Portable Radio Contest
Communications Academy - 2013
Portable Radio Kit Contest canceled for 2013 due to lack of interest. It will return next year if there is interest.
Emergency communications requires portable equipment that can be brought into position and made quickly operational. The effectiveness of this equipment is determined by a combination of ease/speed of deployment, the capabilities (bands/modes/power) and the skills of the operator to make the system reliably perform under less-than-ideal conditions (wind/rain/cold/heat).
A well designed portable package will offer power versatility, multiple antenna options and be simple to operate. Ideally, these systems could be left at critical locations and be made functional by the first available operator although it is likely more sophisticated features may require special training. In an effort to encourage amateur radio creativity and preparedness, a “contest” format has been created to allow hams to display and share their results. Although many of these packages will be designed to solve specific needs, there should be some common areas that can be judged. Ideally, each designer will see features in other designs they will want to incorporate in future revisions and spectators will be encouraged to design and build their own.
Why is there a Digital Category in this year's Portable Radio Contest? It turns out our served agencies are looking for transmission of increasingly complex information. There is an expectation that we can transmit data – files, images, spreadsheets, in a seamless and transparent way.
Yes, we can easily do that, but not using voice. The tools in the NBEMS Toolkit [http://www.panbems.org ] have been successfully employed by local groups for error-free and rapid information transfer. The tools allow One-to-Many net transmission with confirmation of 100% error free reception by all participants simultaneously.
The strongest technical basis for incorporating digital into our standard practices is that digital can get through when voice cannot. Voice needs to be significantly above the noise to be understood. On SSB nearly 10dB above or 7dB if you spell slowly with ITU phonetics. Packet Radio is about the same at around +7 dB above the noise. Modes like MT-63 can work at least 7dB into the noise – a gain of 14 dB. Want more? Try Olivia or some of Joe Taylor’s modes – JT65 or WSPR at 26 dB below the noise and possibly lower.
Benefits of this exquisite sensitivity are the option of running low power or using compromised antennas in the event of an emergency. For the 14dB example above, that is a 20-fold decrease in needed power. For everyday use, hams trapped in apartments and condos can use low power and indoor antennas and still communicate with the world. The software is simple and flexible and can be perfect for your daily use, your contest use and logging. Hams using 1 Watt and vertical antennas have been sending messages across the Puget Sound Region during recent HF Digital Nets. This is why we would like to see digital capability incorporated into more Portable Radio Kits. Try your hand at including an interface, laptop and portable printer to take your digital station wherever you go.
Several groups including Shoreline and Seattle ACS are now running integrated nets with voice and digital together. Voice is used if something is better delivered with voice. Otherwise, a robust digital mode such as MT63-2K is used. Stations don’t really have to be “ready to copy” because once the software is configured and running, it captures any data coming over the radio and automatically saves the date and time-stamped file in a specific folder while ignoring the voice. For more information on the use of digital techniques visit Puget Sound Digital Hams [http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/p-s-digi-hams/]
All units should be on display throughout the duration of Communication Academy to allow time for all attendees to view them and vote. Although all entries should allow power input from batteries or AC mains, power supplies and batteries need not be displayed unless they are integrated or part of the portable system. Similarly, antenna systems need not be displayed unless they are integrated with the package.
Photos of the unit deployed in the field, feature descriptions and construction notes are encouraged but be aware space will be limited. A single or two page “flyer” would be ideal. Any included documentation should have the name and callsign of the entrant, the goal of the project, a description of how it meets the judging criteria below and any other interesting project notes (such as package cost, time to build, etc).
Ballots will be accepted from attendees until end of day Saturday to allow tabulation. Two really great prizes will be awarded for the best kits and you can’t win if you don’t enter. Prizes have been generously donated by Icom America and Navigator Interface. Icom America has donated a 2M/70CM FM and Digital Voice ID-880H D-Star Radio for the winning non-digital kit. Navigator Interface has donated their flagship Navigator Interface with built-in K1EL keyer, full CAT Rig Control and true FSK plus the cable harness to match your choice of radio for the winning digital kit. . Even if you have entered before you are encouraged to augment your setup and bring it back. We want as many different kits as possible so that everyone will benefit from seeing many approaches to the challenges of putting together a good Go-Kit Radio. Prizes will be awarded at the lunch on Sunday. Overall scoring will be weighted 50% from the attendees and 50% from three judges chosen from the amateur community. Attendees can score their favorite two entries in each category and the judges will vote on all submissions.
Scoring will be a 1-10 scale in the following categories:
- Capabilities vs. size/weight of package: It is simple to add features and functionality by increasing the size and weight of the package. The goal should be to optimize the combination.
- Ease of deployment and use: How easily can the package be transported into place, powered, wired to antennas and operated by a novice operator?
- Clever features and design: Ham radio operators pride themselves on being resourceful. How well has the designer accomplished the design goal?
- Professional construction and layout: The packaging should be attractive and neat with dressed cabling and clear color coding. Are details such as mike clips included?
- Robust design: Will the package withstand the rigors of transport to a potentially hostile environment? Will it and the equipment operate in heat, cold, wind and rain?
The judges' and attendees scores in each category will be averaged and combined. A total score will be the sum of the averages in each category. This total score will determine the winner. In the event of a tie, the raw sum of all the ballot entries will be the tie-breaker (the most popular wins).