ARRL 2006 UHF CONTEST AT KMØT and Rover Mania III

The SDR Shack...

Another year in planning...

"Rover Mania I" and "Rover Mania II" were great successes here in the upper Midwest, thus "Rover Mania III" was in the planning stages for the most part after the 2005 contest.  However, lots of talk about Rover Mania III was a bit later in the year, as the CSVHF Society Convention was to be in Minnesota in 2006.  Major efforts were being made by those who were on the NLRS team for the conference, so they did not have a lot of spare time to ponder the upcoming UHF Contest during the year.  One thing everyone agreed on was to again make a good effort and to keep the pressure on the ARRL, showing that good activity exists for the August UHF Contest, less our contest be possibly eliminated.

The KMØT Plan..

Well, the plan was to entice rovers to come play once again in the microwave playground.  The flat terrain around here allows one to make microwave contacts fairly easily, even when propagation is not optimum.  Other than that, I had no other secret bullets in the arsenal here :)  Around the first of the year, the station equipment seemed to be up to snuff and and holding up to the mild winter we were having.  So I coasted into 2006 thinking I did not have much to do.

Working on the SDR-1000s

Well, as spring arrived, I was doing some work on my microwave station and got to thinking how well it had been working.  I wondered how the SDR-1000 would treat me as the IF for my other VHF lower bands.  Well, I decided to redo the station once again here for the second year in a row.  I boxed up my FT-1000MPs and got em sold off and picked up another 1 watt SDR-1000.  The way my transverters were set up for 144, 222 and 432 MHz, it would not be a real big deal to hook a SDR-1000 into them, I just needed to do a TX/RX relay on the HF RF jack on the SDR-1000 since my transverters were split IF.  Switching bands could be done the same way as I had it with my custom IF switchbox and the AV switchbox control.  Since additional UCBs were not yet available, I would have to settle for just showing 28 MHz IF, but that was how it had been done here for years with the MP-1000s as the IF radio.

Out with the old.....

As for 6 Meters, I decided to dedicate a SDR-1000 for that band, the same as I had done with my FT-1000MP set up.  Hooking that up was also not an issue and only having one band to be concerned about, I was able to program the SDR-1000 to show 50 MHz.  Now I know this band would not contribute to the UHF contest, but the work on this band went in parallel with the rest of the conversion to SDR radio IFs.  See my June 2006 VHF Contest write-up for how the SDR-1000 with the SSB Electronics LT6S transverter has worked out for me on 6 Meters!

As the new integration came along, I came up with a basic 4 band UCB for the SDR-1000 that would be connected to my 144, 222 and 432 MHz transverters.  With that I was able then to get all bands 50 MHz thru 24 GHz showing proper frequency and "single click" band button selection on the SDR-1000 screens.  I got to thinking this would be pretty neat as it would be the first contest where I would never be in the dark again about what band I was on!

See my SDR page for more details on the 4 Band UCB.

So, the final setup was......

SDR-1000 #1 : 50 MHz

SDR-1000 #2:  144 - 222 - 432 MHz

SDR-1000 #3:  902 MHz thru 24 GHz

902 thru 24 GHz SDR-1000 setup

144-222-432 MHz Screen on the left side - SDR-1000 for that is below the microwave screen on the right.

 6 Meter Screen and SDR-1000

And for those very rare occasions....the HF SDR-1000 Station - Built into a custom aluminum rack with all components...

Ameritron ALS-500M amp, LDG tuner, coax switch, low pass filter, dummy load and WXB Power Master watt meter.

In the matter of minutes, one can unhook a few cables and take the whole systems portable with a laptop...Field Day next year?

Again, the IF switching for PTT, microphone, headphones and CW keyer was accomplished via the NCS-3240 Multi-Switcher.  This enables me to switch between the HF SDR-1000 and the three SDR IFs for 50 MHz and up, all with a touch of one button.  Its pretty sweet....

Details on the specifics for the simple 4 band UCB for SDR #2 is on my SDR webpage....

Simple 4 Band UCB - Simple is good!

Mall of America - Bloomington Minnesota!!!! CSVHFS

40th Year Anniversary CSVHFS Logo

While I was getting all that SDR stuff rolling at the shack, the Central States VHF Society Conference came up really quick!  Luckily I did not have far to go this year as it was taking place in Bloomington Minnesota.  We get up there all the time for family, so I could just about drive there with my eyes closed.  So we packed up the kids and headed for the Ramada Mall of America Hotel.

The first night there, Thursday, we took a very nice paddle boat dinner cruise on the Mississippi River.  Everyone got to hang out after dinner to enjoy the scenery along the river's edge.  There was lots of discussion on VHF and above during dinner and afterwards.  Glen, KCIYT was even brave enough to sit at our table for dinner with the kids!

      

Matthew and I on the bus ride to the boat:    Glen - KCIYT observes my parenting skills....

     

Chris - NUK hangs out with my wife Colleen:    Dave - NKP just finds out he just lost to K2DRH in the SOLP - June Contest 2006

The King Clan....

After the Thursday night boat ride, we all went to the hospitality suites to tell stories and lies to one another.  This went on Friday and late Saturday night as well.  It sure is a good way to meet everyone and exchange ideas!  This is one big part of the conference!

   

Our President - Bruce - W9FZ chats with Bill - KAWU and Wally - WPHD (Photo by WBVHF):    RoVairs...Tim - KPG and Pat - K9ILT hang out with Jenna for a bit....

    

Andy - KSM gives Barry - VE4MA and BIll - NLNO the business...(Photo by WBVHF):    Peter - VE3AX is caught with an American beer....

 

Matt - KFQ indicates to me in a subtle way that I should probably hit the sack....

In between all the social gatherings, there were antenna ranges, noise figure testing, flea market and vendor sales.  The biggest part however is the technical presentations from many amateurs across the board.  There is certainly a lot to be learned and the two days of presentations were extremely well done and well attended.  It all finished off with a banquet and keynote speaker on the recent 3YX Peter 1 Island Antarctica DXPedition, which highlighted the EME aspects of the expedition.  Then of course there were hundreds of prizes to be drawn at the end of the night.  Rumor has it that our ARRL President - Joel - W5ZN was drawn as the first ticket and went on to get the certificate for a SDR-1000 from Flex-Radio!  Wow!   I was the big winner however, Sandra from Down East Microwave, got me a DEMI T-Shirt!!

Up to no good I'm quite sure..... KMT - KFQ - NKP

XYL Colleen and KMT at the CSVHFS Banquet   (Photo by WBVHF) - Thanks Ed!

KØSM Visits the Homeland (well....not this year)

The last two years, Andy had made it back from the east coast contest corridor to participate in Rover Mania I and II.  However he was not able to make it this year.  This was unfortunate, as he was always good for a lot of rover Qs.  Time during that mid summer was such that I was unable to get the spare equipment out to anyone else, I just thought of it too late.  Maybe next year!

Final Equipment Repairs:

 It seems like I'm always fixing things....oh well I guess that's part of the deal...It's a nice day anyway!

Well, as luck would have it, a few things turned up in the final weeks before the contest.  The original M2 Orion rotor on the main tower gave out after 8 years of being abused by the winds here in NW Iowa.  In addition, the 3456 MHz transverter was acting up again, which has seemed to become a yearly occurrence.

Numerous tests and calls to M2 indicated that the rotor was not going to fix itself, so it was going to have to be taken out of the tower to be repaired.  I was not sure how I was going to approach the rotor change out.  My initial thoughts were that I was going to have some folks come and help pull the mast out about 6" in order to clear the rotor clamp, and then perhaps slide the new one in between the webs, but that was a long shot.  After I laid the tower over however, I discovered how I actually installed it.  I had forgotten that the rotor plate came out with a number of screws and the rotor was slid into the tower from the bottom, as it did not fit between the webs.  Amazing what you forget after 8 years...

   

Removal of the rotor plate and then loosen the rotor clamp....

   

Sliding the rotor out by reaching thru the webs....this took some time!

I supported the mast as best I could, being sure it was parallel with the tower structure.  When I loosened the rotor clamp and slid it off, the mast did not appear to move one bit.  This was a good sign as I was worried that when I did that, that the mast would move and the centering of the mast on the newly installed rotor would present a big problem.  Which might make me remove all the antennas and then the mast.....ugly, very ugly....but it did not turn out to be the case thank goodness.

So when I got the rotor out, I looked it over and shook it about.  I could hear all kinds of metal parts jiggling around.  I grabbed it by its mast clamp and it almost fell out.  It was pretty much a mess inside and would require a complete overhaul.  I however did have a spare, one left over from the other tower.  I had another M2 Orion rotor sitting in the garage, one that I used on the MA-40 mast when I was rotating that tower from the base.  When I changed that last year to a rotor up top, the Alpha Spid, then the Orion got removed.  Good thing I did not sell it!

I slid the spare rotor up the inside of the tower and mounted it to the mast, then attached the rotor plate.  I snugged it all up and it did not appear anything was out of line or binding.  A bit of wiring and I was off to the next problem...

   

The 2304 / 3456 MHz tower box was removed once again and set up on the bench, the cavities again were not aligned correctly in the 3456 MHz transverter.  As I mentioned, this seemed to go out of whack every year.  As one can see, the numerous marks and seal sets on the cavity screws from previous settings.  This is now the third time I have had to readjust them.  However, once adjusted, all was just fine and burned in for a few days.  Then it was put back into service.  I find it strange that the DB6NT transverters, both the 2304 and 3456 were of the same vintage, and up in the tower box for the same amount of years, but the 2304 MHz transverter has never given me any trouble.... Any ideas out there?

As the weather would have it, the tower was laid over a week or so more than it needed to be.  I was starting to get nervous about getting a break in the wind so I could get things back up in the air and then have some time for testing before the contest.  On the Thursday before the contest, I got a break between fronts.  The wind died down about 7:00 PM, I got it set up straight and bolted down.  Then about 20 minutes later the winds came up again!  Everything tested out and I was good to go with fingers crossed!

Friday:

Well, the potential rover plans were in and posted.  Gene - NDQS was going to be out and about which was a good thing.  In the past two years for Rover Mania, he had equipment problems so it was hoped he would make his entire schedule.  But It looked like he was pretty much the only rover that was going to be anywhere close in other than John - K9JK/R.  However John had only 3 bands going.  Bruce - W9FZ/R was going to be up in the EN40s and 50s of Wisconsin, where we have had very limited success between us from that area before.  Jim - KMHC/R was staying near the his QTH of EN26 and to EN34 and 35, so he was not making a trip down in this area either.  With not many rovers to be in the local area, making most contacts would be longer haul....conditions were starting to go the wrong way as well, not a good thing.

Saturday Morning:

Not much to do except load up "Roverlog" and test the gear.  I tried to sleep in as much as I could, but you know how hard that can be...

The Contest Begins in the Microwave Playground!

The write-up for this particular "Rover Mania" is pretty simple.  The majority of the contacts were from rovers, and most of the time was spent juggling the rovers when I came across more than one at a time.  There was lots of dead air time however, as the quantity of rovers was down.  The fixed station count was way far down in comparison to last year.  I guess this can be contributed to contest burn out or the locals being tuckered out from planning and working the CSVHFS convention.  Propagation played a part too.  At some times the  bands seemed ok, but stuff a bit farther out in certain directions just did not pan out....

Started out right before the contest lining up with Jon - WZQ in EN44 and worked on all bands thru 10 GHz pretty quick.  A quick swing around then resulted in finding Gene - NDQS/R right away in EN14.  That was a nice direction to point as I was able to find John in K9JK/R in EN14 as well.  John was out west on vacation prior to the contest and we had been in contact trying a few QSOs from the western grids.  John wanted to check his system out to see how it was working.  However, during the beginning of the contest, I was only able to get John on 432.

WZQ/R in EN44 - Pointed at EN13VC - Rover + 10 - 5.7 and 24 GHz

From there I hit Gene in EN24 and back to John - K9JK/R in EN03 and 04.  There we were able to work on a few bands into EN04 and thru 1296 in EN03.  He was not all that far away, but signals were weak with QSB.  A number of minutes were spent trying to get coordinated to go to a higher band.  I then managed to eek out a few contacts from some locals and KCIYT/R and WBLJC/R up more north.  A brief encounter with K2DRH in EN41 resulted in all his bands and then I was off to find NDQS/R in a father off spot in EN13.  Genes rover was still going strong and we were hoping that things with "old blue" would hold together.  Then Jon - WZQ/R was found in EN43 along with KCIYT/R in EN23 for one band.  Gene - NDQS/R stopped by for a few minutes to shoot the bull and work on 24 GHz from in close.  We then broke out the laser stuff and got it all set up.  However, we could not get Gene's laser pointer to fire, so that was a missed multiplier.  We spent about 15 minutes messing with it, but he had to get back on the road.  Word has it that he figured out his problem as soon as he got home.....but we are not going to talk about that :)

   

NDQS/R with "Ol Blue" in da house.....just a little bit of rain falling....

Also his rover interior with the integration of the new TS-2000 for 432 and 1296...

I hooked up with Dave - NKP and Gary - WGHZ in EN34 and then worked Gene and Jon in a few more closer grids.  I caught a few more locals and then worked WAVJP/R while mobile in EN34 on 432 to call it a night.  Things were pretty slow and I figured it would be good to get a bit of shut eye before any potential good stuff in the morning.

I got about 5 to 6 hours of sleep and found Gene - NDQS/R in EN33 about 1200 UTC.  After that, lots of time was spent CQing with no results.  The bands were pretty strange.  I recall calling way NNE for KAWU with nothing heard until 1330 UTC.  After the contest we both compared notes.  We were looking at each other many times and that was the only time we heard each other.  I also caught Jon and Gene again in a few more grids.  During this time, I heard a number of times that Lloyd - WBULX in EN04 was working guys in 9 land, a predominantly east west path.  The guys in EN34 said they heard the 9s working him, but could not hear Lloyd.  This was weird too as I could normally always hear him, but I could not either!  Kind of a one way propagation to specific area, perhaps skipping over the closer in stuff.  I don't recall every seeing this before for stations in the mid path during scatter / tropo conditions.

NUK/R and the Mini "Alice" - This is one cool rover setup!

I managed to catch Chris, NUK in a few grids then, 432 and 10 GHz, kind of a nice band spread.  It was good to have him out there.  I swung the yagis out west a number of times during all this to look for John -  K9JK/R but during our last encounter, a thunderstorm was moving in and I suspected that he got shut out.  Well, during those early hours, I heard a very weak signal coming back to my CW CQ.  I called a number of times again and it took me a while to pull it out.  Sure enough it was K9JK/R now in EN11 and EN12.  Signals were not bad once I got the antennas on him and he indicated that he had to shut down due to the storms.  We were lucky here, as the storms never came out on top of me, but they sure messed up the propagation!

John - K9JK/R out in the western grids...EN04 / EN14...

With his log periodic on 222, 432 and 1296 MHz

KMT in the shack...Rain Scatter and Radar running on the spare CPUs....

Laptop for logging to stay out of the way of the SDR-1000 IF radios.....

Hey! I'm wearing my DEMI T-Shirt!

Towards the end of the contest, my conversations with Gene were such that we should not waste time on trying 24 GHz from the farther reaching grids.  His schedule was going good with "old blue" and he was thinking that he could muster two more grids by heading south if the timing all worked out.  With that plan, he managed to get to EN20 and EN30 for all the bands thru 10 GHz right before the end of the contest.  This was a huge boost to the score, thanks Gene!

The contest ended with me finding NUK/R and WBLJC/R on 432.  The band was crummy, but we managed to hear each other to get things set up.  Thanks guys for being there!

Contest Summary: KMØT SOHP

Band

QSOs

Pts

QSO Pts

Grids

222 MHz

36

3

108 24

432 MHz

50

3

150 24

902 MHz

22

6

132 18

1296 MHz

26

6

156 20

2304 MHz

22

12

264 18

3456 MHz

22

12

264 18

5760 MHz

21

12

252 17

10 GHz

23

12

276 17

24 GHz

6

12

72 6

Totals All Bands

228

 

1674

162

KMT CLAIMED SCORE:   271,188 SOHP

Wow!  It turned out pretty good.  My third best score yet.  Was it enough to take first place?  Wonder what kind of QSOs I could have gotten from Bruce - W9FZ/R if I could have found him.  He was up in the forests of Wisconsin, never heard hardly a peep from that area, especially from fixed stations.  Never did hear Jim - KMHC/R and had a real tough time with Glen - KCIYT/R.  Notable misses were with other fixed stations like WBULX in EN04 who I knew was on, but could not hear.  Larry - NLL in EM09 was not to be found either.  I worked essentially no stations very far south, which was weird.  Gene - NDQS/R said he worked to the south a few stations and I pointed down there right after he told me, but I could not raise anyone.  Matt - KFQ was operating portable in EN44, but I never heard him either.  We both compared notes that we pointed at each other many times and CQed our guts out....It was just weird propagation.

10 GHz was the winner band as far as points this year with 2304 / 3456 MHz in a close second.  5.7 was a big help of course.  A few more folks were on this band this time around, nice to have the activity.

SUMMARY CONTESTS PAST

YEAR SCORE QSOs GRIDS PROPAGATION ACTIVITY
2006 271,188 228 162 POOR to WEIRD FAIR Due To RM III
2005 640,248 407 206 POOR to FAIR VERY GOOD Due To RM II
2004 349,020 361 140 POOR to FAIR GOOD Due To RM I
2003 127,008 168 112 POOR FAIR to GOOD
2002 54,288 104 78 BAD - WX POOR DUE TO WX
2001 138,312 184 136 AWESOME GREAT DUE TO TROPO

I would characterize this years propagation as poor to weird.  Locals were very weak in most cases and it seemed that things would not really stretch out at all.  Locally sometime signals were briefly very good, especially on Sunday.

We are still looking for the tropo we had during the 2001 contest, that was pretty unreal.  I am already doing the "tropo-dance" for next year, please join in.... Thanks everyone for all the QSOs!!!

"The Rovers Corner" ©

NDQS/R wins the Rover's Corner Award!

What can I say, Rover Mania  III was the key!  Here is the chart of Rover activity I worked:

 BAND NDQS/R WZQ/R K9JK/R NUK/R WAVPJ/R KCIYT/R WBLJC/R
 222 MHz 12 8  5   2 1  
 432 MHz 12 8  7 4 3 2  2
 902 MHz 12 8          
 1296 MHz 12 8  3        
 2304 MHz 12 8          
 3456 MHz 12 8          
 5.7 GHz 12 8          
 10 GHz 12 8   2      
 24 GHz 6            
 Total QSOs 102 64 15 6 5 3 2

Total Rover QSOs  = 197

Rover QSOs % of Total QSOs = 86% WOW! The rovers really were the major key for sure.  If conditions had spread out a bit, It looked like I could have had a bunch more rover QSOs in the log as I had lots of dead air time this contest.  Good to have Gene back and running full steam with his blue bomber rover!  Interesting to see how he had the same QSOs and grids as Jon - WZQ did last year.  Again - no contacts from Jim - KMHC and Bruce - W9FZ.

A special thanks to all the rovers. Without contacts from them, the score would be next to nothing!  "Rover Mania III" was a complete success!


Below is a chart of "Rover Mania II" Rovers.

 BAND WZQ/R KMHC/R KSM/R NDQS/R KCIYT/R NRHL/R K9JK/R
 222 MHz 12 12   6 4   1
 432 MHz 12 12 12 6 4 1  
 902 MHz 12 12 12 6 3 1  
 1296 MHz 12 12   2 3    
 2304 MHz 12 12   6 3    
 3456 MHz 12 12 12 6 3 1  
 5.7 GHz 12 9 12 6      
 10 GHz 12 9 12 6 1    
 24 GHz 6     2      
 Total QSOs 102 90 60 46 21 3 1

Total Rover QSOs Rover Mania II = 323

Below is a chart of "Rover Mania I" Rovers.  As one can see, there were lots more rovers.

BAND

WØZQ/R

KØNY/R

KBØTHN/R

WØAMT/R

KØSM/R

KØPG/R

K9ILT/R

222 MHz

12

10

10

8

 

3

3

432 MHz

12

10

10

8

6

3

3

902 MHz

12

6

6

8

 

 

 

1296 MHz

12

6

6

8

 

 

 

2304 MHz

12

 

 

8

 

 

 

3456 MHz

12

 

 

8

6

 

 

5760 MHz

9

10

10

 

 

 

 

10 GHz

12

9

8

 

4

 

 

24 GHz

 

 

 

 

4

 

 

Total QSOs

93

51

50

48

20

6

6

BAND

KFØQ/R

NØHJZ/R

KCØP/R

NØHZO/R

WBØLJC/R

 

 

222 MHz

4

8

 

 

 

 

 

432 MHz

4

8

1

1

1

 

 

902 MHz

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

1296 MHz

4

 

1

1

 

 

 

2304 MHz

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

3456 MHz

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

5760 MHz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 GHz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24 GHz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total QSOs

36

16

2

2

1

 

 

Total Rover QSOs Rover Mania I = 331

YEAR R-QSOS % ACTIVITY
2006 197 86 FAIR
2005 323 79 AWESOME!!
2004 331 91 AWESOME!!
2003 118 70 GOOD
2002 71 68 LIGHT
2001 52 28 LIGHT

Above is the chart of the Rover activity over the last few years.

We hope this will give the ARRL something more to talk about in terms of UHF CONTEST ACTIVITY.  It is ALIVE AND WELL!!!!

Oh, and for those of you who think this was a big grid circling expedition by all the rovers or captured rover situation, you know the drill - go pound sand!  The rovers were all independent entities, and they were not captured rovers until I could find them!  They all came up with their own routes and did what they wanted.

GRID CHARTS

For the logging, I used "RoverLog" again... (It's just not for Rovers ya know!) and it worked out very well.  I also decided to do a slightly different custom grid map layout.  I used the "RoverLog's" notation for indicating the general number of QSOs in a grid to show activity level from each area on each band.  "RoverLog" has a map function that shows this as well on the fly so one can check on the QSO density as the contest progresses.  The program worked has very well and I will use it again!  See www.2ub.org/roverlog

Green Grids are one contact.

Yellow Grids are more than one and less than five contacts.

Red Grids are five or more contacts.

 

Grids Below are the ones worked from EN13VC - the lower right hand part of EN13...


     


     


  


So as one can see from the grid maps, there was only very localized conditions, no contacts out of the general area.

No laser this time again and only 6 grids on 24 GHz.  Gene - NØDQS/R had trouble with his laser system.  Bummer!

Well, better propagation next time hopefully - one of these days it will all come together!

73 and See You Next Contest!

Mike - KMØT EN13vc