October 2018 Meeting Wrap-Up


Kevin from Bioenno Power

It was a full room with several first-time visitors at our monthly meeting on October 3. The draw was Kevin Zanjani, KI6DHQ, from Bioenno Power. Hams have been raving about the portability and performance of Bioenno’s lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries for over two years now. Kevin’s presentation, “LiFePO4 Batteries for Ham Radio and Solar Applications” provided a deep dive into the science behind these much-sought-after components.


A range of batteries, a powerpack and the company’s latest solar controller.

Kevin explained several use cases for Bioenno products beyond amateur radio. Many industries and government agencies are migrating to solar power solutions and relying on LiFePO4 batteries over traditional lead acid batteries, which are less efficient and must be replaced far more frequently.


Slide from Kevin’s presentation

Kevin had a nice surprise for us — he donated a twenty amp-hour battery to our montly door prize raffle. The lucky and grateful winner was Scott, KI6SC. On behalf of SPARC, thank you, Kevin for your time and generosity!

Other News

  • Our next club build will be a roll-up antenna, perfect for the go kit. More details to come in early 2019.
  • We now have a photo-packed SPARC brochure created by Tran K6NHI. We will soon have copies to distribute at public events and license exam sessions.
  • The regular monthly ARES NE meeting will be held at 9am on October 13 in the Huntington Memorial Hospital’s Wingate Conference Room. Topics to be discussed include The Great Shakeout (10:18am on October 18) and the Statewide Medical and Health Exercise (November 15).

SPARC Welcomes Bioenno Power at Our October Meeting

Come to our monthly meeting on October 3 to hear Bioenno Power‘s Kevin Zanjani present “LiFePO4 Batteries for Ham Radio and Solar Applications.” Bioenno batteries are a favorite in the ham community for their high performance and low weight. Several SPARC members rely on Bioenno’s lithium iron phosphate batteries to power go kits and mobile rigs.

Wednesday, October 3 at 7:30 pm
South Pasadena Fire Department
EOC Room
817 Mound Ave.
South Pasadena, CA 91030

Hope to see you there.

Photos from the 2018 Public Safety Open House

Thanks to all the SPARC members who staffed our table at the annual South Pas Public Safety Open House. And thanks as always to the police and fire departments for hosting such an informative and fun event! The following photos were taken by Robert K6YZF. The fire extinguisher training was conducted by SPARC and CERT member James K6CUT.

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SP Police and Fire Open House 9-16-18-7

SPARC members at the 2018 South Pasadena Public Safety Open House

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September 2018 VHF/UHF Contest Results

On September 8, SPARC set up two stations in Garfield Park to participate in the ARRL’s September VHF/UHF contest for a few hours. We made thirty contacts on FM and SSB and tested mesh nodes. Several members of the public stopped by — some who had prior ham experience and some who were just curious about all the wires. Thanks to everyone who helped with set up and clean up! Contests are a great opportunity to spend time operating and testing equipment, so don’t hesitate to stop by the next time we take part in one. Photos by Robert K6YZF.

Fun with CW

At our past two monthly meetings, lucky SPARC members have gone home with a speical door prize: the Pixie 40m CW transceiver. The Pixie is a low-cost way to send and receive CW on the 40-meter band. “CW” and “Morse code” are often used interchangeably, but technically CW refers to the method of transmitting a radio signal (“continuous wave”), and Morse code is the series of audio tones being sent over that signal (the famous “dits” and “dahs” or dots and dashes).

CW is an effective way to communicate over long distances with low power, but today’s hams can spend years in the hobby and never use it. Since 1991 it’s been possible to earn an amateur radio license without passing a Morse code proficiency test. The FCC dropped Morse code requirements from all license classes in 2006. Having those Pixie transceivers around has spurred some club discussions about CW both in person and during our on-air nets.

On a recent net, Tim WA0PTC explained the procedure known as “zero beating.” Essentially, it is the process of making sure the sender and receiver of CW signals are both on the same frequency. The ARRL’s Doctor Is In podcast has an entire  episode on zero beating.

If you’d like to learn Morse code and give CW a try, Mike Dinelli sells a book called The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy, which some refer to as “the bible of Morse code.” There is both a free version and an updated edition available for purchse.

Communicating via Morse code may seem like a relic in the age of smartphones, but certain engineers at Google disagree. The company’s Gboard keyboard for mobile devices (available for both Android and iOS) has recently added a Morse code option. And in order to make learning Morse easier, they’ve released a game called Morse Typing Trainer. Google claims the game can teach you Morse code in under an hour. The addition of Morse to Gboard is an attempt to improve the accessibility of devices like phones and tablets.

To supplement the Typing Trainer game, Google released a poster with the game’s mnemonic images. Click on the version at the bottom of this post to download a printable PDF.

Updated 09/20/18: In the September edition of the Pasadena Radio Club Bulletin, Paul Gordon N6LL lists a few other CW resources.


Talk to SPARC at the 2018 Public Safety Open House

SPARC will have a booth once again at the annual South Pasadena Police and Fire Department Open House on Sunday, September 16. The open house runs from 10am to 3pm. We will be located in the courtyard behind the fire station. This fun and informative event runs in conjunction with the Cruz’n for Roses classic car show supporting the SouthPas Tournament of Roses float committee. Come meet SPARC members, see some radio gear, and learn about our activities. Hope to see you there!

2018 Public Safety Open House

Click for PDF version.

Join Us September 8 for a Contest in the Park

SPARC will be participating in the annual ARRL September VHF Contest. We’re not looking to walk away with any giant trophies, the goal is to test our gear, get some practice operating, and have fun. All club members are invited to participate. Members of other local clubs, CERT, Neighborhood Watch, and the community are encouraged to visit and see what SPARC is all about.

When: Saturday, September 8th, 11am until 5pm

Where: Garfield Park, South Pasadena — north end near the tennis courts

SPARC members who would like to help with the set up process can arrive at 9am.


Testing a mesh node in preparation for the September VHF contest.

We will set up two stations, 2m and 440. Feel free to bring your own gear for some show and tell. If you bring your own handheld or mobile and sufficent power (fully-charged battery, mobile go kit, etc.) you can connect to our antennas at a convenient moment. If you’d like to test your own antenna system, make sure to consider the safety of others and include any hardware required to set up in a stable and considerate manner.

There are a limited number of picnic benches near the Garfield Park tennis courts, so bring along a camp chair if you’d like to stay for a while.

If you can’t make it to the park, be a contact! Our talk-in frequency will be 145.600.

We hope to see you or log a contact with you on September 8.

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.