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Running a JOTA event - Lessons Learned?

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  • rcrice77002
    I organised a JOTA event for my Pack last year, and did the same this year. We had a MUCH large crowd this time, including a large number of scouts from packs
    Message 1 of 6 , Oct 21, 2006
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      I organised a JOTA event for my Pack last year, and did the same this
      year. We had a MUCH large crowd this time, including a large number
      of scouts from packs other then our own.

      Now that I have the event past me, I'm curious what lessons we all
      collectively learned from the experience. What did you do that worked?
      What did you do for your JOTA event that did not work? What do you
      plan to do next year , to offer a better and more exciting JOTA
      experience for your scouts?

      What Worked for Pack 55
      HF on 40M. I recruited a couple of ham friends to run an HF position.
      the two of them took turns running the radio and talking to the
      gathered crowd.

      I ordered JOTA package of literature from ARRL. The cost was minimal
      and the scouts and parents seemed interested in having more informaton
      about ham radio.

      What did NOT work for Pack 55
      I used IRLP last year out of desperation. High local RF noise levels
      made HF impossible for me in 2005. So, I turned to IRLP which saved
      the day. Last year's IRLP experience was good, it worked for us.

      This year it felt like the entire world was trying to use IRLP - all
      at the same time. It was total chaos. Clearly it is not realistic to
      try to use one of the reflectors during JOTA.

      My sense is that IRLP would work for JOTA, but only for direct
      contacts that do NOT make use of a reflector.

      ARRL Videotape. I ordered a videotape from ARRL about ham radio and
      the International Space Station and SAREX. Great tape. Trying to play
      the tape and work it into what were doing, just didn't work for me.

      LESSONS LEARNED
      Noise. With a large group you have to worry about noise. My buddies
      running the HF station were pretty loud where I was trying to run IRLP
      contacts in the next room. If you have more than one operating
      position at a time, you must think about noise levels. Remember, hams
      can mentally wade through static and competing QSOs from the next room
      - the scouts and parents can't do that easily.

      HF - be prepared to switch bands. Don't come to JOTA with a plan to
      operate only on a single band. We had orginally planned to do 20M, but
      conditions were not good. We were flexible and switched to 40M which
      worked great, until the band folded late in the day.

      IRLP/Echolink - Reflectors do not work, especially popular reflectors.
      Line up some direct node to node contacts so that your kids will have
      an easy time. We spent much time trying to find a node where we could
      talk to other scouts, or wasting time trying to get a word in edgewise
      on a reflctor.


      I will be doing this again next year, so I'd be interested in hearing
      from others how their JOTA events went, and what worked/didn't work
      for them.

      Robert Rice
      WB5PKN
      Pack Committee Chair - Pack 55
      Houston, TX
    • Dale Lamm
      Venturing Crew 73 set up our JOTA station at a Council camp in Ohio on Saturday morning. We were on the air from 11:30 AM till 6:30 PM. There were two
      Message 2 of 6 , Oct 22, 2006
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        Venturing Crew 73 set up our JOTA station at a Council camp in Ohio on
        Saturday morning. We were on the air from 11:30 AM till 6:30 PM. There were
        two districts there for the weekend's camporee, but we were just a "side
        show". Participation was light during the camporee's main event, a modified
        Capture the Flag game in medieval costume. Ditto for mealtimes. Otherwise,
        it was busy, and we made several QSO's with other Scout groups stateside.
        Heard a Czech Republic JOTA station, but the pileup was unbelievable. Our
        little 100 watt field station had poor chances against full power fixed
        stations with better antennas. How I wish the DX would have called for
        "active Scouts", instead of taking (what seemed to me) any North American
        station.

        A few Scout leader visitors said that we were a total suprise. They were not
        aware that a ham station would be at their camporee. Our participation was
        arranged weeks ahead, but not far enough ahead of time to be included in a
        district rountable. Had we attended the roundtable immediately before the
        camporee, we could have pitched the operation directly to Scoutmasters and
        other troop leaders, possibly making for better participation. This was not
        the fault of camporee organizers.

        The major thing we would change would be to put publicity in the hands of
        leaders well ahead of the event.

        We chose the event in council with the most Scouts present during the JOTA
        weekend. Next year, we might try something different. Perhaps a better plan
        would be to host Scouts (Cub Scouts, Brownies & Girl Scouts too) at Crew
        member's home stations. Not every Scout is camping that weekend, so we are
        missing the majority of Scouts who are staying home. My thinking is that a
        more lengthy session with fewer distractions at a home station would allow
        us to qualify Scouts for Radio Merit Badge, as well as engage in JOTA
        activities.

        Obviously, plenty of pre-event publicity and some form of registration would
        be advisable. If it turns out that more Scouts register than can be handled
        in a couple of "shifts" at a home station, the event could possibly be moved
        to Council HQ or some other convenient "Scout friendly" facility.

        Even though the camp we visited was almost an hour's drive, we certainly
        enjoyed operating a portable HF stations outdoors. The downside is that we
        are limiting our exposure to only those Scouts who happen to be camping that
        weekend. It would be wonderful to do an event at camp as well as a home
        station, but our resources are limited.

        73 & YiS, de NX8J
      • barry whittemore
        I lelarned a few things. I have done a limited JOTA a few times with my troop and a few Cub packs both at a troop location and at my house. This was my first
        Message 3 of 6 , Oct 23, 2006
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          I lelarned a few things.
          I have done a limited JOTA a few times with my troop and a few Cub packs
          both at a troop location and at my house. This was my first time helping
          with one that was already planned. we had 2 HF stations running, one with a
          20 Meter dipole and one with a G5RV. this gave all band coverage although
          only 2 at a time. we had over 300 people show up so at times we were a bit
          overwhelmed.

          i would see some improvements for next years attempt.

          A place with lots of info on licensing and classes etc. ( we had very
          little. )

          A 2 meter station set up so people could see what kind of things could be
          done with an entry level license. (technician) also some people around with
          handies.

          More operators/demonstrators. we had a morse code are near one of the
          stations that consisted of 4 demo keys. these were an old key with sounder,
          an old key with buzzer, an old scout signaler set. and a modern straight key
          with a piezio beeper. Many kids were very interested in those and tried to
          send there names etc. some did very well. this part should have had a full
          time op but that wasnt possible.

          RTTY lets get some rtty frequencies and some PSK31 action on the official
          frequencies list. many JOTA set ups out there but i didnt find any running
          RTTY. this would be a great addition as many scouts are very computer savy
          and the computer/radio link could be a great draw. we had some SSTV and it
          was a hit.

          plan for less wind and rain on the day before to make it easier to get the
          antennas up.

          although i did not make any CW qsos i did show some of the kids some CW
          using a morse decoder. several thought that was cool so i will be doing that
          again next year. cw is tough when you are trying to do it with people that
          cant. all event portions need some interaction. maybe a keyboard morse
          interface with the cw decoder would be something to consider.

          Displays of QSLs, mags (CQ QST etc) awards etc.

          well, thats all i can think of at the moment. i may add some at a later time
          but these are some off the cuff ideas.
          Barry
          WB1EDI/KB1NH/N1S

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        • Dan Scott
          Robert, We had good experiences with IRLP, although the reflector issue was noticed. For IRLP the person running it started working on schedules from
          Message 4 of 6 , Oct 30, 2006
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            Robert,

            We had good experiences with IRLP, although the
            reflector issue was noticed. For IRLP the person
            running it started working on schedules from different
            parts of the world weeks in advance. Although we
            still had some random contacts through a reflector, we
            had mostly scheduled contacts with other JOTA groups.

            Personally, I think the high winds, 40-degree (F) temp
            drop could have come a couple days later. So with a
            JOTA camp-out, 200 Boy Scout and a few dens of
            WEBELOS-2, I think postponing the poor weather would
            have been nice.

            We worked only 20-meters on HF and had contacts
            world-wide, but we found it interesting that the
            scouts were as thrilled working the next state as they
            were with Greenland, South Africa, or where-ever the
            DX was. Although we went through the hastels us
            setting up a beam and tower, a dipole would have been
            fine.

            This was my 12th JOTA setup for the local BSA council
            and the person on HF-SSB has worked 11 of the 12 with
            me. As such, he is very aware of the importance of
            audio quality and (yup) using a larger HF rig. My
            FT-100 just is not impressive, but his older monster
            rig with a lot of nobs and dials makes a great JOTA
            showcase rig (plus the better audio tone and better
            audio filtering).

            We kept the noise level between stations down by
            running 3 stations seporated by 150 to 200 feet. The
            Digital station was based in a camper trailer. We
            should have had digital in with one of the other
            stations (VHF/UHF). The idea of the trailer was to
            show that many amateur radio operators are set up for
            quick deployment in the case of emergencies. The
            problem with having digital in the trailer was the
            limited number of scouts that could watch the
            operations and how the next group had to be educated
            from scratch. From past experiences we know that in a
            tent, the scouts watching would learn by watching the
            scouts doing and both groups learned by listening to
            the instruction given.

            All-in-all JOTA was a great success this year. We did
            get cut back from the scheduled 8 hours to only 4
            hours operations due to weather issues. The reduced
            operating was based on scout travel saftey issues and
            nothing to do with out setup. We cut back the antenna
            building hands-on and other activities too.


            73,
            Dan
            kb0ppm (aka K2BSA/0 for this JOTA)

            --- rcrice77002 <rcrice@...> wrote:

            > I organised a JOTA event for my Pack last year, and
            > did the same this
            > year. We had a MUCH large crowd this time, including
            > a large number
            > of scouts from packs other then our own.
            >
            > Now that I have the event past me, I'm curious what
            > lessons we all
            > collectively learned from the experience. What did
            > you do that worked?
            > What did you do for your JOTA event that did not
            > work? What do you
            > plan to do next year , to offer a better and more
            > exciting JOTA
            > experience for your scouts?
            >
            > What Worked for Pack 55
            > HF on 40M. I recruited a couple of ham friends to
            > run an HF position.
            > the two of them took turns running the radio and
            > talking to the
            > gathered crowd.
            >
            > I ordered JOTA package of literature from ARRL. The
            > cost was minimal
            > and the scouts and parents seemed interested in
            > having more informaton
            > about ham radio.
            >
            > What did NOT work for Pack 55
            > I used IRLP last year out of desperation. High local
            > RF noise levels
            > made HF impossible for me in 2005. So, I turned to
            > IRLP which saved
            > the day. Last year's IRLP experience was good, it
            > worked for us.
            >
            > This year it felt like the entire world was trying
            > to use IRLP - all
            > at the same time. It was total chaos. Clearly it is
            > not realistic to
            > try to use one of the reflectors during JOTA.
            >
            > My sense is that IRLP would work for JOTA, but only
            > for direct
            > contacts that do NOT make use of a reflector.
            >
            > ARRL Videotape. I ordered a videotape from ARRL
            > about ham radio and
            > the International Space Station and SAREX. Great
            > tape. Trying to play
            > the tape and work it into what were doing, just
            > didn't work for me.
            >
            > LESSONS LEARNED
            > Noise. With a large group you have to worry about
            > noise. My buddies
            > running the HF station were pretty loud where I was
            > trying to run IRLP
            > contacts in the next room. If you have more than
            > one operating
            > position at a time, you must think about noise
            > levels. Remember, hams
            > can mentally wade through static and competing QSOs
            > from the next room
            > - the scouts and parents can't do that easily.
            >
            > HF - be prepared to switch bands. Don't come to
            > JOTA with a plan to
            > operate only on a single band. We had orginally
            > planned to do 20M, but
            > conditions were not good. We were flexible and
            > switched to 40M which
            > worked great, until the band folded late in the day.
            >
            > IRLP/Echolink - Reflectors do not work, especially
            > popular reflectors.
            > Line up some direct node to node contacts so that
            > your kids will have
            > an easy time. We spent much time trying to find a
            > node where we could
            > talk to other scouts, or wasting time trying to get
            > a word in edgewise
            > on a reflctor.
            >
            >
            > I will be doing this again next year, so I'd be
            > interested in hearing
            > from others how their JOTA events went, and what
            > worked/didn't work
            > for them.
            >
            > Robert Rice
            > WB5PKN
            > Pack Committee Chair - Pack 55
            > Houston, TX
            >
            >
            >




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          • frank@fmaynard.com
            Barry brings up a good point with the CW decoder. I never thought I d use one because I don t need it, but it would be a great way to illustrate what they are
            Message 5 of 6 , Nov 2, 2006
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              Barry brings up a good point with the CW decoder. I never thought I'd use
              one because I don't need it, but it would be a great way to illustrate
              what they are sending. I worked several stations on CW, a couple with Cub
              Scouts sitting next to me, and was telling them what the other op was
              sending. Unfortunately, I can't very well send and talk at the same time
              (no multithreading in that brain process!) so had to wait until the end
              of the exchange before I could explain.

              We had four stations and four antennas running: (a) 40m phone with a
              dipole; (b) 20m SSTV with a screwdriver-type antenna; (c) 20m phone and CW
              with a wire vertical; (d) multiband phone, mostly on 15, with an
              Outbacker-type antenna mounted on top of a playstructure. (We were at a
              city park with nice picnic shelters, but no water or bathroom facilities,
              yikes!). Small numbers of scouts, maybe 20 or so, but we put a good
              number of them on the air. Not much else in the way of displays other than
              maps and the standard array of ARRL literature.

              It would have been nice to be able to run the event at our Council camp,
              but they would have charged us to use the facility - even a picnic
              shelter, thus we have to seek out what we can get for free.


              --
              YiS,
              Frank Maynard, NF8M
              MC, Troop 407; CR, Pack 54; District Cub Training Chair & Roundtable Staff
              ...and a good old Bobwhite too! (C-23-04)
              Mighty Ottawa District, Clinton Valley Council
              Novi, Michigan
            • frank@fmaynard.com
              Forgot to mention - worked a couple stations QRP on 20 using my KX1 as well. Good wow factor from some of the other ops as well as the boys as to what you
              Message 6 of 6 , Nov 2, 2006
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                Forgot to mention - worked a couple stations QRP on 20 using my KX1 as
                well. Good "wow" factor from some of the other ops as well as the boys as
                to what you can do with a simple lightweight backpackable rig.

                --
                YiS,
                Frank Maynard, NF8M
                MC, Troop 407; CR, Pack 54; District Cub Training Chair & Roundtable Staff
                ...and a good old Bobwhite too! (C-23-04)
                Mighty Ottawa District, Clinton Valley Council
                Novi, Michigan
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