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Old October 12th 19, 09:56 PM posted to,,
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Default [FOAR] How to make contesting interesting to an audience?

Foundations of Amateur Radio

How to make contesting interesting to an audience?

Posted: 12 Oct 2019 09:00 AM PDT

Foundations of Amateur Radio

As you might know I enjoy doing contests, actually that's an
understatement; I LOVE doing contests. I think that they represent an
excellent way to learn about operating procedure, propagation, band
selection, antenna direction, callsign recognition and dealing with adverse
operating environments. In short, I think that contesting teaches you lots
about amateur radio in a very short time.

That said, doing a contest, or learning from a contest is challenging and
for a new amateur it can be absolutely daunting.

If you have the luxury of a club station, you're familiar with the
following picture.

Bunch of people sitting around in the shack, one person operating the
radio. If the operator has their headset on, the conversation in the shack
will be about life the universe and everything. If the operator isn't
wearing a headset, the conversation in the shack will also be about life
the universe and everything with the radio blaring in the background and
the operator initially asking people to keep quiet so they could discern
that elusive DX station, frustration growing with every contact.

Being at your own station might not be much different. Replace shack with
home and the people in the shack with your family and you get the picture.

If you step into that environment as a new amateur you'll get a sense of
camaraderie, but little in the way of contesting knowledge. If you're lucky
you might have someone point out what's happening, but quickly the
conversation is likely to turn to other topics. It's hard to participate
when you can only hear half the conversation.

Recently I did another contest. As I said, I love them, so why not? I
invited two new amateurs to the party. They arrived separately at different
times and had vastly different experiences. My first guest got to see the
back of my head whilst I called "CQ Contest VK6FLAB", followed by "NK8O,
you are 59020", then "104, CQ Contest VK6FLAB".

My second guest got to hear the whole contact.

"CQ Contest VK6FLAB", "NK8O" "NK8O, you are 59020", "VK6FLAB you are
59104" "104, CQ Contest VK6FLAB".

In both cases I was wearing a headset, but in the case of my second guest
I'd finally achieved something that I'd been aching to achieve for years. I
managed to combine the best of both worlds. The radio audible in the shack
and the operator wearing a headset, at the same time.

My intent has always been to get this to work, but radio after radio,
configuration after configuration, shack after shack, this seemed to be a
doomed attempt at getting my fellow amateurs to understand why this was
important and how we might implement this. One of the radios in the past
had a Headphones plus Speaker option, but it wasn't ideal and as I recall,
it handled sub-receivers poorly, not to mention the menu shenanigans
required to actually make it work. The current radio in the club-shack is
typical of radios today. Headphones or Speakers, not both. This radio has
an Ethernet port, so there was talk of using Voice over IP and extracting
it to multiple destinations. This conversation went on for a while.

I then hit on the idea of using computer speakers, tweaking them by
clipping the wire that mutes the speaker when you insert headphones.

In the end, the solution was much nicer, much simpler and easy to implement
for any radio with a headphone socket. I confess that I cannot believe it
was this simple, but it was.

Get yourself a Y-adaptor. It's basically a headphone splitter. You can get
them almost anywhere, supermarket, petrol station, electronics store,
anywhere that sells mobile phone accessories to teenagers who want to share
their music with their friends.

Plug the Y-adaptor plug into the radio headphone socket. Plug your
headphone into one of the Y-adaptor sockets and plug some powered computer
speakers into the other Y-adaptor socket. Set the volume on the radio for
your headset as needed and adjust the computer speaker volume as required.

End result is an operator who can hear the contact and a shack that can
teach a new amateur about what's going on.


Feedback from guest number two - this changed everything and he learnt a
great deal after that.

Mission accomplished.

I'm Onno VK6FLAB
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