Net & Picnic news

The weekly information net will be closing down soon. The last scheduled net will be on May 31st. Plans are to resume the informational net in early October.

Also the annual picnic has been cancelled for 2020. The main reason is the Covid-19 virus. Many of our membership is in the at risk bracket and most likely would not attend the picnic and we do not know what the future will hold for the social distancing criteria. The Board of Directors made the difficult decision to cancel for this year.

Continue to monitor the repeater and look here for any updates that may come about during the summer months. Members of the repeater group look for an official letter that will be coming in the next few days.

One more update to add

FCC testing

FCC testing

An update to online testing

Despite limitations placed on many organizations due to the virus pandemic, there are a lot of good things happening on the Volunteer Examination program, both on the ARRL front, and also with the Anchorage Amateur Radio Club (AARC) VEC remote testing program. (More on the latter in a later news bulletin.)

For most of us, the below is a repeat of what the ARRL sent out in their last newsletter. I thought I’d send it to the whole NW Division just in case some are not subscribed to the ARRL Letter, or missed it. ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM and her team are working very hard to put together a viable remote VE program for the League:

Facing a growing demand for amateur radio exam sessions in a time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, sponsors of some Volunteer Examiner (VE) teams have risen to the challenge and are developing systems to remotely proctor test sessions.

“Many of our VEs and VE Teams have been working on remotely proctored exam session ideas, employing both video and in-person components — following social distancing protocols,” ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, said. “We have been receiving interesting and innovative suggestions, and we appreciate the dedication and ingenuity our examiners have shown.”

The Spalding County Amateur Radio Club in Georgia is among those that have come up with plans to remotely administer amateur exams while complying with ARRL VEC testing standards during COVID-19 stay-home mandates and social distancing guidelines. Current systems leverage Zoom video-teleconferencing technology, the “Fill & Sign” feature of Adobe PDFs, reliable email, appropriate computer equipment and internet connection, and no volunteer examiners (VEs) present at individual remote test sites. The Georgia club collaborated and shared ideas with the Emergency Amateur Radio Club (EARC) in Hawaii, which has successfully conducted sessions since 2011 with its own remote testing system, initially with paper exams with a proctor on site and now with fillable PDFs, with no on-site proctor.

The Georgia club obtained ARRL VEC approval to administer video-supervised exams. The club’s David Robinson, K4WVZ, said the first exam session took place this week, with another set for next week, and “many more in the pipeline” going forward.

“We have started with testing just one candidate at a time but are planning to ramp up to multiple candidates — probably two or three — simultaneously,” Robinson told ARRL. “Before we do that, we want a few more single sessions under our belt and a few more Video VEs trained. It also gives us an opportunity to garner lessons learned from each test session and upgrade our procedures accordingly.” Robinson said this week’s session went “exceedingly well,” and the candidate passed the test.

The club’s procedures entail a pre-exam video interview with candidates to ensure they understand all the requirements and procedures. “This also allows us to test the candidate’s ability to work with the video and computer technology before the actual exam,” Robinson explained. “Training sessions were conducted for VEs to make sure they understood their role and how to use the technology.”

Following the exam, the VEs score the test and sign off on the paperwork, with the VE Team Leader submitting the application online and by mail, per ARRL VEC instructions. Application and successful exam are first accepted and then submitted to the FCC for processing.

New England Amateur Radio Inc (NE1AR), an affiliate of New England Sci-Tech, (NESciTech), has taken it one step further, Somma said. It got the approval of ARRL VEC to begin trials of what it describes as “completely online testing with strict rules and protocols for maintaining the integrity of the testing environment.” NE1AR is limiting candidates to one exam per candidate, due to the current candidate backlog and the “difficulty of administering exams online.” Candidates must agree to a list of protocols, which include no visitors (or pets) in the exam room and a cell-phone camera scan of the entire room and exam area “to show that there are no materials or people [in the room] that could aid in taking the exam.” If the VE team suspects the possibility of cheating, the exam may be terminated and the candidate barred from future online exam sessions.

“We began a series of trials on April 1 under ARRL VEC review and have now been asked to help train more VE Teams on the process,” NE1AR President Bob Phinney, K5TEC, told ARRL. “We have now tested 12 applicants and are still working on streamlining the process. We are working with the software developer of the exam delivery system to help them adapt the system for video-supervised testing.” At present, Phinney said, only one person at a time can be tested. Another time-related issue is how long it takes a candidate to go through the NE1AR security protocol. “Sometimes, the setup and follow-up for an exam take far longer than the exam itself, in order that we provide
complete integrity of the exam session,” he said.

With pressure continuing to build to provide testing compatible with COVID-19 guidelines and stay-home orders, ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, has asked the amateur radio community to be patient. “Please remember that with the introduction of significant new processes such as these, that there should be proof of concept, establishment of protocols and procedures, and beta testing, before expanding to a larger audience,” she said this week. Somma said video-supervised exam sessions require a different skillset than in-person exam
administration, and not all teams will be equipped to deliver video exams right away.

“ARRL is pleased to be one of the leaders in providing an opportunity, although limited initially, for video-supervised exams in this time of social distancing and isolation required by the current health situation,” Somma said.

As mentioned earlier, I’ll publish a special bulletin regarding the Anchorage Amateur Radio Club (AARC) VEC remote testing program, and its recent successes very soon. Stay tuned!

73;
Mike Ritz. W7VO
Director, ARRL NW Division

VE exam news…….

To All ARRL Members and ARRL VEC Accredited Volunteer Examiners

We know many examiners have canceled amateur radio license exam sessions to meet the requirements and recommendations of national and local government and of health officials. The health and safety of examinees and our Volunteer Examiners (VEs) is first and foremost in any decision-making process. The ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) does not offer video-supervised online amateur radio licensing exams at the present time. We are aware, however, that some VE teams are exploring alternative formats on a local basis. Please use ARRL’s License Exam Search to find scheduled exam sessions in your area and verify with the local exam team that the session is still being held.

The ARRL VEC is continuing to process license examination materials from VEs who have completed exam sessions, although some delays may occur under the circumstances. The ARRL VEC electronically forwards all required data to the FCC for qualified examinees.

We understand that some examination candidates are continuing their studies toward new amateur radio licenses and license upgrades. We also know some will be frustrated that, at this time, the ARRL VEC does not offer online licensing exams. Amateur radio is not alone in this challenge, though.

While each of us continues to respond to the immediate evolving crisis, we also know that we must keep an eye on the future. Throughout its decades of service, the VEC system has served the FCC as a shining example of the successes of a privatized system. The ARRL VEC and our VEs are recognized throughout the Amateur Radio Service for our integrity and efficiency. Adapting our all-volunteer license examination administration will be a challenge, but it’s a challenge we are committed to undertake in order to advance the program and improve service.

While we face unprecedented challenges, opportunities also await. We are grateful to support radio amateurs in our common pursuit of skill, service, and discovery. ARRL and the ARRL VEC remain steadfast in serving the amateur radio community. We will provide updates as they become available.

ARRL Field Day (An excerpt from the ARRL Letter April 2, 2020)

ARRL Field Day 2020 — A Time to Adapt

Many individuals and groups organizing events for ARRL Field Day 2020 have been contacting ARRL for guidance on how to adapt their planned activities in this unprecedented time of social distancing and uncertainty.

“Due to the unique situation presented this year, this can be an opportunity for you, your club, or your group to try something new,” ARRL Contest Manager Paul Bourque, N1SFE, said. “Field Day isn’t about doing things the same way year after year. Use this year to develop and employ a new approach that is in line with the current circumstances.”

Social distancing and state and local requirements very likely will impact just how — and even whether — you are able to participate in Field Day this year. ARRL continues monitoring the coronavirus situation, paying close attention to information and guidance offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If social distancing means that Class A with a 30-member team set up in a city park won’t work this year, then it’s time for a Plan B. Part of the Field Day concept has always been adapting your operation to the situation at hand. At its heart, Field Day is an emergency communication demonstration. Field Day rules are flexible enough to allow individuals and groups to adjust their participation and strategies in a way that still addresses their needs while being fun. Some possibilities include:

  • Encouraging club members to operate from their home stations on emergency power (Class E).

  • Using the club’s repeater as a means for individual participants to keep in touch during the event.

  • Setting up a portable station in the backyard with a temporary antenna for family members interested in operating Field Day, who are now unable to participate as part of a larger group.

One big impact this year will be a decline in public visibility and any interaction with the visitors. Prudence may dictate dispensing with the ham radio PR table to attract passersby, should you set up in a more public location. It’s okay not to score all the bonus points you may have attempted in the past. Local and served agency officials may be unwilling to visit, which is understandable under the circumstances. Do be sure to reach out to them as part of your preparations and remind them that you look forward to continuing your working relationship with them in the future.

The impact will differ from place to place, so ARRL recommends that all amateur radio clubs participating in Field Day stay in regular contact with local or state public health officials for their advice and guidance on hosting Field Day activities.

“With any emergency preparedness exercise, it’s not about adapting the situation to your operation; it’s about adapting your operation to the situation that presents itself,” Bourque said. “Try something different.” Read more. — Thanks to Paul Bourque, N1SFE, and Dan Henderson, N1ND

More events cancelled.

Follow up from yesterday’s email…………

More events are cancelled!
More iconic Northwestern Division event dominoes are falling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I received notification yesterday afternoon that both the Pacific Northwest DX Convention, originally scheduled for August 7th-9th, and the Stanwood-Camano ARC Hamfest, in Stanwood, Washington, originally scheduled for May 9th, have both been canceled for this year.

The Pacific Northwest DX Convention is scheduled to be hosted again by he Willamette Valley DX Club in Portland, Oregon in August 2021. The event normally rotates between 4 different host DX groups, and the 2021 event was originally to be hosted by the Idaho DX Association, in conjunction with the Spokane DX Club. They will now host the event in 2022.

SEA PAC Cancelled

From an email sent out today……..

I received the following notice regarding the cancellation of Sea-Pac 2020, (which also hosts our yearly ARRL Northwestern Division Convention). While disappointing and painful, it’s certainly the right thing to do.

At this point in time the Pacific NW DX Convention scheduled for August is still going on as planned. That said, stay tuned for further developments.

I’ve received many requests for club Zoom meetings in the last few weeks, so I’m certain most clubs are properly “social distancing” themselves. Social distancing is vitally important in keeping the virus in check, especially when so many amateurs fit the most vulnerable demographic. Let’s all hope that this virus pandemic blows over quickly and we can get our lives back to normal!

Finally, there have been many questions brought to me by members as to the status of the ARRL Volunteer Examiner program, and also questions as to how the upcoming ARRL Field Day event will be affected. I’ll deal more with these questions in my next update, as I have a teleconference with other members of the Board’s Programs and Services committee scheduled later this week.

The staff at ARRL HQ are adjusting to the “new normal” of working mostly from home, (as are we all), so please be patient when attempting to contact them regarding any issues.

73, and please stay safe!

Mike Ritz, W7VO
Director, ARRL Northwestern Division

 


 

SEA-PAC 2020 Cancellation Notice

For some time the SEA-PAC Executive Committee has monitored the
COVID-19 pandemic working closely with our local health, public and
government partners in assessing this unprecedented situation.

With approximately 60 days until the event, the Executive Committee has
made the decision to cancel the SEA-PAC convention for 2020. Convention
fees paid will be refunded.

This conclusion is based on the deadly seriousness of the virus, the
rate of expansion, and the recovery time after the crisis apex is
achieved. But more importantly, it is based on the genuine concern for
the health and safety of the attendees, vendors and presenters.

Details regarding this cancellation will be posted at www.seapac.org.

Thank you for your understanding and we are looking forward to the next
SEA-PAC on 4, 5, and 6 June 2021.

Gary J Takis K7GJT

SEA-PAC 2020 Chairman

No Snow at the Peak

image0

The snow has melted but our backup antenna has broken (circled in blue), most likely cause is falling ice from the tower

20200127_081644_ch4 image0

Conditions on the peak

20200116_081913_ch4

Just some pictures of the conditions on the hill. The picture with blue circles is our back up repeater antenna (right circle on tower) and APRS digipeater (left circle on roof). Just a idea of how much of a ice load is on them the antennas are about 1 1/2” at the base were it mounts to the pole, the pole is 2 1/2” OD so there is a bit of ice build up on them.

20200116_081639_ch4 20200116_081746_ch4 20200116_081841_ch4 20200116_081913_ch4 Inked20200116_081746_ch4_LI

Annual Meeting 2020

2020 Annual Meeting

2020 Annual Meeting