all
rest areas and race headquarters, all without cellular or internet..  And
its not all work, we have fun testing out new methods and modes through
these events.

5 - dozens of different things to do in this hobby.  I haven't even touched
on the global communications aspect of it.  There's something cool about
talking to a person in New Zealand using no infrastructure - just a radio
and an antenna you built to go along with it.  Just as cool is taking a
portable HF radio and an Eeepc on a backpacking trip, setting up a
low-powered station and doing digital chat with people across the country.
 Here's a not-so-cheesy video advertising Field Day a few years back that
shows a few things possible:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=varHL752Odk

Cost of gear:

With the introduction of cheap radios from new Chinese manufacturers in the
past few years, getting into the hobby is cheaper than it has ever been.  A
cheap Handheld Transceiver ("HT") that covers the popular local frequencies
can be found for $50-$100, and with the repeaters we have in town that is
all you need to get started.  Mobile radios (also used as a base radio)
tend to have about 10x the power and start in the $200-$300 range, plus the
cost of an antenna. Of course, as you add features, power, and frequencies
the cost goes up and the sky is the limit.  One nice thing about the hobby
is that the gear does not depreciate in usefulness the way a lot of tech
gear does (like your computer or phone).  The mobile radio I put in the
space is a model from the mid 90's.

So - if you've made it this far in the email, drop me a line and let me
know that you'll be there!   (feel free to email me questions as well)

-Corey (ham callsign KB9JHU)

Other links to study with:

Corey Shields
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