RAC Bulletin 2013-016E

RAC Bulletin 2013-016E – RAC completes Review of Amateur Radio Exam Questions

On April 17th 2013, RAC submitted the final documents called for in the contract it won to review the question banks used for exams for the Basic and Advanced certification of Canadian radio amateurs.

Industry Canada had issued a request for proposals to undertake the review in December 2012. RAC engaged RAQI to collaborate on the French language component of the work and submitted a response to the proposal. The $20,000 contract was awarded to RAC late in January.

The first phase of the contract, completed on March 13, consisted of a complete review of all the questions and answers used for amateur radio certification in Canada. At the end of this phase RAC delivered a comprehensive set of recommendations to improve and modernize the question banks. In most cases this involved detailed editing of existing questions but proposals were also made to delete or replace obsolete or inaccurate questions and add questions on aspects of amateur radio that had grown in importance since the last review.

The review concentrated on the accuracy and clarity of the questions and answers and recommended changes where required to eliminate possible confusion over the correct answer to each question. Some errors were easy to identify such as typing mistakes showing an obviously incorrect answer as correct. Others, particularly related to ensuring that all incorrect answers were truly incorrect, required more careful study. The review team took special care in comparing questions in both languages so that the English and French versions conveyed the same information.

Clear, accurate and understandable exam questions are an important element in making amateur radio accessible to all Canadians. RAC sees an up to date and well functioning exam system as an important element in bringing more people into amateur radio to ensure its continuation and growth, a priority objective of the national organization.

On April 4th, Industry Canada officials kicked off phase 2 of the project by providing a preliminary reaction to the RAC recommendations made in phase 1. Over the next 13 days the RAC-RAQI team reviewed the Industry Canada comments and where appropriate provided additional comments and recommendations.

The first phase had identified most areas of needed change and as a result the Phase Two report contained a significantly smaller set of recommendations. Industry Canada will make the final decision on changes to the questions after considering the RAC Phase 2 report. However the exchange of comments so far suggests that the RAC review will lead to a significant improvement and updating of the question banks.

RAC understands the importance of amateur radio courses and educational material developed and delivered by dedicated volunteers across the country. Changes in the question banks can lead to increased work by these volunteers and the Review Team worked to propose changes in ways that will minimize the updating. Many questions will remain as they were before the review. When proposing deleting obsolete questions the Team recommended replacement questions so that question numbering of the unchanged questions would not have to be changed.

RAC is already planning for the transition. Once Industry Canada makes public the updated questions banks, we will prepare information identifying where changes have been made to assist instructors in modifying their course materials and examiners in preparing for the change. As has been mentioned in previous bulletins, the curriculum has not been changed. The topics addressed in the exams and consequently in courses and educational material remain the same. The changed questions will assess the knowledge of these same topics but should be clearer, more accurate, more understandable and relevant to modern amateur radio.

RAQI has been an excellent partner in this project and all francophones should immediately see the vast improvement in the French language questions when the new questions banks are approved and made public.

A great deal of effort has gone into the review and we are happy that it is being received well. RAC will continue to work with Industry Canada through existing consultative arrangements to provide Canadian radio amateurs with the best possible circumstances to pursue their hobby. As well, based on the success of this project, RAC looks forward to competing for contracts on significant projects related to amateur radio if the opportunity presents itself in the future.

For more information contact Glenn MacDonell, Project Manager, Question Bank Update Project and Deputy Director Ontario North East, (ve3xra@rac.ca).

Geoff Bawden, VE4BAW
President and Chair RAC


Vernon Ikeda – VE2MBS/VE2QQ
Pointe-Claire, Québec
RAC Blog Editor/RAC E-News/Web News Bulletin Editor

March News Letter

It seems not possible to add the news letter and the pictures to WordPress. We will have to investigate it further.



MARCH 2013 

Volume 3 Issue 3 








President: Al, VE3TET

Vice-President: Johan, VA3JBO

Secretary: Bob, VE3IXX

Treasurer: Reg, VE3RVH

Trustee: open

QSL Manager and Lighthouse: Bill, VE3WBJ

Repeater manager and maintenance person: Carl, VE3FEF

Website Admin: Johan, VA3JBO

VE3QB, Bruce’s antenna system. The white shed just behind the evergreen tree is his dedicated “ham shack”.

Now that many more amateurs can now use the HF bands, I thought it might be useful to explain the most basic elements of DX propagation.

The sun emits electromag-netic radiation and matter as part of the nuclear fusion process. Electromagnetic radiation in the ultraviolet region ionizes the F region, radiation in the soft x-ray area ionizes the E region, and radiation of the hard x-rays ionizes the D region.

The F region (made up of F1 and F2) is the prime region for ham radio DX operation.

SUNSPOTS (not to be confused with Solar

Flares) are areas on the sun emitting ultraviolet radiation. Thus they are tied to the ioniza-tion of the F region. The spot in the centre of the picture would swallow the earth. The Smoothed Sunspot Number (SSN) is calculated using six months of data before and after the desired month, plus the data for the desired month. Because of this amount of smoothing, the official SSN is one-half year behind the cur-rent month. Unfortunately this amount of smoothing often masks any short-term unusu-al solar activity that may enhance propagation, and so the eSSN (effective SSN) is more useful on a daily basis.




Part 1 Compiled by

Bill Graham VE3ETK

SOLAR FLARES are guided into the ionosphere along magnetic field lines and thus can only impact high lati-tudes where the magnetic field lines go into the earth. Solar matter (which includes charged particles—electrons and protons) is ejected from the sun on a regular basis, and this comprises the solar wind. On a “quiet” solar day the speed of this solar wind heading toward earth aver-ages about 400 km per sec-ond and so there is a delay between the happening and the effect. The sun’s solar wind significantly impacts

Earth’s magnetic field. Instead of being a simple bar magnet, Earth’s magnetic field is compressed by the solar wind on the side facing the sun and is stretched out on the side away from the sun (the magnetotail, which ex-tends tens of earth radii downwind). The sun’s electromagnetic radiation can impact the entire ionosphere that is in daylight.

There are two measurements of this effect: the daily A index and the three hour K in-dex. The A index is an average of the eight three hour K indices, uses a linear scale and goes from 0 (quiet) to 400 (severe storm). The K index uses a quasi-logarithmic scale and goes from 0 to 9 (with 0 being quiet and 9 being severe storm). Generally an A index at or below 15 or a K index at or below 3 is best for propagation.

SDR Dongle-based Radio by Terry VE3XTM 

At our February meeting I gave a talk as well as a demonstration of “dongle” based Software Defined Radio (SDR). These dongles are devices that plug into your computer’s USB port. They were originally designed for DVB-T which is for receiving European digital television. The dongles do not work for North American TV as we use a different digital standard here.

However, SDR for these dongles began when DVB kernel developer Antti Palosaa revealed that an ecnomical USB EzTV 668 DVB -T/FM/DAB USB dongle based on the RealTech RTL2832U chip, could be used to stream raw I/Q samples to most PC’s. Since that time enterprising amateurs and software developers have written several programs to present this digital data in a very versatile open source software defined radios that are available for a free download on the Internet.

A recent article in QST titled, Cheap and Easy SDR, by Robert Nickels, W9RAN, outlined how to get SDR up and operating on your PC.


Basic USB dongles such as the Terratec dongle are capable of receiving radio frequencies from about 54MHz up to about 2GHz. There are some that are capable of going lower in frequency down to 24MHz. The dongles will receive all modes, AM, FM, FM stereo, USB, LSB, DSB and CW. These dongles cost about $20 and with the proper antenna one can listen in on the VHF, UHF and microwave portions of the band, including stereo broadcast FM .

The article by Nickles outlines how to download and install the software using a simple batch file install procedure. The soft-ware version that most are using is the SDRSharp or SDR#.

SDR# screen shot showing the panadapter and waterfall screen Source http://sdrsharp.com/ 

The software allows the setup and frequency correction calibration of the radio, as well as adjustments to sampling rates, sen-sitivity and a range of other features, including the storage of favourite frequencies and a recording/playback of band activity, all in the VHF and UHF bands.

But all is not lost for those who prefer to work in the HF bands. Recent development have seen the design and availability of reasonably price up-converters that allow the use of the dongle in our favourite amateur bands. The up-converter boards are available for about $50. A few SMA adaptor cables are all that is needed to complete a basic SDR radio that will cover the range from the AM broadcast band up to the lower part of the microwave spectrum. For a review of the various up-converters available see the link below.

While we cannot expect these dongles to rival commercial radios at this time, they do give amateurs an introduction to SDR and the ability, with the panadapter, to see the signals on the various bands. We are only at the beginning of this new radio technology and the future will hold many more developments through the creative use of software and digital processing of signals.





APRIL 24 – M E E T I N G





MAY 22 – M E E T I N G





The RFM22 is a low-cost ISM (Industrial, Scientific & Medical) FSK (Frequency Shift Keying) transceiver module which offers communication at tuneable frequencies in the 70cm band. It has an adjustable output power of up to +17 dBm. The wide operating voltage of 1.8-3.6 volts, plus a low current consumption makes the RFM22 an ideal little project.

This is the 3rd or 5th iteration of my RFM22 FSK radio project proto-type. These are won-derful little radios that can have you dreaming about the wildest software projects. Also the choice of the Arduino Pro mini 3 volt prototype board makes many things quickly possible and can easily enough run two radios at the same time.

I’m not sure yet how this is going to come together, as just a fox hunt radio that makes a little puff sound on the amateur radio 70cm band or other more advanced possibilities. To-day, I thought it might be interesting to try to construct a compact antenna to accompany the radio. Previously, a 1/4 wave length wire was used, which was fine, but opportunities exist for many possibilities.

Two 40mAh lithium batteries are intended to power this project. Connecting them in parallel could have complications, but I don’t think it will cause a power outage (Hi Hi) and some tests have shown that with precautions it can be done safely. Software projects will need to attempt power considerations. The container for an SD memory card (as shown in the photo) works as a god case for the project.

Further information can be found at:


























The meeting was begun with each member introducing their name and call sign. Gord VE3EOS, who was visiting, was warmly welcomed.

The first order of business was the Treasurer’s Report. Reg VE3RVH handed out his annual statement and reminded everyone that the membership fees are due. The ERC has $2,551.68 in the bank. Reg made a motion to accept the minutes and it was se-conded by Bruce VE3QB.

The second item on the agenda was that Al needed some-one to help assess the equipment from the estate of Bing Harris. Ralph (VE3EUC) volunteered to go with him. There will also be a need for volunteers to dismantle Bing’s tower and 4-element beam. Johan VA3JBO, Jim VE3JMU and Terry VE3XTM will set a date with Al to get the job done.

For new business, Bruce VE3QB explained some of the diffi-culties he encountered to re-configure the IRLP on his computer when he changed servers. It took several phone calls to Dave Cameron before he finally got it up and running well again. Our thanks to Bruce for his hard work. Bruce suggested that the club make a cash donation to the IRLP service and made a motion to send them $50.00. This was seconded by Ralph VE3EUC.

Reg VE3RVH giving the Treasurer’s Report.

Al spoke about the fleamarket on June 2 and about the need for more volunteers to run the Ontars net. He said that we will need about five people to cover the hours. Paul VE3PVB, Bob VE3IXX offered to help Al. Rich VE3DCC and Harry VE3EIX may possibly be able to help as well.

Al reminded all members to mark their calendar for the Field Day (June 22 and 23) at Bob’s (VE3IXX) farm. Al moved that the Sunday meal again be the traditional steak or roast beef dinner. This was seconded by Johan VA3JBO.

The final item of business was a discussion of the Lighthouse weekend (in Au-gust) at Point Clarke. Given the difficulties with a decent antenna last year and the fact that the lighthouse was still under re-construction, Al wondered whether it was even worthwhile to participate this coming August. He suggested that if the lighthouse is still not useable this summer, we may just forget this project.

Having finished the business part of the meeting, Al began a discussion of the up and coming ERC projects for this year. The first idea was for an HF pre-selector using a Cascode amplifier. Using schematic diagrams on the board, Al explained how this am-plifier works.

The second project idea was an EH antenna using a cone shape. While the flute shaped EH antenna (which Al and Paul had built a prototype) was more desirable, the cone shape is much simpler to build and works well. The EH antenna is only about three percent of a wavelength (great for smaller spaces), has a low noise level and works like an isotropic antenna.


A special Note of thanks to Bruce VE3QB for his many frustrating hours of work trying to get his computer to run the IRLP for the ERC repeater.

We can all appreciate how difficult computers can be at times. Having the IRLP available to all who use our repeater is a great asset.


Student Invents Device that Charges Batteries with Radio and WIFI Waves

German university student, Dennis Siegel, invented a device that captures electromagnetic fields like WIFI and radio waves and converts them to stored energy in batteries.

His electromagnetic harvester won second place at this year’s Digitale Medien (Digital Media) technology competition at the University of the Arts Bremen, Hochschulpreis when he successfully demonstrated charging one AA battery over the span of a day.

Siegel explains the device on his blog:
The omnipresence of electromagnetic fields is implied just by simple current flow. We are surrounded by electromagnetic fields which we are producing for information transfer or as a byproduct. Many of those fields are very capacitive and can be harvested with coils and high frequency diodes. Accordingly, I built special harvesting devices that are able to tap into several electromagnetic fields to exploit them. The energy is stored in an usual battery. So you can for example gain redundant energy from the power supply of a coffee machine, a cell phone or an overhead wire by holding the harvester directly into the electromagnetic field whose strength is indicated by a LED on the top of the harvester.

Depending on the strength of the electromagnetic field it is possible to charge a small battery within one day. The system is meant to be an option for granting access to already existing but unheeded energy sources. By exploring these sources it can create a new awareness of the invisible electromagnetic spaces while giving them a spatial dimension.

There are two types of harvester for different electromagnetic fields: a smaller harvester that is suitable for lower frequencies below 100Hz which you can find in the general mains (50/60Hz, 16,7Hz) and a bigger one that is suitable for lower and higher frequencies like radio broadcast (~100MHz), GSM (900/1800MHz) up to Bluetooth and WLAN (2,4GHz).

End Fed Wire Antenna 40 / 6 meters

An interesting article about a club made 30-feet wire antenna with matching connector box. Ideal for city dwellers. I am about to order one and maybe can use it for field day. Unfortunately the article will not allow itself to be copied properly (PDF is locked), so you will have to use the link below to see the pictures.




END FED 6 – 40 Meter Multiband HF Antenna

This project produces an inexpensive, multiband, end fed HF antenna matchbox that is quick and easy to setup and use. The end fed feature adds convenience, but does present another issue. The problem with an end fed half wave antenna is that the antenna presents a high impedance, creating a significant miss match with the usual transceiver impedance of 50 ohms. This miss match is significantly greater than typical tuners can accommodate without a matching transformer.

This project creates a trifilar wound, 9:1 UNUN (unbalance to unbalance) toroid matching transformer that will match the high input impedance of an end fed antenna into the range where most antenna tuners can produce good performance. The matchbox handles 100 watts of power. This project requires an antenna tuner to achieve satisfactory SWR.

The matchbox project uses readily available common hardware and materials. For your convenience, Emergency Amateur Radio Club of Honolulu volunteers make fully assembled matchboxes for those who don’t want to construct one. Proceeds support the club and amateur radio. Order information is included on the last two pages.

Matchbox Parts List

1 small plastic enclosure and cover
1 powdered iron toroid T106-2
3 20” pieces of 22 gauge solid insulated copper wire in red, green, and black 2 6-32 x 3/8” machine screws
2 #6 lock washer/nut combination

  1. 1  10-24 x 3⁄4” machine screw and nut
  2. 2  #10 flat washers

1 #10 lock washer

  1. 1  #10 wing nut
  2. 2  #10 wire lugs

1 #6 wire lug
1 SO-239 panel mount connector
1 30’ #18 AWG insulated stranded wire antenna

Few drops of clear PVC adhesive to secure cover in place Clear silicone caulk to secure toroid in place


Preparing the MATCHBOX Plastic Enclosure

EARC sells completely fabricated ABS enclosures with all holes machined for the matchbox project. If you are making your own enclosure, start the project by drilling one 5/8” hole and two 9/64” holes for mounting the SO-239 coax connector on the lower side of the enclosure. Use the connector as a guide to mark for accurate drilling of smaller holes. Next, drill a 3/16” hole in the upper right side of the box for mounting the antenna connector.


Next wind the three 20” pieces of insulated solid wire onto the toroid. Place the wires as shown green-black- red, and wrap the toroid 9 turns so that it looks like the photo on the right. Notice there are three wires extending from the left winding and three wires extending from the right winding. As the connections are completed, the steps refer to the specific wires by left or right and color.

Next, trim, crimp together and solder the left black wire with the right red wire When the step is completed, it will look like the photo on the right:page2image11384

The next three steps should appear as shown in the right photo. Crimp and solder a #10 lug to the left red wire about 2” from the toroid. The completed lug will later connect to the antenna connection bolt on the top side of the enclosure.

Twist the left green wire with the right black wire. Strip the ends of the two wires; twist together at about 2”. Solder this wire pair to the center connection of the SO-239 connector.

Trim and strip the remaining right green wire at about 2”. Crimp and solder a #6 lug. This lug will connect through a 6/32 machine screw to the ground of the coax connector.

Next, place the SO-239 though the 5/8” mounting hole from inside the box and position over the two mounting holes. Place a 6/32 x 3/8” machine screw through each mounting hole and connector. Place the #6 lug connected to the green wire over one of the machine screws. Next place a #6 lock washer/nut over both machine screws. Securely tighten both machine screws.

Position the toroid inside the box to allow connection of the red antenna wire lug to the 10-24 machine screw on the upper right box side. Place the 10-24 machine screw through the #10 lug connector on the red wire, followed by a lock washer, then a flat washer, and next insert it through the 3/16” hole in the upper side. Place a flat washer on the outside of the box followed by a #10 hex nut. Tighten the nut to hold securely. Next, place the wing nut on the antenna connector and your project appears as show above.

A small spot of clear silicone caulking compound is used to secure the toroid from movement in the enclosure. The only remaining assembly step is to securely glue the box cover in place with PVC cement.

Preparing the Antenna Wire

Matchbox performance will be determined by two factors: The length of the antenna wire, and the capability of the tuner. The length of the wire should generally be between 22 and 60 feet for best performance. Longer wires may have excessive impedance for some tuners to properly match. Wires shorter may not radiate as effectively. A 30 foot insulated 18 gauge stranded wire antenna and connecting lug is included with the project and should meet most requirements.

Experience has shown that most external tuners and many internal tuners will tune 80–6 meters with an antenna length of 22’ to 30’. If a longer antenna is desired, the provided antenna can be lengthened. Some tuners, in particular internal tuners, may not tune the full 80-6 meter range. You may need to try different wire lengths to optimize your antenna configuration. If you are having difficulty getting your rig to tune, start with a 26’ wire. This should produce good results on at least 40-6 meters using the narrowest performance range of internal tuners. Best performance is achieved with a coax of 16’ or longer.

Additional counterpoise is not required in this design. The system works well in horizontal, sloper, and vertical configurations.

Observe established safety practices when working with antennas, and avoid proximity to power or utility wires. Permanent installations should be equipped with appropriate static and lighting protection.

Keep amateur radio safe and fun! If you would like to share your experiences with this project, email the club at http://www.earchi.org.


Toroid Wiring Schematic


Red wire

Black wire

Coax center

INPUT Green wire Coax Shield



Fully Assembled 6-40 Meter Matchbox Antenna

Volunteers at the Honolulu Emergency Amateur Radio Club (EARC) carefully assemble these HF matchboxes for those who prefer not to build one. The club will build one for $44 including USPS priority mail shipping anywhere in the U.S. A 30 foot 18 gauge antenna wire is included.

Matchbox Antenna Parts Kit

Emergency Amateur Radio Club (EARC) makes a parts kit for the EARC 6 – 40 Meter End Fed Matchbox available for those who want to build the matchbox on their own. The enclosure is shown on the right. The ABS box is approximately 1” x 2” x 3”. It comes with a weatherproof glue-on cover. Adhesive is not included, but the best choices are clear PVC cement, clear silicone caulk, or high quality model glue.

Full Parts Kit Contents

1 ABS matchbox enclosure and cover
1 powdered iron toroid T106-2
3 20” pieces of 22 gauge solid insulated copper wire in red, green, and black 2 6-32 x 3/8” machine screws
2 #6 lock washer/nut combination

  1. 1  10-24 x 3⁄4” machine screw and nut
  2. 2  #10 flat washers

1 #10 lock washer

  1. 1  #10 wing nut
  2. 2  #10 wire lugs

1 #6 wire lug
1 SO-239 panel mount connector
1 30’ #18 AWG insulated stranded antenna wire 1 EARC Project Paper detailing assembly

EARC sells the Parts Kit for $35 including priority mail shipping in the U.S.

Three core components

The club sells just the three core hard to find parts, the box and cover plus T106-2 Toroid and SO-239 connector to fit the enclosure for $20 including priority mail shipping in the U.S.

Matchbox Enclosure only
The club sells the enclosure box with cover for $12 including shipping in the U.S.


EARC gives you four ways to obtain a 6-40 meter Matchbox Antenna.

A fully assembled 6-40 Meter Matchbox antenna is $44 including priority mail shipping in the U.S. A kit of parts excluding adhesives is $35 including priority mail shipping in the U.S.
A set of three core components is $20 including priority mail shipping in the U.S.
A matchbox enclosure and cover is $12 including priority mail shipping in the U.S.

Proceeds go to the club to promote amateur radio activities. To order, make payment via PayPal, to our fundraising chairman chanebuth@yahoo.com . Be sure to include your name and mailing address in the remarks section with the PayPal remittance.

We will ship promptly and you will likely receive the order in 7 days or less. If you have any questions about the matchbox or your order, please email Mr. Hanebuth at chanebuth@yahoo.com.

Thank you for your interest in the activities of Honolulu Emergency Amateur Radio Club and amateur radio.

Email your experiences with this project to the club at http://www.earchi.org.

Chuck Hanebuth KH6HNL
Emergency Amateur Radio Club (EARC) Fundraising Chairman