Essex Skills Night October 2015 Wrap-up

Monday the 19th of October 2015 saw another very busy Essex Skills Night at Danbury. The evening was hosted by the Chelmsford ARS training team, and saw 66 people cross the threshold for the usual Skills Night mix of show-and-tell, advice, chat and networking.

Some of the attendees at the October 2015 Essex Skills Night
Some of the attendees at the October 2015 Essex Skills Night

The evening saw an impressive 22 Foundation/Intermediate visitors, 5 SWLs and 13 first-time visitors – a great cross-section of local amateurs and enthusiasts, as well as some from a little further afield. We had five visitors from the MARTS club in Kent as well as Cambridge-based Mark M0MJH from the Camb Hams (see, I got it right that time!), but the record goes to G6MXL, all the way from Poole in Dorset, who came quite some distance just to get a taste of Skills.

Here’s a quick look at the October Skills Night activities:

D-Star & Satellites – Congrats to Steve M0SHQ for a very diverse table. Plenty of helpful advice for those looking to make contact via the various amateur satellites (including the new AMSAT FOX-1A) and the ISS. Also tonight, another Skills Night first, a D-Star hotspot made from a Raspberry Pi. Steve was able to use a handheld 70cm radio to make contact via the hotspot and a tethered mobile phone, and was also able to show live D-Star information from a small monitor. Impressive stuff!

Steve 2E0UEH talks satellites with space guru Steve M0SHQ
Steve 2E0UEH talks satellites with space guru Steve M0SHQ

Construction – Once again, a busy night for the CARS construction team of Peter M0PSD and Steve G4GHO – more Slim Jims, plus other various project work, and a selection of items on sale for those looking to get busy with a soldering iron.

Peter M0PSD, running a busy Construction Corner
Peter M0PSD, running a busy Construction Corner

 

Programming & Data Modes – Charlie M0PZT (of Ham Goodies fame) found himself with something of a pile-up for rig programming, with the need for a 12V PSU to handle several non-handheld rigs. Charlie reports that a total of ten radios were programmed, meaning that there was not a lot of time for other planned activities such as a data mode demo.

Charlie M0PZT, working the programming pileup
Charlie M0PZT, working the programming pileup

/P the G0DZB Way – Once again, a very popular table. The star of the table (after Peter himself, of course), was his trusty Elecraft KX3 – which Peter’s been using to try PSK31 in the field (See: G0DZB’s experiences of PX3 and PSK31). Plenty of other bits, bobs and antennas to look at too, plus plenty of friendly advice from this well-respected and knowledgeable portable operator.

Peter G0DZB, packing up after a busy October Skills Night
Peter G0DZB, packing up after a busy October Skills Night

 

Antennas – Thanks to Andy G7TKK for returning with some of his creations – today’s special was a very portable folding mag loop. Also back was the tetrahedral antenna (in its bag this time), plus his discone-like antenna made from an umbrella and springs. Andy was also demonstrating how his creations fare on antenna-modelling software.

Andy G7TKK with his latest springy antennas
Andy G7TKK with his latest springy antennas

 

Essex Ham: Getting Started – This time around, on display was a new video featuring a demo of PSK31 and JT65 data modes. Also present, the Linx 8″ Windows 10 tablet (great for use in the field and still a bargain) and a collection of the recently-updated “Getting Started Guides” series.

We also showed a looped video (played from a Raspberry Pi) of the RSGB’s new video aimed at attracting youngsters. Lots of people keen to see this excellent PR tool, created by the guys from TX Factor, and featuring our very own Kelly M6KFA. If you’ve missed it, check out: “Amateur Radio: A 21st Century Hobby

Data and tablet demos, plus the RSGB Youth video and getting started guides
Data and tablet demos, plus the RSGB Youth video and getting started guides

 

Morse and More – Despite a couple of regulars not being able to make it, several members of the Essex CW Club were on hand to show off some keys and promote all things Morse.

Morse Keys on display at the Essex Skills Night
Morse Keys on display at the Essex Skills Night

 

Chelmsford ARS – The dedicated CARS table returned to Skills for a second time, manned by Membership Secretary Chris 2E0CUU and Chairman Chris G0IPU. As well as allowing people to pay their society subs, CARS challenged visitors to see how quickly they could VSWR the 2m dipole using the society’s MFJ259 analyser. The CARS table contained various items of merchandise for sale, and made use of an easel to promote some of the society’s upcoming activities.

Chris 2E0CUU, Chris G0IPU, and the new CARS information easel
Chris 2E0CUU, Chris G0IPU, and the new CARS information easel

 

Callsign Badges – Well done to Jim 2E0JTW and Glynis 2E0CUQ for their hard work making callsign badges. Lots of new M6s present, so the engraving team was kept busy all night.

Jim 2E0JTW, making more callsign badges
Jim 2E0JTW, making more callsign badges

 

The Quiz – Run by Chris G0IPU, this always gets people talking… and the addition of another cunning M0PSX anagram “Sent Farad Blips” got some interest too. The quiz also included a timely reminder that some amateurs who’ve not revalidated between September 2012 and January 2013 will soon find themselves without a licence, as Ofcom will be revoking lapsed licences!

October's quiz - Hoping for answers from Steve on one of the satellite questions
October’s quiz – Hoping for answers from Steve on one of the satellite questions

And what of our visitor from Poole in Dorset? Colin G6MXL is a member of the Poole Radio Society. He’d heard about Skills Night and feels that something similar could work closer to home. He came along to find out how it works, and to soak up the atmosphere. Colin summed up the night by saying that the atmosphere at Skills is something that you can’t convey in words… it’s something that you have to experience. He complimented the vibe and the energy, which of course is a credit to those who freely give of their time to support the event. We hope that the long trip was worth it.

Colin G6MXL, visiting from Poole in Dorset to sample Essex's Skills Night
Colin G6MXL, visiting from Poole in Dorset to sample Essex’s Skills Night

 

My thanks…

I’d like to express my personal thanks to those who turned up to help make the October Skills Night a success, and to those who continue to support the Skills Nights at Danbury.

A final thanks to the unsung heroes of the evening – Myra and David for keeping the teas and coffees flowing in the kitchen (always a challenge with so many thirsty people!). Also to my long-suffering Sarah M6PSK for her hard work and support.

Skills Night events are free, and all are welcome, regardless of club affiliation and licence level. The next Skills Night takes place on Monday the 16th of November.

Thanks all, and 73,

Pete M0PSX

More Reviews

You may be interested in the following reviews of this month’s Skills Night:

 

October Skill Night Photo Gallery

Involved with a club and looking to hold something like a Skills Night? Check out Essex Ham’s Skills Night Formula for some suggestions

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