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[aprssig] Field APRS texting event!

Bob Bruninga bruninga at usna.edu
Mon Jan 18 03:54:18 UTC 2010


> Where do you find the volunteers for this 
> sort of thing?  I find it hard to get folks 
> who will use APRS.

Exactly... It was an ongoing traditional local event.  I volunteered to be just one of about 20 voice ops at one of the scout stations maybe 5 or more years ago.  I asked if they wouldnt mind if I reported my scores by APRS.  They rolled their eyes and were not interested.

So I installled a D700 display head on a clip board and put one of the SCORE sheets on it.  I put the D700 in a non-descript box with a battery and asked the net control if he woiuldnt mind at least copying off my message reports when they came in.  He reluctantly said he would give it a go as long as it did nto interfere.

I brought along 3 D7's and actually got two other people in the field to give it a try.  The net control was atypical dedicated volunteer, shows up every year and does it the same way they have been doing it for the last 20 years.  But he was open minded.

At the end to my happiness,  The net control (who spent all day sitting at a picnic table in 20 degree January weather said it was GREAT!  My web page was created back then, because he said the APRS text messages were a blessing because he could write them down at his leisure, and not have to fret on the voice net for our 3 stations.  He was sold.

Then I have done it 3 more times, and each year, more and more operators have shown up with D7's, though less than half each time know how to send a message.  These dedicated volunteers (evry Jan in sub freezing temps) ar not from any one club, just a crosssection of hams with an affinity towards scouting show up).

Year before last, I think we had about 5 APRS HT's and 12 other operators.  Last year I did not show up, and so there was no APRS though the net control had actually gone out and bought his own D700, but was unable to make it work and display properly.

THis year I was determined to get 100% participatin by using DTMF so even the guy with his IC2AT could text message.  But like is happening all across ham radio, there were far fewer volunteers this year, but the 6 that did show up all had APRS radios.  I brought my extras but we didnt even have enough operators to use them.  

So the 6 of us did the dozen or so statiosn by roving.  Each one of us had two statiosn that we had to report for.  SO this year, instead of putting the STATION number as the callsign, we left the radios with their owners call, and changed the reporting format to include the  reporting station digits in the message.  Had to do this for DTMF anyway.  

SO it really made the job easy.

Once you had entered a message for each of your assigned station, all  you had to do to make the report was edit one of the precious ones for that station and hit send.  The ACK came back from net control immediately, and so you could just edit the next score and so forth.  Usually at each station there was 2 to 3 troops per time period.  So plenty of messages resluted.

But to-a-man, even those that were skeptical about the finger pokes required to send the first message, all agreed that it was a piece of cake and BETTER than voice:

1) Sender could enter the scores at his leisure
2) Then forget about it (after confirming an ack)
3) Net control could receive the scores at his leisure
4) Messages were error free.
5) Voice net was so quiet, some people thought it was errie...

Of course Murphy was there, for example, it took me all morning to get the VX8R working on the golf cart...  Had to go track down another VX8R to show me what I was doing wrong!
Lots of voice traffic there!

And I had to train 3 new operators.  Whenever I heard a voice report come in, I wouild take a hike, visit the station and see if they wouldnt mind trying it next time with a D7.  ALl but one did and loved it.  Oh, and some of them even already had D7's just had never used them for APRS messaging... amazing as it may seem...

So, it just takes a lot of handholding working my way up from the bottom.  And looking for such an application that only needed DIGITS made it easy...

The reason Ham Radio has always been used a tth eKlondike drby is so that the scores are colected in real time so that at the end of the last event period, the totals and winners are immediately know for announcement at the closing ceremony... usually in freezing temps and everyone wanting to get home as soon as possible!


Bob, WbAPR

> I'm going to be visiting the Klondike Derby 
> here in the Frederick MD area.  Just as an 
> observer to see if ham radio operators can 
> help them out in the future.  I'd love to 
> do something similar.

Agian, I was lucky since the Hams were already there... I just brought them from the 1960's to at least the 1990s..  

So far I was lucky becuase none of the adult scouters thought to suggest that they could do it just as easily without hams by using texting on their their cell phones!

Bob, WB4APR

>On Sun, Jan 17, 2010 at 11:41 AM, Bob Bruninga <bruninga at usna.edu> wrote:
>> Another great Klondike Derby (Camporee) where APRS and HT's were used exclusively for reporting TROOP scores for each of dozens of troops at dozens of stations throughout the day.
>>
>> Text messaging from HT's is so successful for this kind of event, it was almost 100% this year.
>>
>> The GOOD news is that this year we also had DTMF decoding software running on a a screen at NETCONTROL so he could see any scores coming in from non-APRS HT's using only their DTMF keypad...  One guy was using his 30 year old IC-2AT! (I love it!)...
>>
>> THe OTHER news is that we had APRS HT's at EVERY station! and some brought extras!  Out of nowhere, the volunteers that showed up (unbeknowngst in advance) all showed up with either a D7 or VX8R.  So to my disappointment, NO one used DTMF... argh...
>>
>> This cleared the table top (pushed the DTMF laptop back out of the way) at NETCON who now only had his D700 display on his clipboard and one other APRS laptop to see the venue.
>>
>> See www.aprs.org/aprsevent.html
>>
>> To me, THIS IS WHAT APRS is all about.  Oh, by the way, no one  was reallly moving, and so "one-way-tracking" was not of any real value.  The value of APRS was sending in TEXT scores in an error-free mode on a dedicated data channel and NOT cluttering the VOICE channel with 1960's erra voice reporting of numbers!
>>
>> The net control could take the numbers at HIS leisure from his D700 display head attached to his clipboard and otherwise not be stressed by constant attntion and interruption by voice traffic.
>>
>> Actually, the only statios that actually transmitted their positions were the VX8R's with the built-in GPS's.  So we strapped one of them to the golf-cart being used by the scout VIP staff and so yes... APRS was used to track something.
>>
>> BUT APRS IS SO MUCH MORE.  THink about how you can use text messaging from ANY KEYPAD on ANY HT (APRS, or DTMF) at your next event.  Do something new!
>>
>> The DTMF decoder software we used only decodes digits and does not display ALPHA letters (though the author says he will add it later).  But all we needed was NUMBERS anyway.  Here is a typical report for each sled at each station once every 45 minutes:
>>
>> NNSS#TTT
>>
>> Where NN was the reporting station
>> SS was the score (01 to 10)
>> TTT was the troop number.
>>
>> TTT was last because some troops had 2, 3 or 4 digit numbers and it was easier to do this editing on the end than in the middle.
>>
>> Remember how easy it is to EDIT an old message with NEW info and then send it as a new message.  The NN does not change, the SS only changes sometimes... (most got a 10 or a 09).  So on the D7 or VX8R, just bring up the message list, select one you have already sent with the score you want, right arrow over to change the troop number and SEND.  Done.
>>
>> Far faster than waiting your turn (out of 20) for your change to read off your scores...
>>
>> APRS is MORE than dumb tracking... USE IT!
>>
>> Bob, WB4APR
>>
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