CWops Mini-CWT Test

Since becoming involved in amateur radio I have been a member of Mt. Diablo Amateur Radio Club (MDARC), which I let my membership lapse a few years back due to the goals of this club. More recently I joined the Northern California Contest Club, which has been invaluable to my development and experience as an amateur radio operator.

Going online, which is almost impossible not do due these days, club and organizations are a plentiful. Not matter where your interests lay, you can most likely find a group of like minded individuals. Two clubs I joined a few years ago were the Feld Hell Club (FH1842) and the Straight Key Century Club or SKCC (#4581). KX5JT, John and I were playing around with FH one evening and decided to join. To be honest I don’t think I have more than about 5 QSOs using FH, nonetheless it’s an interesting mode to operate.

I joined SKCC when I was learning Morse code and looking for other new CW operators to QSO with at a slow speed. I believe I had one contact and really no further affiliation with the group. I am not saying both groups don’t hold value in the amateur radio community because they do. My goals seem to be very directed at this time to contesting and improving myself as a contest operator. On the CW side, rarely do I use an actual key during a contest in an exchange. For the purists, macros are not CW, but when a high rate is a necessity macros are the only way to go.

This part Tuesday I read an e-mail on the NCCC Reflector about the CWops Mini-CWT Test, posts like this and that of the NCCC Sprint I usually ignore since my skills are not that of many of the experienced CW operators in the NCCC. Of course the only way to get better is to participate and while I have not been involved in a CW sprint to date, I did participate in the Mini-CWT yesterday.

It was a series of three, 1-hour events through out the day and I just happened to take break from working around the house at 1900z (1200 PDT). I went to the shack and heard these stations calling CQ CWT, I then remembered the NCCC Reflector e-mail and this event. So I participated for about 19 minutes on 20M answering CQ calls making just 9 contacts in that time. The nice thing, CWops rules allow everyone to work everyone, I just used ‘STEVE CA’ in my exchange, while a member of CWops sent their ‘NAME + MEMBER #’.

I also scanned the member roster and was not too surprised to see quite a few experienced CW operators who are also NCCC members. I know for a fact my fist is not up ti 25 WPM to even meet their minimum requirements, but I am interested in working towards that goal to join this group. Looks like fun, thankfully I can enjoy their activities even without being a member.

First VE Session

I took part in my first exam session as an accredited VE (volunteer examiner) at the July MDARC meeting. A total of 20 exams were given, of which three were retests the same night, two of which failed twice (one Element 2 and one Element 3). I was positioned in the testing room, after being given a quick and dirty introduce to the check in procedure. None of this was new, as it was exactly as explained in the ARRL packet I read prior to gaining my accreditation.

We were short at least one VE, so after check in was complete, we were joined by a VE. Since it was my first time I was the second VE to correct the exams, basically selecting the correct key based on the exam number for that class of exam. I also signed 15 CSCEs for amateurs newly licensed or one who upgraded. Of that total we welcomed 12 new Technicians, two upgrades to General and one brave sole who passed the Extra.

I had a good time and look forward to participating in upcoming sessions during our monthly meeting. Also in October Pacificon 2008 rolls around, which brings in many testing to pass their Technician. I look forward to sitting in on many of those exams as well. On a related note, I did order my ARRL VE badge this last week and hope to have it in hand prior to the next testing session. It feels good to be given back and licensing new hams.

Accredited!

It is now official! I am an accredited ARRL VE (volunteer examiner), which allows me to administer the three different elements (tests) for amateur radio. I received my ARRL certificate and badge yesterday in the mail. With any luck I will be attending my first testing session on Friday at the monthly MDARC meeting. I have been told to show up early and introduced myself. All the training is on the job. Looking forward to taking part in the testing and licensing of new amateur radio operators.

ARRL VEC Application

My volunteer examiner application was sent off to Newington, CT today via fax in order to be accredited by the ARRL. I spoke with our past president of MDARC when I was at the exam session last month, said it was a good decision. I also e-mailed the man in charge of the VE Team at our club and he welcomes new VEs. I am looking forward to helping out, hopefully learning more about the test session, making some new friends and gaining knowledge. Because that is what ham radio is all about! With any luck the application will be processed, approved and returned along with VE badge before our next club meeting on 25 July.

Extra! Extra!

After months of studying I took Element 4 tonight at our local amateur radio club [MDARC] meeting last night and passed. Unfortunately the VE’s do not allow you to see your exam or the questions you missed. I did have a handful of questions that I did not quite remember the answer.

I already see the OMs saying, “great here is another no code Extra” who memorized the answers. To some degree you are correct, in another respect you are wrong. Amateur radio for me is all about learning, the same can be said about life, “always keep learning, everyday.” So while I did read through the example book and consult a few other publications during my study for Element 4, I did learn quite a bit of material that I did not know before I took the exam.

I know the FCC dropped the Morse code requirement in order to get a amateur radio license. I was even more surprised when the past president of our club said they don’t even offer it any longer. That is unfortunate. I did not know they did not even allow clubs to offer the exam. While this won’t dampen my spirits for CW, I am starting (or continuing) my training to learn Morse code today. I am excited about the prospects of working more DX contacts.

I am also looking into the possibility of becoming an accredited VE so I can offer my services and help others get licensed in order to keep amateur radio alive.