Camp "Telegraph Office"

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by N7BHP, Aug 17, 2019.

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  1. N7BHP

    N7BHP Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi everyone, I've had this idea to help promote ham radio among our youth. Every year my children's school send the kids to a one week camp. This camp is way out there and off the grid. They use generators for the camp power and the staff has contact with the outside world via satellite comms. It's located about a 7 hours bus ride from the school. It's a small school so only about 20 kids go each year. Because of the short time they are there and the great distance from town, the camp does not do mail for the kids.

    So I thought it would be fun to set up a telegraph office at the camp that ran for about 1 hour in the middle of the week. We could make up telegraph cards for parents to fill out and turn into my wife (technician class ham) here in town . During the scheduled hour the telegraph office is open at the camp, she would send the messages on to me via CW HF and I would copy all the messages and print them out on telegrams to be given to the campers. Since my girls go to camp they could get involved working at the telegraph office helping me copy the messages and printing them out on the telegrams and delivering them.

    This would give the kids a chance to receive short messages from their folks in the middle of the week and it would make a fun showcase of ham radio. When today's youth are separated from the ability to communicate for a week they feel it greatly.

    One idea I had that would make it even more fun for the kids would be to allow "wire transfers" from the parents. Parents usually send enough money with the children to buy things at the snack bar anyway, but to make the telegrams more interesting, we could let the folks send their kids a little extra money for the snack bar via telegraph. However, I'm hesitant to do this since I'm not sure if it would violate any FCC rules for ham radio. As hams, we would not be making any money, and technically, the children are not making money either. But anytime money and ham radio mix we are getting on thin ice so I thought I'd run the idea past you all.
    K4AGO, KA4DPO, KX4O and 2 others like this.
  2. KP4SX

    KP4SX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Cool idea until you mentioned the money transfer. I suspect you'd run afoul of the law doing that.
  3. N0TZU

    N0TZU Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I agree, sounds like good fun and educational for the kids, but I’d drop anything involving money or seriously important messages just so nobody could possibly complain about it being a violation.

    How about letting the kids hear the incoming Morse and seeing it being copied? I’m sure the schedule there is busy, but maybe even have really short Morse Code introduction the day before and let kids send Morse to each other with a practice oscillator? You could also show the Tonight Show clip where the CW ops best the people using text message.
    W3ATV and N2EY like this.
  4. N7BHP

    N7BHP Ham Member QRZ Page

    Good ideas. My wife would screen all the telegrams before sending them to be sure they are appropriate for third party traffic. They’d be short too. I read somewhere that the average telegram was only about 10 words long. We were thinking of telling the parents to try and keep them under 20 words and giving them a couple of examples (complete with the word “stop” in place of periods). At the camp I’d run it during free time and in a central location so kids who wanted to could stop by and see and hear the messages come in. Good ideas about doing more with Morse code like setting up keys that they can use. I have a couple of old practice sender/receiver sets kids used to learn Morse with. We can hook the two together with 50ft of telephone wire and let them send to each other. Watching the CW vs SMS video is a fun idea too.
    KX4O and N2EY like this.
  5. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Great idea!

    Amateur Radio has a long history of message handling. There are many techniques used to make CW message handling faster and easier.

    In amateur radio message handling the letter X is used instead of a period or the word STOP.

    The first issue to resolve is what frequency and time of day to use to get good signals to and from the camp.

    The second issue is what rig and antenna you will use at the camp.

    What's the distance "air line" to be covered, and what time of day do you think you would be on the air?

    73 de Jim, N2EY
    W3ATV likes this.
  6. W3ATV

    W3ATV XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    7 hours away - How about a 40 meter phone patch? Show them what 100 watts and a wire can do and a little lesson in propagation.
  7. N7BHP

    N7BHP Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks N2EY for your input. Free time is in the afternoon but I’d have to talk to the organizers to find out the exact hours. The home station uses an 80 meter OCF inverted V up 30 feet. I’m hoping to use one of my QRP rigs at the camp to show how small a radio we can communicate with. My 80 meter QCX needs to be trouble shot so I don’t think it will be ready in time. So I will take the MTR3b and do 40 meters. I’ll be using an end-fed half wave up about 2o feet. The straight line distance is about 160 miles. Camp is in a valley so that combined with the short distance requires high takeoff angles and near NVIS conditions for 40 meters. That’s the part that has me a little worried. I tried it once, just to see if it can work, just as I’ve described, several months ago and she came booming in on 40 at +20 db over but that was a different time of year. If 40 meters can’t do it, I do have an IC-706 in the truck and an 80 meter end fed I can connect it to. I’d rather do it with the QRP rig though and not have to operate from the truck.
    KX4O and N0TZU like this.
  8. N7BHP

    N7BHP Ham Member QRZ Page

    W3ATV a phone patch directly to their folks is a good idea but I don’t have one. It would be a different kind of demonstration. More practical perhaps, but in my mind a little less magical. I guess I’m a CW guy.
    KX4O, K5ABB and N2EY like this.
  9. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I would bring along a 40 meter dipole just in case. With the center at 30 to 40 feet it will radiate straight up quite well. (Any horizontal wire antenna less than a out 3/8 wavelength above ground is very good for NVIS).

    There is a standard message form that you can reproduce or make your own version. I will look for it.

    CW message handling is easy once you know how it's done. I strongly suggest practicing with your bride before heading off to camp.

    73 de Jim, N2EY
    KX4O likes this.
  10. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Here's the standard ARRL Radiogram form. You can easily make up a customized one with the camp name or whatever.

    KA4DPO, KX4O and WJ4U like this.

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