SPARC completed another successful day at the St. Petersburg Science festival. Situated under a big oak tree on the breezy shore of Tampa Bay, SPARC station W4GAC was again on the air.
This year we focused on CW. We noticed in prior events that the sound of Morse code emanating from our tent caused people to ask “what is this?” We set up a simple 20M CW station and put CW guru Dave KR4U behind the key. In spite of so-so propagation, Dave was able to work numerous European stations, as there was a German contest underway. Domestically, the New York QSO party kept Dave busy with domestic QSOs. Dave’s brass pounding also peaked the interest of festival goers.
Once we got folks attention, a variety of code equipment was available for visitors to try. Most of the kids enjoyed tapping out their name on a basic code practice oscillator using a CW cheat sheet. When they found the tone pitch knob, many of them became musicians, changing the pitch of the signal as they sent some really ugly code. Another crowd favorite was a code key connected to a Morse decoder that Dee N4GD made using a Raspberry Pi computer. Send a letter in code and it popped up on the screen….cool. Finally an electronic keyer with iambic paddle provided a third alternative to keep the CW flowing.
Our booth was manned by Dave KR4U, Rex, KB8ESY, John KI4UIP, Bob N2ESP, Dee N4GD and Ed NZ1Q. In addition to answering numerous questions, we passed out a number of our SPARC brochures. The most frequently asked question was how far away have you talked? When KR4U replied “I’ve talked with Russia, Belgium, Spain, Germany, France folks eyes opened in amazement. When folks then asked “what was the farthest conversation you have ever had;” the answer was ½ way around the world… any further then you turn your antenna to go the short way. Folks were truly awestruck.
All the SPARC participants agreed this was one of our best years at the festival, and offered suggestions for improvement next year. Dropping by for a visit were club members Kyle N4NSS, Molly KN4GFN and Bob WB4MCF. It’s a lot of fun to watch the kids quickly associate the dits and dahs with the alphabet and subsequently their name. Hopefully we planted the ham radio bug in one or two visitors and will see them on the air in a few years.
If you would like to join in the fun of next year’s Science Festival, contact one of the club officers.