Such a ham

It seems that I often look for ways to procrastinate from preparing for classes, and this semester is no different. Well, it is different in the sense that to delay my writing exams, I took an exam. Yesterday, I passed the the examination for the amateur radio technician class license.

Soon, I’ll be able to start transmitting in a few amateur bands (one has to wait until a call sign is designated by the FCC and that information is published in their database. Meanwhile, I am keeping myself busy with building a radio. There are plenty of instructions on the web, and the biggest challenge has been poring through all of the available designs and identifying a build that works for me.

For my first build, I want a technician class device that can do both voice (SSB) and Morse code (CW). That means I will need to focus on the 10 meter band, since that is the only set of frequencies where technicians can transmit both SSB and CW. It’s not used nearly as much as the 20 and 40 meter bands used by general class operators, in part due to the limited long-distance (DX) communications possible. That may change, though, with solar cycle 25. Solar activity interacts with Earth’s atmosphere such that HF frequencies (between 3 and 30 MHz) tend to propagate farther. With sunspot activity expected until about 2030, it seems to be a great time to advocate for DIY 10 meter band radios.

I’m a long way from building a complete device (or even really talking about it), but I’ll share a teaser.

Technically, it works … barely.

That’s an Adafruit M4 Express in concert with a Si5351 frequency generator, SA612 mixer, a class D amplifier and a rotary encoder for tuning. Once I connected it to an antenna, I was able to dial into an amateur frequency in the 40-m band (note – anyone can build and use a receiver, the license is required only for transmitting) and hear a ham in nearby Rochester. Pretty exciting for me given that there’s no filter or amplifier on the antenna, which in this case was just a long coax cable.

And so it begins! I’m sure the rest of the semester will be filled with last minute lecture preps and piles of ungraded lab reports on my desk. I’ll gripe about them with anyone who wants to listen in on 10 meters.

Promotion time

After a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, we were able to bring Judo back to SUNY Brockport this semester. It did involve limiting membership to those who were willing to show proof of vaccination and wear masks during the workout. Nonetheless, we had a core group of students and community members who were just itching to get back on the tatami.

This semester was especially noteworthy for me. As the faculty advisor for the Brockport Judo club and assistant instructor, I had the honor of awarding my first students with their yellow belts. Congratulations to Glen and Jo for their hard work during the semester. I’m looking forward to more training sessions!

Glen (left) and Jo (right) just started Judo this semester, and have progressed very nicely in the sport.

Proof that professor has a heart

I tried a different approach to my Instrumental Methods course this semester, which culminated in students building their own heart beat monitor using the Adafruit Feather M4 Express microcontroller. The project is an adaptation of this one from Analog Devices. The main part of the project was for students to add a voltage divider (which they have seen and used in previous projects during the semester), build the circuit on a breadboard and adjust a few of the components in light of the different voltage (3.3 V vs 5 V). Each student was successful in developing a device, and one was able to confirm that the pulse rate was consistent with the fit bit he was wearing.

Mandy at night

Rozenn and I went to the SUNY Brockport choir performance the other night; it was very enjoyable. Afterwards, we walked by the department to see what Mandy (the LED periodic table you can speak to) was up to. Still as bright as ever. It makes me wonder how many students walking the campus at night look up to my office and wonder what the heck is going on?

Happy Thanksgiving, 2021

This year, we decided to try something a little different. I was a bit bored with our traditional fixing so we went with (almost) all new sides. To top it off, we even decided to make it a vegetarian meal.

The main dish course (which is squished to the side) is a caramelized onion and squash tart. Sides include (clockwise from the tart): Brussels sprouts with mostarda, brown butter mushroom pilaf, apple and fennel stuffing, broccoli quinoa salad and my traditional shaped dinner rolls, served with a side of black garlic gravy. Not shown are the apple pie – since it’s still in the oven – and the pumpkin pie – because that never lasts long enough for a photo.

Wishing all(!) of you a very happy holiday.