Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club

As any of my regular readers have probably noticed, things have been fairly quiet from me online lately.  This isn't because nothing has been happening, but because there has been so MUCH going on I haven't had anywhere near enough time to work on personal projects and document them on here as usual.

One of the more exciting things I've been working on this quarter is my involvement with the Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club. I originally got my amateur radio license (W6KWF) while attending UC Davis for my bachelors degree in mechanical engineering.  There was essentially no ham radio presence on campus, so I remained relatively inactive at the time, and did little more than operate for field day every year.

Now that I'm attending Cal Poly, I'm thoroughly enjoying participating in this very active and well-run club. CPARC not only has a 2m/440 repeater on-campus, but our own club room in the electrical engineering building outfitted with two HF rigs, and a newly built 70' tower attached to the building.

The ham shack has been a nice place to relax between classes and shoot the breeze, but what caught my eye in the shack was the corner covered with tiny drawers full of components.  I started digging through the component collection to see what an amateur radio club stocks for it's member's projects, but started finding some strangely old components in the drawers... and almost none of what you'd expect hams to need (op-amps, voltage regulators, RF connectors, perf board, etc).

After talking with several of the club's officers, it appears that no one has touched the shack's components collection in at least a decade. That would explained why the most advanced microcontroller I found in the collection was a Zilog Z80, and that the collection included several sets of 1970's style manufacturing reject transistors and the like.

Clearly, something needs to be done about this neglected collection of drawers. An amateur radio club that doesn't promote the building electronics component of the hobby is missing out on what I feel is a significant and educational part of the hobby, and an EE degree.

This is why I've now volunteered and been elected as the Projects Coordinator officer for CPARC.  As the Projects Coordinator, I've been cleaning out decades of collected trash in the electronics work bench area, and am putting together a number of useful and easy-to-build electronic projects for the other club members to help them get started in home-brew. I'm also putting together a number of educational presentations on building your own electronics, which I will be giving during our biweekly meetings throughout the year. Finally, I am working to restock the ham shack with a useful set of components so that members can find the parts they need.

This is where you, my loyal readers, can possibly pitch in if you would like to help.  Unlike other engineering clubs that enjoy the support of a large national organization and yearly membership dues, the CPARC club has no regular source of income, and the additional burden of maintaining an unusually large amount of equipment, for a school club (radios, antennas, the repeater system, etc).  As the projects coordinator, I'm going to need a few hundred dollars in order to restock a club's worth of components. I'm already working with a few different corporation's university programs to donate any of their products I need (op-amps, voltage regulators, etc), but this doesn't cover all of the other, unbranded, components like perf board, passives, enclosures,  etc.

If you have enjoyed what you've seen me do on this blog and found it useful, and are willing and able to help support me bring the same learning experience, in a very hands-on way, to the rest of the members of the Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club, I'd like to ask you to consider sending CPARC a cash donation to help me bootstrap the club's components fund, to then sell members their needed parts at-cost on-site. Unfortunately, the best way to send CPARC donations is via mailing us a physical check, since any electronic payment must be processed through the university, which retains an unbelievable 15% of any and all donations, for university advertising and promotion. Donations done by check sent to our campus PO box will be directly deposited in the club's account, and we will be able to use all of your donation to support CPARC.  Checks should be sent to:

Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club 
UU Box 53 
University Union Epicenter 
California Polytechnic State University 
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407-0675

In addition to a thank you letter for any size donation, I am also going to send (kickstarter-style) the first three cash donations of at least $100 to the CPARC components fund a thank you gift of a Motorola 1N4002 diode still in its original cellophane wrapper.  I found these while digging through the long neglected components drawers, and thought they were rather entertaining.  I hope this gives you an idea of how neglected this collection has been.

I look forward to any support you can provide us, and hope to put as much as possible that happens at CPARC back up on this site for your enjoyment. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an email.

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