Amateur Radio at the Chelmsford Ideas Hub

Ideas Hub LogoThe Chelmsford Ideas Festival 2014 has come to an end – two weeks of events including talks, demonstrations and activities.

Several radio-related events took place in Chelmsford (the birthplace of radio) including talks by BBC Essex presenter James Whale and Professor Marconi (grandson of the inventor of wireless), as well as an open day at the Marconi hut at Sandford Mill.

Amateur Radio was well represented too, with joint demonstrations and short talks hosted by Essex Ham’s Jim 2E0RMI and Pete M0PSX.

Pete M0PSX and Jim 2E0RMI at the Hub
Pete M0PSX and Jim 2E0RMI at the Hub

Ham Radio at the Hub

The “World of Amateur Radio” sessions were held on Friday the 31st of October and Sunday the 2nd of November at the ‘Ideas Hub’, at the High Chelmer Shopping Centre. The aim of the two day events was to raise awareness for amateur radio and provide festival visitors with a flavour of what amateur radio is all about. Here’s a sample of what was demonstrated:

  • A live 2m station, to demonstrate amateur radio in action
  • Decoding weather satellites and PSK31
  • The £10 SDR dongle displaying broadcast FM radio
  • Live decoding of packet data from the ISS (during a well-timed lunchtime pass)
  • Scrolling video of amateur radio in action

A series of short talks had been planned and promoted, but in the end, we opted for one-to-one discussions and demonstrations to visitors, many of whom had an interest in aspects or radio or technology already… which always helps. Several people expressed an interest in taking up the hobby, and we’ve directed them to the upcoming CARS Foundation course taking place in Danbury in January.

We also met several lapsed amateurs – a couple of ‘G’ callsigns who’ve not been active for a while, plus an M6 who’ve moved from the West Country and is looking to make amateur radio friends in the area. We found it a real bonus being able to refer such visitors on to the Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society’s Skills Nights, which is a great place to meet other amateurs and get inspired to do more with the hobby.

Jim 2E0RMI demonstrating amateur radio on day one
Jim 2E0RMI demonstrating amateur radio on day one

Thanks to other Essex Ham members Charlie M0PZT and James 2E1GUA for coming down too, to wave the flag for amateur radio and get chatting to those interested in the hobby.

Wrapping up day one at the Ideas Hub 2014
Wrapping up day one at the Ideas Hub 2014

Other Hub Activities

Chelmsford Calling LogoAs part of the fortnight-long festival, there was a Mystery Hunt, where visitors had to solve puzzles and find clues – Well done to Jim 2E0RMI for designing the unique Chelmsford Calling Network Ideas Hub “Radio Station in a bottle”, allowing visitors to tune in to the radio clue. If you’re interested in having a listen to Chelmsford Calling’s new radio show – check out the Chelmsford Calling World Service.

On the two days that we were active at the Chelmsford Ideas Hub, two other activities caught our eyes (and imaginations). On the first day, we had the opportunity to chat with some Essex Cheese. The premise is simple – plug in a piece of cheese, and chat via a cheese reader, wooden keyboard and some AI software – the brainchild of potential radio amateur LH Trevail

Jim 2E0RMI talking to the Cheese of Essex
Jim 2E0RMI talking to the Cheese of Essex
Chatting to the Essex Cheese
Chatting to the Essex Cheese

Sunday was a very busy session for those looking to get to grips with the Raspberry Pi. This workshop allowed visitors to use a mix of electronics and programming to create a basic alarm system, demonstrating the power and flexibility of the Pi. A great session with lots of interest, and a surprising number of amateurs (current and lapsed) in attendance looking for a new technical hobby.

Raspberry Pi session at the Ideas Hub
Raspberry Pi session at the Ideas Hub

A great event in Chelmsford – hopefully inspiring people to get started with amateur radio, or for those who’ve taken a break, to dust off their licences and get back on-air.

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