ARDC helps ham radio prepare for “the big one”

Emergency and public service communications is one of the reasons that amateur radio exists. While recent advances–such as satellite communications and trunked communications systems–have perhaps diminished the importance of amateur radio in emergency communications, amateur radio still has a critical role to play.

Below are two examples of how ARDC grantees are meeting the challenge of emergency communications today. By working with existing community groups and adopting new digital technology, they are helping their communities prepare for future disasters.

Preparing for “the big one” in Tillamook County, Oregon

In December 2007, a series of three powerful storms, dubbed the Great Coastal Gale of 2007, hit the Pacific Northwest, prompting residents of Tillamook County, Oregon, to form the Emergency Volunteer Corps of Nehalem Bay (EVCNB). EVCNB is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building personal, community and regional resilience. Since their founding, the group has been promoting what they call a “culture of preparedness.”

According to Margarte Steele, president of EVCNB, one of the events they are preparing for is an earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a 600-mile fault that runs from northern California up to British Columbia and is anywhere from 70 to 100 miles offshore. The last earthquake that occurred along this fault was on January 26, 1700, and scientists estimate that this earthquake would have measured 9.0 on the Richter Scale. “An earthquake of this size, and the tsunami that it would create, would be devastating now,” said Steele, “If we can be ready for a Cascadia earthquake, we can be ready for anything.”

A big part of EVCNB’s culture of preparedness is amateur radio. According to Steele, the ability to communicate is critical. This includes communication with neighbors, between neighborhoods, and between the neighborhoods and the local Emergency Operations
Center (EOC). Accordingly, EVCNB has an extensive emergency communication plan that includes both GMRS and amateur radio systems.

In August 2021, EVCNB  submitted a proposal for a project that would improve the amateur radio emergency communications infrastructure in Tillamook County. The proposal included funds for a new UHF repeater on Neahkahnie Mountain and solar-powered, digital go-boxes to be distributed within Tillamook County.

Neahkahnie Mountain is the highest peak along the North Oregon Coast. Locating the UHF repeater there allows ECVNB to communicate more reliably throughout Tillamook County, as well as link to a VHF repeater in Clatsop County to the north. Fortunately, the site had space available for the ECVNB repeater in one of two existing buildings that were already housing public service repeaters, television and radio translators, and microwave links.

The site does not support solar or wind power, so ECVNB installed a battery system to provide power during an emergency. The batteries are kept charged from the commercial power lines and have sufficient capacity to keep the repeater running until backup generators begin supplying power.

In addition to installing the repeater, ECVNB used the grant to build additional solar-powered portable stations, sometimes known as go-boxes. They already had five go-boxes, but they needed more to support all of the neighborhoods that might be cut off in the case of a tsunami.


Margaret Steele, KG7RQZ, and Bruce Maxwell, N5GB, demonstrate
one of ECVNB’s solar-powered go-boxes.

The go-boxes include a 25W VHF/UHF transceiver, an antenna, two 20-Ahr LiFePO4 batteries,  a terminal node controller (TNC), and a 100 W solar panel capable of charging the batteries. With the addition of a Windows laptop, these portable stations are capable of sending and receiving messages via WinLink, in addition to providing voice communications.

They had originally planned to build ten more VHF/UHF go-boxes, but they soon realized that they also needed HF capabilities for longer-range communications. So, instead of building ten additional VHF/UHF go boxes, they plan to build several HF go-boxes.

“We are beyond grateful for ARDC’s support,” Steele said. According to Steele, the new repeater and the go boxes have really enhanced their communications capabilities and their emergency preparedness, and they are continuing to work on improving both. For example, they recently held a Technician class, which resulted in a dozen people getting their licenses.

Walnut Creek hams upgrade to digital

In northern California, they are also preparing for the big one. There, the Walnut Creek, California Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), in partnership with the Walnut Creek SHAMS Amateur Radio Club (SHAMS ARC), already had an extensive, amateur radio-based, analog (voice) emergency communication system in place. According to Don Prosnitz, N6PRZ, SHAMS ARC president, however, they saw the need to upgrade to digital communications. A digital system, he noted, would allow them to transmit digital information in a variety of formats and would provide more immediate and complete information to the city’s emergency responders.

An ARDC grant of $23,220 to Walnut Creek CERT allowed the club to develop and deploy the system, which includes eight VHF digital amateur radio stations all with back-up emergency power. These stations allow CERT members in the community to stay in touch with city officials by sending and receiving messages using WinLink.

It’s WinLink with a twist, though. Most WinLink systems connect to a remote message server (RMS), which then routes email and other messages to the internet. As shown below, the Walnut Creek system uses an RMS that connects only to other systems in the Walnut Creek network. This configuration improves the privacy of the traffic, reduces noise in the network, and reduces the traffic load on the public Winlink network.

Unlike most WinLink systems that connect to a remote message server (RMS), the Walnut Creek system uses an RMS that connects only to other systems in the Walnut Creek network.

The equipment itself is relatively simple. The RMS and each client system consist of a small Windows computer, VHF radio, external sound card, antenna and power source. Client systems are equipped with laptops, while the RMS system is normally run without a keyboard and monitor. The systems have been designed to run on 12V DC power, so that they can run on battery power, solar power, or mains power.

Of course, none of this works without trained operators. To ensure that enough CERT members are properly trained, the SHAMS ARC teaches several Technician Class courses every year, as well as classes that give these new Techs some real on-air experience. As a result of this training, according to Margaret Campos, AJ6LP, Walnut Creek CERT Program manager, nearly half of the CERT’s 280 volunteers have amateur radio licenses.

Training on the new digital radio equipment and using WinLink is an important part of this project, too. They initially underestimated the amount of training that would be necessary. To address this issue, they plan to purchase a loaner system for volunteers who wish to improve their Winlink skills.

To prove out the system, the Walnut Creek CERT participated in the Great ShakeOut on October 20, 2022, an annual earthquake preparedness drill held annually on the third Thursday of October. In Walnut Creek, 45 licensed amateurs participated, using the new digital emergency communication system.

The 2022 ShakeOut was a great success. Hams at the Walnut Creek City Hall and seven of eight remote stations were successful in exchanging Winlink messages during the exercise. After the exercise, they discovered that the eighth had a defective antenna system. As a result, the CERT created a maintenance team and set up a maintenance schedule to ensure the operability of all the stations.

The group’s success has not gone unnoticed. Following the ShakeOut and a Winlink demonstration for Walnut Creek City departments, the group was asked to provide amateur radio license training for city employees. The police department, the fire department, and the public works department are all interested in the training.

In addition, the group’s technical team, headed by John Trinterud, K9ONR, has given multiple briefings on their implementation of Winlink to amateur radio clubs both inside and outside of California. They have also given Winlink briefings to officials from Alameda County and the state of California and assisted in setting up four new VHF Winlink gateways in and around Walnut Creek.

This project, which started out as a way to keep club members engaged during the pandemic, has really blossomed into something special. The hams involved have developed a unique WinLink application that has not only improved emergency communications in Walnut Creek, but has the potential to do so elsewhere as well. In addition, the project has attracted the attention of served agencies (such as the public works department) in Walnut Creek, Alameda County, and the state of California.

Do you have an idea for a project that uses new technology to improve emergency communications? If so, get in touch with us to see how you can qualify for an ARDC grant..

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ARDC grantees are developing the next generation of amateur radio leaders

A question that you often hear at amateur radio events is, “Where are all the kids?” Indeed, it sometimes seems that young people are nowhere to be found. Though you may not see many kids at traditional amateur radio events, such as hamfests and club meetings, they are out there. Below, you’ll see how two organizations – with ARDC’s help – are working to get kids involved in the hobby and helping them become tomorrow’s leaders.

YOTA Camp builds skills, fosters friendships

Youth on the Air (YOTA) is a program for and by young amateur radio operators in the Americas. Modeled after the Youngsters on the Air program in IARU Region 1 (Europe, Africa & Middle East), the goal of the program is to build skills, foster lasting friendships, and connect mentors with younger hams.

YOTA Camp is one of the program’s key events. Aided by a $35,500 ARDC grant, the 2022 camp was held June 12 – 17, 2022 at the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting in West Chester Township, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati. 9 girls and 12 boys attended the camp and participated in a number of activities, including an in-depth tour of the museum, fox hunting, a high-altitude balloon launch, HF operation, satellite operation, and kit building.

I spoke with several of this year’s attendees, including Abby, KK7CFJ; Katie, KE8LQR; and Kyle, KE0ZNV; and they all said that they had a great time. Lyle described his experience as “astronomically awesome.” Katie said it was “too short.” Abby said, “All of the experiences were great, but meeting others was the best part.”

At YOTA Camp 2022, attendees built attenuator kits, which they later used in the fox hunt. Photo: Sterling Mann, N0SSC.

Abby’s favorite activities were fox hunting and kit building. The fox hunt was more than just finding the hidden transmitter, though. To help them find the fox, the campers built an offset attenuator. By building the attenuator and then participating in the fox hunt, Abby said she was able to better understand how the whole process worked, and she got a real kick out of using equipment that she built herself.

Katie’s favorite activity was the high-altitude balloon launch. The balloon’s payload included an APRS beacon, a video camera, a voice beacon, and even an insect, for a study of how high altitude affects insects. The campers also launched a smaller balloon with a WSPR beacon.

Lyle enjoyed operating HF at the camp. He noted that at least three of the campers made their first HF contact at the camp. He also said that he’s made it his mission to get more youth on HF and maybe into contesting.

Some YOTA Camp 2022 attendees made their first HF contacts at this year’s camp. Pictured here are Adam Johnson, KD9KIS; Veronica Romanek, KD2UHN; and Marissa Collier, KE8SSG.

Katie enjoyed the balloon launch so much that she’s working on a balloon launch for her high school amateur radio club in Columbiana, OH. She’s currently the club president, and in addition to the balloon launch, she’s working on getting more women into amateur radio.

Abby is also trying to get more kids into ham radio so that she can share all the fun she’s having with the hobby. In addition to her recruiting efforts, Abby wants to learn CW.

As you can see, not only is the YOTA camp teaching campers technical skills, but leadership skills as well. The 2023 YOTA Camp will take place on July 16-21, 2023, at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  A team from the Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) will serve as the local host for this event. To be eligible to attend the camp, you have to be a licensed radio amateur between the ages 15 and 25. For more information, check out the 2023 Camp web page.

4H is about more than raising livestock

When you think of the 4H club, you undoubtedly think of raising goats and pigs, but the Fauquier County (VA) 4H Club is about more than that. Their programs—including their amateur radio club—engage youth in a variety of experiential learning opportunities and community service activities. By serving in leadership roles, the club’s members learn both leadership skills and life skills.

The Fauquier 4-H Ham Radio Club provides members, ages 9 to 18, opportunities to explore science, technology, engineering, art, and math through amateur radio communications and electronics projects. An amateur radio license is not required to join, but the club encourages members to get their license if they wish to do so.

A $34,000 ARDC grant allowed the club to purchase and equip a ham radio trailer for the club. The solar-powered trailer allows the club’s young members to explore science and technology and to showcase amateur radio. It has two operating positions. The HF Station consists of an ICOM IC-7610 connected to either a whip antenna or one of the club’s homebrew wire antennas. The VHF/UHF Station is running an Icom IC-9700 with a Diamond X-6000A tri-band vertical. For portable or D-STAR operation, the club has an Icom IC-705 transceiver.

Club members were heavily involved in the trailer project. They learned how to make power cables, crimp and solder coaxial connectors (see right), and how to connect the radios and computers together. The kids also created the information posters in the trailer to explain ham radio to visitors. One of the posters, which the kids named Alphabet Soup, explains the phonetic alphabet and Q-signals. Another, titled What Does the Fox Say describes fox hunting and radio direction finding.

The club uses the trailer to demonstrate their enthusiasm for amateur radio at regular meetings and events, such as ARRL Field Day, county fairs, and hamfests. These community outreach events focus on introducing people to amateur radio by showcasing what the kids are doing and by giving community members the chance to make on-air contacts. The trailer is the club’s primary station, so if you’ve made contact with N4HKZ, chances are you’ve talked to someone in the trailer.

In addition to the operating events, the club conducts other STEAM-related activities. For example, they recently built code practice oscillator kits and have listened to transmissions from the International Space Station. As with the operating events, the goal of these activities is to give the club members a feel for what science and engineering is all about and encourage them should they express an interest in pursuing either as a career.

They’re not raising livestock, but what they are doing in Fauquier County is raising the next generation of amateur radio leaders. ARDC is proud of the work they’re doing there and is more than happy to help.

Are you concerned about where our next generation of leaders is coming from? Do you have an idea for a program that will encourage young people to become not only radio amateurs, but leaders as well? Apply for a grant.

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Ham clubs build community

Clubs are an important part of the amateur radio community. By teaching classes and conducting test sessions, they are an important source of new hams. Clubs also are an important way for radio amateurs to learn about new rules and regulations, new technology, and new amateur radio products from other club members. Last but not least, clubs are also an important social outlet for radio amateurs.

Because clubs are so important, ARDC has made many grants to clubs to further their missions, in addition to supporting the ARRL Club Grant Program. Here are two examples: the HacDC Amateur Radio Club in Washington, D.C. and the Valley Radio Club in Eugene, Oregon.

Building a ham community in D.C.

Washington, D.C. doesn’t normally come to mind when you think about amateur radio. Space for antennas is limited, and noise levels can be overwhelming. Despite these obstacles, the HacDC Amateur Radio Club (HARC) – part of the HacDC makerspace – is committed to building the amateur radio community in D.C.. They are doing this by:

  • Engaging Technician Class hams with activities and resources that build their enjoyment of and commitment to the amateur radio community.
  • Rebuilding the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) to support the District’s emergency communications needs and be a full partner with other regional and ARES organizations.
  • Providing all DC hams, many of whom live in buildings with antenna restrictions, the opportunity to operate the club’s remotely-operated HF and 6-meter station.

To aid them in building their community, ARDC awarded them a $26,000 grant in November 2021. They have used these funds to improve their HF antenna system, purchase an amplifier for the HF station, and purchase several 10-meter transceivers to loan to Technician Class members. They will also use the funds to improve their repeater system.

HacDC ARC began participating in Field Day again this year.

In addition to making these purchases, they have started a number of activities designed to help them meet their goals. For example, they now hold a weekly VHF net that not only gets Technician Class licensees on the air, but also teaches them the basics of net operation. The club has also begun participating in Field Day again, and they have joined with other clubs in the area to provide communications for two charity bike rides and the Marine Corps Marathon.

Improvements to the club’s HF station have gone a long way towards making amateur radio more accessible to General Class and Extra Class licensees. Before receiving the grant, HacDC club members had to travel to the club station to operate it. Now, the station is remotely controllable. Using RemoteHams software that runs on an Android phone or personal computer, members can operate from just about anywhere. Once the amplifier and new antenna system are installed,  the station will be even more capable.

The new club activities and station improvements seem to be working. According to John Pancoast, K2WT, HacDC ARC vice president, they have attracted 36 new members in 2022 so far. “None of this would have happened without the ARDC grant,” he said.

Club station educates the community in Eugene, OR

The Valley Radio Club of Oregon (VRC), located in Eugene, Oregon, was chartered in 1929, and is one of the oldest, continuously operated clubs in the United States. In June 2014, VRC volunteers set up amateur radio station W7PXL at the Eugene Science Center  and operated it every Saturday until the Covid pandemic forced the museum to close. The station has educated thousands of visitors (many of them children) about amateur radio, and has provided the first hands-on experience with two-way radio for many visitors.

According to Scott Rosenfeld, N7JI, one of the station managers, the station was largely assembled from equipment that was begged, borrowed, and donated (not stolen) from club members. Since much of it is now 20-30 years old, they were starting to see equipment failures. In October 2021, ARDC awarded VRC a $16,525 ARDC grant to upgrade the equipment and to keep the station operating. The grant allowed them to build a modern station to provide a better, more reliable, more effective hands-on teaching experience at the museum.

Equipment they purchased with the grant included:

  • Icom IC-7610 HF + 6m transceiver
  • Kenwood TM-D710GA 2m/70cm FM transceiver
  • 2 laptop computers
  • 65-inch computer monitor to make it easier for museum visitors to observe station operation
  • 50 amp, 12 VDC switching power supply, and a DC power distribution system  using Anderson Powerpoles
  • Station accessories, including Morse Code keys, speakers, and headphones
  • New antennas, including a multi-band parallel wire dipole, and a 2m/70cm vertical antenna

Rosenfeld also noted that the grant allowed them to purchase a custom-built, lockable enclosure with windows. The enclosure matches the room’s color scheme, prevents access to the station equipment when not in use, and permits visitors to see the equipment when no operator is present. The cabinet can also allow museum personnel to move the equipment should they need the space for another purpose.

The Valley Radio Club’s station at the Eugene Science Center features
a 65-inch monitor that attracts visitors to the station and helps them observe station operation.

The real star of the show, though, is the station’s 65-in. monitor (shown above). According to Nelson Farrier, NF7Z, one of W7PXL’s station managers, the monitor attracts visitors, and once they wander over, station operators can tell them about amateur radio. When there are no operators at the station, a video is shown that educates visitors about ham radio.

Farrier says that the ARDC grant has re-energized the station. The new equipment is much nicer to use and provides a better experience for both volunteers and visitors.

These two clubs are good examples of why supporting clubs is so important:  they are providing a real public service, and that’s why we’re happy to help them.

To apply for an ARDC grant, go to https://www.ampr.org/apply/.

To apply for an ARRL club grant, go to http://arrl.org/club-grant-program.

 

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2021 Audited 990-PF (Tax Return) & Financial Statements

ARDC is pleased to share our 2021 audited 990-PF (tax return) and financial statements, which are now posted on https://www.ampr.org/about/legal.

2021 was a year of tremendous growth for ARDC. This growth was fueled by our need to catch up on our minimum required 5% distribution: we missed the 5% mark in 2020 and wanted to make sure we caught up in 2021. To make this happen, we significantly increased our grantmaking, which required increasing staff. Additionally, our volunteer Grants Advisory Committee (GAC) members and Board members stepped up to review and approve many more grant proposals. Thanks to the stock market, we also saw an increase in our total available capital despite the increase in spending. Financially speaking, 2021 was a good year for ARDC – and our grantees.

Differences Between 2021 and 2020 (2021 Financial Statements)

The Financial Statements, among other things, outline differences between 2021 and 2020. This section provides context for these differences

Before diving in, here are a few quick concepts that may be helpful in reading these documents:

  • Accrual totals show expenses approved in a given year – such as an invoice received from a vendor or an approved grant. Ideally these liabilities get paid in the year when they were approved, though some may be paid in the following year.
  • Cash totals show expenses that were actually paid in a given year. When the IRS calculates our minimum 5% distribution, they are looking at these cash numbers.
  • The 990-PF shows both cash and accrual totals, while the financial statements primarily show accrual totals in their analysis.

As mentioned above, 2021 showed a dramatic increase in our grantmaking compared to 2020.

Year Grants & Gifts (Accrual) Grants & Gifts (Cash)
2021 $10,798,573 $9,247,203
2020 $3,155,532 $3,004,625

The accrual grant & gift totals above can be seen on page 2 of the Financial Statements. The cash totals are pulled from 2020 and 2021 990-PFs, Part I.

In order to increase our grantmaking, ARDC also increased its staffing and professional services, which resulted in more expenses – more payroll, more conferences, more computers for employees, etc. The only expenses that decreased were our legal expenses, since we needed less legal help in 2021.

Year Salaries & Related Office expenses Other Legal & Accounting
2021 $269,906 $126,610 $92,610 $23,743
2020 $40,265 $88,110 $14,083 $48,092

The totals above can be seen on page 5 of the financial statements.

All told, our overall distribution (spending) was much higher in 2021 than in 2020.

Year Total Dist. (Accrual) Total Dist. (Cash)
2021 $11,581,133 $9,760,072
2020 $3,657,234 $3,195,175

The accrual grant totals above can be seen on page 2 of the Financial Statements. The cash totals are pulled from 2020 and 2021 990-PFs, Part I.

Reading the 2021 990-PF (Tax Return)

Part I of the 990-PF provides an overview of our expenses, shown as both an accrual basis (Column A) and a cash basis (Column D).
Both our issued grants and our necessary overhead count towards our required 5% distribution. Note that when calculating the distribution for any given year year, the IRS looks at totals in the the cash category.

Category Accrual Cash
Operating expenses $782,560 $512,869
Contributions, gifts, grants paid $10,798,573 $9,247,203
Total expenses & contributions $11,581,133 $9,760,072

Part II of the 990-PF outlines our balance sheets, which show our total portfolio at the beginning and end of the year. These numbers (and our month-by-month average assets, which aren’t shown) are used to determine our required distribution for the year.

  • Beginning of year: $128,412,366
  • End of year: $139,030,662

Our assets increased by almost $11 million even after we spent the above many millions! The stock market was kind to us in 2021; 2022 not so much, for us or anyone. We’ll leave that discussion for next year’s audit overview blog post.

Part IX, X, XI, and XII of the 990-PF outline information related to qualifying distributions.

  • Part IX calculates the amount of our qualifying distribution (5% of our average assets),
  • Part X calculates the amount of the qualifying distribution minus the small amount ($29,122) of income tax that private foundations pay on their investment income,
  • Part XI lists the qualifying distribution (same amount as the cash total of expenses in Part I), and
  • Part XII outlines our remaining distribution from 2020, our minimum distribution amount for 2021, and the remainder based on our 2021 qualifying distribution. Since we spent a little more than we needed to, this remainder will be carried over towards our 2022 distribution.
Item Amount
2020 distribution remainder $2,618,415
2021 minimum distribution $6,655,368
2021 total distribution required $9,273,783
2021 qualifying distributions $9,760,072
2021 excess distribution $486,289

There’s lots more in the 990-PF than just the above. For example, you can find all grants and gifts made or approved in 2021 (Part XIV, plus continuation sheets).

Should you have any questions about our audited financials, please do not hesitate to reach out: contact@ardc.net.

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Rhizomatica: Connecting the Unconnected

One of the factors that we consider when making a grant is how much of an impact that the project will make. By any measure, Rhizomatica is making a tremendous impact – both technologically, and in terms of the many communities who benefit from their work. Supporting Rhizomatica is one way that ARDC is making an impact in digital communications outside of amateur radio.

Rhizomatica’s mission is to help communities build and maintain their own self-governed communication infrastructure. Rhizomatica’s approach combines regulatory activism and reform, critical engagement with technology, development of decentralized telecommunications infrastructure, and direct community involvement and participation.

Rhizomatica founder Peter Bloom showing Nantu Canelos, an Achuar indigenous technician in Ecuador, how HERMES works.

Through their work, they aim to create and promote technologies that reinforce community values like cooperation, trust and shared commitment. They are striving to develop technology that will serve rural and indigenous communities in ways that reinforce their values and ways of association. In doing so, they prevent these communities from being left behind.

HERMES

One of the systems that Rhizomatica has developed to connect rural and indigenous communities is the High-frequency Emergency and Rural Multimedia Exchange System, or HERMES. As shown in the figure below, HERMES uses HF frequencies and sky-wave propagation to connect rural and isolated communities to base stations in more populated areas and provides limited internet service. The reason that HERMES uses HF links is because satellite links are usually too expensive and it can take a very long time—as well as a lot of money—to install terrestrial links.

HERMES connects rural and isolated communities to base stations in more populated areas and provides limited internet service

The HERMES HF transceiver consists of the following components:

  • 12V power input, provided by either mains power or battery power.
  • uBitx HF transceiver, using the v6 base board.
  • GPS module for time and frequency synchronization.
  • 100W power amplifier (optional).
  • Intel-based Mini-PC, 4 GB RAM, CPU Intel Core 3rd gen or better.
  • Reflected / forward power meter and SWR protection.
  • Custom uBitx firmware developed specifically for HERMES. This firmware digitally controls the uBitx transceiver, measures output power and  communicates with the Mini-PC.
  • Custom enclosure, including a metal case, heat sinks, and fans.

Both the hardware and software are open source. Documentation is available at https://github.com/Rhizomatica.

Using this hardware, a typical link might range anywhere from 50 km to 800 km. The radios operate in the 5.8 MHz commercial band, and with the standard uBitx v6 power output of about 13 W, they are able to transmit data at 3 kbytes per minute over a 2.5 kHz channel. At this data rate, HERMES can provide users with some of the services afforded by cell phones and the internet. This includes email and chat, secure, password-protected image, voice, text and file exchange between community stations, and a web interface for system administration.

Of course, these services don’t run as fast over an HF link as they would over a normal cell-phone connection. For example, images sent via a cellular network are transmitted and received almost instantaneously, while an encoded, standard-resolution image of about 10 kbytes will take just over three minutes to be transferred via HERMES. Similarly, an encoded, 20 s audio message of about 4 kbytes requires just over one minute to be transferred. Text messages and text emails, since they are usually short and can be highly compressed, can be transferred at about ten messages per minute.

Even so, that’s a big leap forward for some communities, explained Peter Bloom Rhizomatica’s founder and general coordinator. In the past, he noted, it might take someone a full day to transport a photo by boat.

Making an impact in Ecuador and Brazil

According to Bloom, there are currently ten second-generation HERMES systems installed, serving approximately 30,000 people in Ecuador and Brazil. One of these installations serves a group of rural trading outposts on the Amazon River. These outposts had been using analog radios to communicate information, such as inventory data, but this approach is risky: using unencrypted voice communications allows anyone to listen in. The HERMES system allows them to transmit this data digitally, which provides some level of protection.

HERMES is also being used by rural and Indigenous land defenders who are working to protect their lands from mining, logging, and farming companies that are encroaching on their lands and destroying the rainforest. Their job is to report what they see, but are fearful that they could be easily identified using analog radios. Using digital communications allows their communications to be more secure.

In addition to making this immediate impact, Rhizomatica is working on projects that they feel will make an impact in the future. One of these projects is an open-source replacement for VARA HF, a high-performance HF modem based on OFDM modulation. They are also working on improving Codec2, an open source speech codec designed for communications quality speech at low bit rates, and are experimenting with using artificial intelligence techniques to develop error correction codes.

For more information on how Rhizomatica is making an impact, go to https://rhizomatica.org.

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Now Accepting Applications for the 2023 Technical Advisory Committee

Please submit applications by Nov. 12, 2022!

We are now accepting applications from those wishing to serve on our Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) in 2023. These are volunteer positions, with a term of one year (January to December).

About the TAC
The primary role of the TAC is to advise on 44Net technology, architecture, and policy. In 2022, the committee worked on providing feedback on a survey released to 44Net users, which garnered over 1700 responses from all over the world. Additionally, they developed a feature requirements document for an updated portal, which we use for 44Net address space allocations.

2023 Goals & Time Commitment
In 2023, the TAC will continue its work on refining 44Net use-cases and standards. Goals include further development of the portal mentioned above, researching and developing a proposal for Points for Presence (PoPs) based on existing use cases and best practices, and conversations  with the 44Net community about IPv6. Note that though there may be some prototyping and development, the majority of the work may be document-focused.

The TAC usually meets once or twice a month for at least an hour. Additional time may be spent working on or taking meetings related to the projects mentioned above.

How to Apply
If you are interested in joining the TAC, please send a resume and brief cover letter to contact@ardc.net by November 12, 2022. In your cover letter, which can be brief, please outline:

  • Your experience with 44Net, networking, development, and/or amateur radio,
  • Your experience working with networking and similar technologies, and
  • What you could see yourself contributing in 2023.

We’ll review all applications and seek to make a determination by December 7, 2022. Meetings will begin mid-January.

For more information about the roles and duties of these committees, you can read the Advisory Committee Policy in full here.

Please direct any questions to contact@ardc.net.

We’re looking forward to reading your application!



 

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ARDC Welcomes Technical Director Jon Kemper, KA6NVY

 ARDC is pleased to announce that Jon Kemper (KA6NVY) has joined our staff as Director of Technology. In his role, he will be working with the foundation, volunteers and community members to lead the assessment, development, and implementation of new technology initiatives, manage open source projects, and improve the operational efficiency of both 44Net and the grantmaking side of the house.

Jon brings a wealth of experience managing global engineering teams using software development methodologies. Notable projects include: remotely-operated vehicles (including underwater vehicles), Internet of things (IoT) sensors, and embedded control systems. His amateur radio activities include the building of 70 cm repeaters that link together via RF and VoIP and design of a flat audio board used to equalize and route discriminator audio.

Jon holds an Amateur Extra Class amateur radio license and a commercial General Radiotelephone Operator License (GROL). He studied computer science and physics at California State University San Marcos and has an AA Degree from Palomar College. Jon is a lifelong learner in the field of technology and has been awarded 4 U.S. patents, including one for an automotive security device and one for a device that measures temperature and converts that measurement into a color.

Jon was introduced to radio and electronics by his grandfather, Guy A. Kemper, who founded Kemper Radio Laboratories in Los Angeles. At ARDC, Jon will be carrying on the family tradition of helping future generations become interested in science and technology.

We are thrilled to have Jon on board and look forward to evolving and improving our technology under his direction.



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Now Accepting Applications for the 2023 Grants Advisory Committee

The deadline for applying for these positions is November 12, 2022

We are now accepting applications from those wishing to serve on our Grants Advisory Committee (GAC). These are volunteer positions, with a term of one year (January to December). These committees usually meet twice a month for at least an hour. There is additional time spent reviewing proposals and email correspondence that happen between meetings. Estimated time commitment is about 2-5 hours/week.

An amateur radio license OR a technical degree OR experience in digital communications is necessary to be able to review project proposals. We are looking for a broad range of experience on our review committee, and people with experience in K-12 education, university academics, research and development, or nonprofits are especially encouraged to apply. 

We are also interested in volunteers who are located outside of the United States. Please note that a good command of the English language and flexibility accommodating a broad range of time zones is needed to participate effectively.

Grants Advisory Committee (GAC)

The Grants Advisory Committee reviews and advises the ARDC Board of Directors on eligible proposals and helps identify potential grant-making opportunities. In 2023, we estimate that we will receive 150-200 grant applications for quality projects.

How to Apply

If you are interested in joining the GAC, please send a resume and brief cover letter to contact@ardc.net by November 12, 2022. We’ll review all applications and seek to make a determination by December 7, 2022. Meetings will begin mid-January.

For more information about the roles and duties of these committees, you can read the Advisory Committee Policy in full here.

Please direct any questions to contact@ardc.net.

We’re looking forward to reading your application!

 

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July 2022 Community Meeting Recap

On July 16, 2022, ARDC held its second community meeting of the year. There were just over 30 attendees. Below is a recording of the meeting and a recap. In addition to watching the video, you can download the slides. Times are included in square brackets, so that you can quickly fast forward to a particular topic. For example, discussion of staffing updates begins at the [2:00] mark.

After some housekeeping announcements, Merideth, KK7BKI, announced some staffing updates [2:00]. The first announcement is that ARDC is contracting with long-time Technology Advisory Committee volunteer Tim Požár, KC6GNJ, as a technology management consultant.

The second announcement is that we are now in the interviewing stage for the Director of Technology position. There have been many great applications, and Tim will be helping us find and hire the best candidate.

Grants Update [3:00]

Next, Chelsea, KF0FVJ, gave the group an update on our new grants process, noting that it allows us to process more proposals in less time. Chelsea also noted that the website has been updated to make applying for and tracking grants easier. We have updated the instructions page, refined our grantmaking categories and made them more concise, and added a page to inform grantees about what happens after they get a grant. Finally, she noted that grantees and others involved can give us feedback anonymously.

Chelsea then got down to facts and figures. In the first half of 2022, we awarded over $5.6 million to 61 projects. Approximately $2.5 million went to amateur radio projects, $1.9 million to education projects, and $1.2 million to R&D projects. Overall, 86 proposals were submitted and we funded 56% of those proposals. Chelsea noted that while 56% is a relatively low acceptance rate, well-thought-out proposals to eligible organizations still stand a good chance of being accepted.

Chelsea also addressed some trends that we’ve noticed. In amateur radio, for example, many of the grants are for projects that aim to introduce amateur radio to new audiences and for projects that will increase capacity for established ham clubs in the U.S. She noted that while we love funding these projects, we would like to see more R&D proposals and proposals for funding international projects.

Next, we took a deeper dive into a couple of projects that we found noteworthy. The first is a grant to the Sangamon Valley Radio Club, who will use the grant to conduct Amateur Radio Direction Finding (ARDF) events for amateur radio clubs and youth groups such as 4-H, Civil Air Patrol, and Scouts. One cool feature of this project is that it is designed to be a prototype for other groups wanting to set up their own ARDF activities.

The second is a grant to the National Radio Observatory (NRAO), which operates radio telescopes around the world, including the Very Large Array in New Mexico and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile. The goal of this project, called Exploring the Electromagnetic Spectrum (and Why Amateur Radio Matters), is to educate emerging generations about the electromagnetic spectrum through an interactive, substantive experience with amateur radio. In particular the program will focus on broadening the excitement of amateur radio among BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students. With this grant, the NRAO will develop a scalable curriculum to be shared nationwide and internationally.

The third is a grant to the Central Michigan Emergency Network to replace the 3.4 GHz equipment they’re currently using with 10 GHz links and to expand their network across the State of Michigan. In addition to expanding the number of point-to-multiple-points (PtMP) access points, they are going to provide 18 local clubs with client radios. The clubs will loan those radios to their members to help promote the use of the technology. When the project is complete, the network will connect 59 different sites over 610 miles of point-to-point microwave links.

Chelsea finished up the discussion of grants by noting the final deadline for grant applications in 2022 is October 1 [13:20] She then noted that we will switch over to a new grants management system called Hypha. Information about this new system is available on our website, and of course, we’re available to help you if you need it.

Hamfests and More Hamfests [14:40]

John, K7VE, then gave a report on the hamfests and conferences that we attended in the first half of the year, including:

Our schedule doesn’t let up in the second half of 2022. We’ll have a presence at the following hamfests and conferences:

As John noted, we look forward to attending these events and meeting with you all. Please get in touch with us if you’d like to meet us in person at one of these events by emailing contact@ardc.net.

44Net Update [18:00]

The rest of the meeting was taken up by a discussion of 44Net. First, Tim Požár, KC6GNJ, discussed the upgrades being planned for the 44Net portal. With a lot of input from the members of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), the requirements document is nearing completion.

The meeting was then handed over to Matt Peterson, K6MPP, one of the principals of the consulting firm TwoP, who has been conducting our 44Net assessment [20:00]. The first step in this assessment was to conduct a survey of current users and potential users. Matt noted that there were more than 1,700 responses to the survey, which gives us a lot of data to work with.

Matt gave a high level overview of some of the survey findings, including requests for better documentation and for easier points of entry. The next step in the assessment will be to conduct a number of focus groups. Once the focus groups have been held, TwoP will publish a full report, and with that data, we will begin looking at ways to make 44Net more useful and usable.

At this point [39:00], Rosy asked the participants several questions, including “What actions or support are critical to making 44Net more accessible?” and “What are examples of cool use cases of 44Net?” As you can imagine, these questions generated quite a bit of discussion among the participants.

Thanks to everyone who participated, and if you weren’t able to be with us live, please watch the video and give us your feedback. Your input helps us make better decisions about grants and about the direction to take 44Net. We couldn’t do what we do without you.

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New grants management system to make applying for and tracking grants easier

Since ARDC began awarding grants, we’ve been using a software package called HotCRP. While HotCRP has served us reasonably well, it’s designed to manage conference paper submissions, not grant applications.

Enter Hypha. Hypha is an open-source submission management platform designed to receive and manage applications for funding. It’s easy to use, secure, privacy-focused, and has a modern user interface. This should make it easier for grantees to navigate the system.

Other features that we feel make it a better choice for us include:

  • the ability for us to more easily send messages to grantees when an application has been awarded or rejected,
  • the ability for our reviewers to score applications, and
  • more sorting features that will make it easier for us to track our awards.

Most importantly, Hypha is highly customizable. Over time, we’ll be able to add plenty of features that will help manage active grants as well as grant applications.

All applications received after July 15, 2022, will be reviewed and evaluated using Hypha! If you have submitted an application after that date or have an incomplete application, you’ll need to enter your information in the new system. The questions are all the same, so it should be a fairly easy process.

To set up an account, go to https://grants.ardc.net and click the Apply button. Note that even if you had an account on our old system, you’ll have to set one up on our new system.

If you have any questions about the new system, or are having trouble applying for a grant, contact us by emailing help@ardc.net.

Many thanks to our technology partners at Open Tech Strategies for their work bringing Hypha to life. And many thanks to our grant applicants who make the work we do at ARDC worthwhile.

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