I am absolutely thrilled that our ARRL Club Grant application was approved, and we will be able to move forward with a plan for increasing visibility of amateur radio in our local community, recruiting new members to the hobby and upgrading our repeater infrastructure.  Our activities include outreach to local schools, including NFA, as well as several local Scout troops to bring amateur radio to area youth.  These outreach activities will include a general presentation on amateur radio, and demonstrations of foxhunting, APRS and the digital FM voice capabilities that our new repeater system will offer.  As these capabilities are also of interest to those who serve in emergency preparedness functions, we also have an introductory presentation planned for our local Red Cross chapter.

SECARS will again be offering a Technician License Course – both for people from the above activities who become interested in amateur radio and for the general population.  I am thrilled to have completed my VE certification activities and hope that my credentials arrive in time to participate in the February VE session that we will be hosting.  Our Technician license course will run in the spring to facilitate participation of youth who will have extra time during the summer to learn more about the hobby.  As a further enticement, we will be purchasing SECARS promotional materials (pens, etc.) and Baofeng radios to distribute to youth who pass their Technician exam as part of our program.

Our planned repeater upgrade is essentially an overhaul of the whole system.  The only thing that will be left from the original installation is one antenna, the transmission lines and our VHF repeater, which is in very good condition.  We will be getting a new VHF repeater controller, as our current one is obsolete and difficult to program.  We will also get new power supplies, commercial grade amplifiers for the VHF and UHF repeaters, and new antennas – replacing all of our amateur grade antennas with professional equipment.  We will also replace our UHF repeater with a commercial-grade Kenwood unit that will enable us to put digital FM voice modes on the UHF side of our system.  We are currently deciding whether to go with C4FM or DMR, and we have presentations planned to help the club learn more about these modes.  In order to implement digital FM voice with linking to area repeaters, we will be installing an internet link at the site using MiFi.  We will then be able to house our EchoLink node for the analog VHF repeater at the site as opposed to at a member’s house.  We will also be able to monitor climate and security at the site remotely, and we will be able to control the repeaters remotely as well.  This will make our Technical Committee’s job easier.

A major component of this effort is educating our local amateur community and the community at large as to the benefits of our hobby.  Our Technical Committee chairperson Chuck NA1CN put out an open call for volunteers, and I am thrilled to report that we had several people step up – wanting to learn more about repeater building.  Of course, you do not need to be a member of this team to learn more.  We are documenting everything in papers, slide decks and videos that will be posted to this website and published more broadly.  I see the potential for several QST papers to come out of this effort – for those who are interested in writing.  I am already planning to write one paper on the remote monitoring system to report climate conditions, power supply parameters and security via password-protected internet access.

SECARS is definitely on the move.  Our next major step as an organization is to file for 501(c)3 tax exempt status, which we will do as soon as the State of Connecticut recognizes our recently filed amendments to our Articles of Incorporation.  Thank you for all that you do to support our group and our hobby!

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