Summer 2008 Issue

ATV

Getting Yourself and Students Started
in Amateur Television

By Miguel Enriquez, KD7RPP

Jhovana Peralta, Juan Puig, and Ruth Colores with
Pueblo Magnet High School BOE-BOT #1.

 

When first exposed to Amateur Television (ATV), many students show immediate interest in the medium because it is something with which they grew up. Furthermore, to be able to see themselves on the television screen is an exciting proposition for them, as well. To know that the magic of television can be theirs to explore becomes a motivating factor in deciding to learn how to use it and eventually how it works. That is what is happening in our school radio shack where our ham radio club members have been enjoying ATV for over a year.
At first glance, ATV appears to be a difficult and expensive undertaking. However, the initial investment for the entire station can be less than $500. Furthermore, with some proper guidance from an Elmer who has been enjoying the use of ATV for a while, your first ATV station is not far away.

It is possible to get your station up and running while you are learning and developing the technical skills and knowledge for ATV. To do this, you will need to find an Elmer who can help you identify the necessary equipment and set up the station. If none is available, we can help you get the direction and support by way of our being your DX Elmers. Perhaps some of our students presently using ATV in the classroom can QSO with your students to answer their questions and share some of their experiences.

The costs of developing an ATV station can be kept to a minimum by looking around your shack for available materials and equipment. An old television (analog) is the first order of business. The ATV transmitter/receiver can be purchased from a couple of dealers who sell ATV equipment, or they can be found on the Internet as pre-owned equipment at several swap meet sites. An old video camera like the one you use to capture memories at your family’s picnics, etc., will work very nicely.

The students can have fun constructing “Cheap Yagi” antennas from blueprint instructions readily available on the Internet, as well as in CQ VHF’s “Antennas” columns by Kent Britain, WA5VJB. Low-loss cable is the one thing that becomes critically important in transmitting and receiving ATV signals, because any loss of signal strength degrades the quality of the picture and sound that is transmitted or received.

ATV equipment currently on the market, new or used, is designed for ease of use. After your station is set up and calibrated, little maintenance is required. The station can be set up in any corner of the classroom or ham shack, as it does not require much space or special lighting. As you learn to use ATV equipment, you and your students will easily be able to solve any challenges the technology presents.

Perhaps the biggest problem in using ATV is finding a second station with which to converse. Transmitting distances are a limiting factor in ATV. Unless you have a repeater high up on a mountain, like we do, you are limited to line-of-sight contacts. Furthermore, the other station must have a station that transmits and receives on the same frequencies as your station. Regrettably, this has been a major problem for our club. However, finding a second school in your area or a ham club willing to set up a station to communicate with students could be part of the challenge you accept when you commit to adding ATV to your school radio shack.

If finding a second school or ham willing to add an ATV station to their shack is impossible, you can still go at it alone. ATV is designed to be portable. This means your students can build two or more ATV stations and then they can still enjoy the fun the medium brings.

Your second ATV station can go to a local hamfest where the students can show off their ATV skills to other hams. They can go into another classroom or school or other public event and transmit to the school shack while the public walks by and watches, stopping to ask what is going on and then being impressed that the students are successfully delving into television transmissions.
 

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