Go Digital at Ham Basics 102 on July 28

SPARC treasurer Oliver K6OLI writes:

Our long awaited NBEMS (Fldigi) and Winlink Basics Workshop has been scheduled for July 28, 2018, that is Activity Day, at Huntington Memorial Hospital from 9:00 am to 1:00pm! Our goal is to enable participants to send and receive messages using Fldigi/Flmsg and Winlink and understand current best practices for both.

For more information, and if you would like to register, please use this link:

Tho goal of this workshop is to provide radio operators with experience and a deeper understanding of using NBEMS/Fldig and Winlink Packet for emergency communications. There will be hands-on exercises for those who want to try out their setups.

Any licensed amateur radio operator is welcome to join! We do ask that you familiarize yourself with your own radio beforehand, i.e. understand how to enter simplex and repeater frequencies and change power levels.

Thank you and 73,
Oliver K6OLI

Sites for Checking Signal Propagation and Band Activity

How well your radio can transmit and receive depends on many factors. You can control some factors like antenna location and transmit power. But factors like band conditions and activity are up to chance and Mother Nature. Thankfully, the following web sites can help you monitor the bands and indicate what you may find on the air. If you know of a site we should include here, email us at website@southpasradio.org.

WSPRnet — The Weak Signal Propagation Reporter Network is a group of amateur radio operators who use open-source software to test propagation conditions using very low-power transmissions.

BandConditions.com — Displays band info in colorful dashboards. This site also powers an Amazon Alexa skill.

PSK Reporter by Philip Gladstone — Similar to WSPRnet but data is gathered by receiving the PSK, JT65 and FT-8 protocols. You don’t need a license to contribute data because the system is receive only.

Reverse Beacon Network — A network of volunteers listening to the bands and reporting what stations they hear, when and how well.

N6SJV’s Cali VHF UHF Page —  Spotting network with a focus on Northern California and the Greater San Joaquin Valley. Sponsored by the Lodi ARC.

VHF/UHF Conditions Map — Maintained by the Mountain Lake, MN public school district.

Kurt Harnish’s Maps — Covers 2, 6 and 10 meters.

DXMAPS — QSO/SWL real-time information.

William Hepburn’s DX Information Centre — Lots of information on DX and more.

DXWatch — Hosts the Reverse Beacon Network. Rather than a map format, this site lets you configure filters and display DX spots in a scrolling list.

Space Weather — Your source for “What’s up in space.”

VOACAP — Voice of America Coverage Analysis Program. Free professional high-frequency (HF) propagation prediction software from NTIA/ITS.

How to Take an Online FEMA Class

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers self-paced independent study courses for those who have emergency management responsibilities, but the content can be useful to the general public. All are offered free of charge to those who qualify for enrollment.

Two introductory courses have recently been revised. The FEMA website claims they only take between two and four hours to complete. Several members of SPARC have taken these classes and recommend them to anyone interested in learning more about handling major incidents.

IS-100.c, An Introduction to the Incident Command System, ICS 100
This course introduces the Incident Command System (ICS) and provides the foundation for higher level ICS training. The course describes the history, features and principles, and organizational structure of the Incident Command System. It also explains the relationship between ICS and the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

IS-700.b, An Introduction to the National Incident Management System
This course provides an overview of NIMS. NIMS defines the comprehensive approach guiding the whole community — all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations (NGO), and the private sector — to work together seamlessly to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the effects of incidents. The course provides learners with a basic understanding of NIMS concepts, principles, and components.

Together, these two online courses form the foundation of NIMS training for all incident personnel.

Join Us for the 2018 July 4th Parade

SPARC been invited to march in the South Pasadena 4th of July Parade. The parade starts from the South Pasadena Public Library marshaling area and proceeds down Mission Street to Garfield Park.

The parade officially begins at 11:00 am.

If you are interested and able, please assemble in front of the library on El Centro Street before 10:30 am. We are in group #12 along with Neighborhood Watch and CERT (the street will be numbered). Invite other friends and family to participate too! Bicycles and scooters are allowed for the kids. Be sure to wear your SPARC t-shirt.
I look forward to seeing you there.


Stan KR6CV, SPARC President

fourth of july flyer

Field Day 2018 Wrap Up

Field Day 2018 was a fun-filled twenty-four hours of outreach, learning and socializing. Hams from SPARC, Pasadena Radio Club, JPL Amateur Radio Club and Caltech Amateur Radio Club joined forces to operate seven different stations atop the Arroyo Seco at the Art Center College of Design. PRC’s Jim Marr AA6QI was our Field Day captain coordinating volunteers from the four clubs. SPARC was proud to run a Get on the Air (GOTA) station where visitors could try out a radio and make contacts without needing a license. We answered lots of questions and encouraged curious guests to take the plunge into our hobby.

Here are the reported number of contacts (QSOs) from each station.

  • 80-10m CW (Morse code): 1114 QSOs covering all 50 states
  • 40m single sideband (SSB):  354 QSOs covering 41 states
  • 75m/20m/15m SSB: 266 QSOs covering 44 states
  • 160m-10m digital mode station (FT8, PSK-31 & RTTY): 51 QSOs covering 21 states
  • VHF/UHF: 121 QSOs, all in California
  • GOTA: 25 QSOs from 1pm to 5pm on Saturday

Huge thanks to Jim Marr for making everything run so smoothly. To all the participating volunteers and to all the eager visitors, thanks for making Field Day 2018 such an enjoyable and memorable experience. Hope to see you soon at a meeting and hear you on the air!

2 GOTA future ham

A future ham gets on the air.

3 GOTA red shirt

Making that first QSO.

4 GOTA hello

Open for business!

5 JPL van exterior

The JPL EmComm Van

6 JPl van Stan

SPARC president Stan KR6CV and JPL’s Jonathan KF6RTA adjust the Cushcraft ATB-34 tri-band Yagi.

7 JPL van full antenna

Antenna deployed!

8 JPL van interior

Jeff W2JCL and Jim AA6QI work 15m inside the JPL van.

8a Welcome to Ham Radio signs

A handmade introduction.

9 Bob battery box

Bob WB6YJJ set up a personal station powered by his SPARC battery box.

10 Logging contacts

Working VHF/UHF.

11 Satellite antenna

A motorized satellite-tracking antenna operated by Tom WA0POD.

12 SunspotViewing sign


13 SunspotViewing telescope

Observing sun spots at the astronomy station.

14 Pot Luck Dinner

Pot luck dinner time.

15 Jeff and Eric night

Jeff W2JCL and PRC president Eric K6EJC working the night shift.

Our local paper, the South Pasadena Review, ran an article on the GOTA station in its July 6 edition.


Photos by John KK6ZVQ and Tom WA0POD.

Updated 07/08/18 with links to South Pasadena Review article.

HF on a Budget Guide by KE6MT

California-based ham Rex Vokey KE6MT runs a blog chronicling his SOTA activities. A recent post outlines the low-cost solutions he’s currently using:

I believe that we are indeed in the midst of a golden age for amateur radio. Never before have we had such easy access to information, parts and kits needed to get on the air and to experiment.  From microcontrollers to easily available parts and information, never have there been more possibilities for experimentation.  With ingeniously-designed inexpensive kits, it’s easier than ever to get on the air.

Rex describes low-power (QRP) kits and antennas ideally suited for carrying up summits and making contacts. He is a big advocate of CW (Morse code) and the 40-meter band. If you’ve been thinking about exploring HF work and Summits on the Air, Rex’s post provides a great introduction. (Thanks to Al Williams at Hackaday.com for linking to the post.)

Speaker for June Meeting Postponed Due to Volcano

How often do you get to write that headline?


Veronica Verde

The speaker at our June 6 meeting was scheduled to be Veronica Verde, External Affairs Officer for FEMA Region 9. Ms. Verde travelled to Hawai’i to deal with a record-breaking flooding event in April. And now, thanks to the eruption of Kilauea, her assignment has been extended. We look forward to talking with Ms. Verde at some future point after the wrath of Madam Pele has subsided.

In the meantime, we will use our June meeting to discuss Field Day (June 23-24) and other upcoming activities. We will return to our traditional meeting location at the SPFD Emergency Operations Center, 817 Mound Avenue, at 7:30pm. See you there.

Lava photo by George F. Lee for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Veronica Verde photo by Wayne Yoshioka for Hawai’i Public Radio.

Join Us for Field Day 2018 on June 23 & 24

Field Day is ham radio’s open house. During this annual event, amateur radio operators set up temporary stations in public locations to demonstrate our hobby. As the American Radio Relay League phrases it, Field Day is an opportunity to explain radio’s “science, skill and service to our communities and our nation.”

This year SPARC is proud to join with the Pasadena, Caltech and JPL Radio Clubs to sponsor a station at Art Center College of Design. The station will operate from 11am on Saturday June 23 until 11am Sunday June 24. The address is 1700 Lida Street, Pasadena, 91103. Below is a flyer for the event put together by the PRC (click for PDF version).

Field Day 2018 flyer

Field Day is always a fun and family-friendly event, a perfect opportunity to see experienced operators in action, learn about radio gear, and even get on the air yourself. To learn more about Field Day, read this ARRL guide. Stop by and say hello!

Community Turns Out for Earthquake Presentation

Just under seventy people attended our monthly meeting on May 2 and heard a presentation by Dr. John Vidale, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center. Dr. Vidale explained the science of earthquake detection and the mechanics of ShakeAlert, the west coast’s early-warning system. ShakeAlert is a network of thousands of sensors constantly monitoring ground motion. It is already operational although its organizers would like to see it expanded as soon as funding is available. The system was in the news six days after our meeting thanks to a quake in the Gorgonio Knot area north of Cabazon. Rong-Gong Lin II reported in the LA Times that USGS scientists in Pasadena — about 80 miles from the epicenter — received twenty-six seconds of warning before the shaking arrived. (For more on the Gorgonio Knot earthquake, click here.)

SPARC extends its thanks to Dr. Vidale for his time and to all the guests who asked such interesting and engaging questions!

Special Meeting May 2nd on the Earthquake Early Warning System

Please join us on Wednesday, May 2 at 7:30pm for a special presentation by John Vidale, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center at USC. He will discuss the capabilities of the Earthquake Early Warning System, what it can and cannot do. Anticipating a larger-than-usual crowd, our meeting will be in the South Pasadena Library Community Room at 1115 El Centro St. rather than our normal location at the fire department.

John Vidale has been a professor at USC and director of the Southern California Earthquake Center since 2017. He earned his PhD from Caltech, worked for UC Santa Cruz and the USGS in Menlo Park, then taught at UCLA for a decade. Prior to taking his current position, he was a Professor at the University of Washington, Director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, and the Washington State Seismologist.

We hope to see you at the library for this exciting opportunity to hear from one of our region’s top seismic experts. (Community Room photo via SouthPasadenan.com)