Thursday, October 17, 2019

A challenge posted by Wayne NK6R

For the budding radio designers out there - a challenge presented by Wayne NK6R. I know this blog is read by a lot of people with tons more technical expertise than myself - and this seems like a most worthy project, so I am re-posting from QRP-L:

Hi all,

Someone recently told me that he'd benefitted throughout his life from learning Morse code as a teen. Ham radio helped him cope. He's gone on to promote Morse because it can help kids with certain cognitive or social issues. Such problems are exacerbated by social media, these days. We all know of teens who've ended up ostracized or worse.

He was wondering what the ham community may be able to do for them.

I proposed a simple ($5-$10), unlicensed CW transceiver (kit or assembled or both) that would put out maybe 1 milliwatt. It would serve as a code-practice oscillator for solo use. But with a short wire hanging from the PCB, kids could work "DX" -- like across a room, or better yet, outdoors.

This got his attention. I went on to describe a scenario that he found very plausible, based on his experience with Morse advocacy: You hand kids the little modules (just a PCB with a built-in 4x AAA battery pack, code key, antenna wire, and cheap earbuds), and ask them to try sending/receiving a few letters. The complete code would be silkscreened onto the PCB. After they try this, you say, "Now see how far apart you can get and still copy you friend's signal." This is where the magic happens, at least for those of us who have been leveraging action-at-a-distance ourselves for many years :)  It takes things a step beyond ordinary code practice. Connects kids to other kids. At best it could serve as a bridge to a world outside themselves.

I'm picturing the little rig as SA602 based, with one crystal for TX and one for RX, running so little power than licensing is a non-issue. Frequency? TBD. Something available in cheap fundamental crystals from Digikey. Each one would have its crystals offset slightly from the others, so the effect of having a number of them in one room might be a bit like being on a crowded CW band. Picking out the pitch of a signal of interest and copying it is a skill many of us have learned. I'm sure kids who are motivated would be able to do it as well.

It should not have debilitating clicks or thumps when keyed. The only control should be for volume. It should be full break-in, which at this power level is easily obtained.

This is a project I would gladly take on myself if not for my greater-than-full-time commitments to Elecraft products. I'm hoping there's a tinkerer out there with more free time who could start from a minimal description and design the little rig.  The gentleman I spoke to has been frustrated over the years in trying to get his message out, and in trying to find ways to take Morse code to a wider range of kids. He felt that this idea had a lot of merit.

If you're interested in this project, or know of something that matches this description that's already available, please contact me directly.


How about it, guys?

72 de Larry W2LJ - A builder of other folk's designs
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

1 comment:

  1. BROVO to Wayne for taking time out of his busy skid to post about this and put the challenge out there!