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YOTA South Africa 2018

YOTA South-Africa 2018, a start of something bigger

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Can you imagine? 23 teams, from all over Africa, Europe and USA travelled to South-Africa to take part in the annual Youngsters On The Air event. Yes, it did happen. 74 Young radio amateurs found their way to Gauteng, close to Johannesburg. This made it also happen that we had in total 7 African countries taking part, more then ever. 25 Persons had the opportunity to take part, after an intensive training, in a HAREC license exam. 20 Of them passed, great achievement, especially if you are aware that most of them don’t have the opportunity to take part in an exam at their home country.
Enough numbers for now, the youngsters took part in many activities in the week itself. A programme was made which was showing amateur radio in South-Africa with focus of train-the-trainer. SARL is making good progress on youth and amateur radio. Think about Hammies, Jeugland radio club or JOTA/JOTA.

Train-the-trainer? This was the first event with our renewed focus. There were several sessions were teams showed their ideas on how to develop amateur radio and attract newcomers to the amateur radio hobby. With this we are creating a snowball-effect, organizing similar activities back at home will make it happen that more persons can join YOTA or amateur radio. The teams all got homework to do, in 2 months we expect from them an article in their national amateur radio magazine about the event and a plan on starting their own youth program or organizing new amateur radio events. They all are free to come up with their own ideas, but got inspired the entire week.

A week has only 7 days, believe it or not, SARL made it happen to put more days in a week. Still being impressed about what we did in one week. There were many lectures and workshops, about contesting, DMR, Marconi and a demonstration of Marconi’s used equipment, a presentation on radio in wildlife (tracking animals) and much more. Starting with building own YAGI antenna’s and using this later to make satellite contacts, followed by a technical and hands-on SDR workshop. Working as a real project team to prepare a payload for a BACAR (Balloon Carrying Amateur Radio) balloon flight, we also launched the balloon, used the SDR and antenna to make contacts and gather data. After a good braai (South-African BBQ) all participants showed in a presentation the analysis of the recovered data of the payloads.

The youngsters did kit building with QRP labs, some of them couldn’t get enough and kept on building late in the night. There was a radio shack were ZS9YOTA was activated in modes as SSB, CW and FT8.
With so many cultures taking part in the event, we continued our yearly tradition of the intercultural evening. All teams brought food, drinks and even traditional clothes from their home-country.
Luckily the youth got the chance to see a bit of the South-African beauty, the group went on safari to see the big five! The farewell party, including an African drumming session, was a great last goodbye.

All this organized by SARL, the South African Radio League, under lead of Nico van Rensburg ZS6QL (President of SARL) and Koos Fick ZR6KF (Youth Coordinator of SARL). They didn’t do this all alone, they had a great group of volunteers helping them out to make this all happen. A special thanks to the entire organizing team and SARL!

This is only a part of everything the youngsters took part in. Do you want to read more or see more of the event?It’s all covered, have a look here.

A popular question, where will YOTA 2019 take place? Unfortunately we still did not receive any application. Are you interested in organizing an unforgettable event which will change the life of many young radio amateurs and be part of the future of amateur radio? Contact Lisa, PA2LS, Youth WG Chair IARU R1.

YOTA ZS 2018 Farewell (Blog #4)

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Even with the more “serious” parts of the program being over, the theme of lacking opportunities to catch sleep continued onto the last official day, with a bus leaving the hotel early again (though at least not 4:20 again).

However, it was for a program point that, in this way, has not been possible on any of the European YOTA Camps before—a safari through the South African bush. With how packed the schedule was, this also meant a first chance to get the “Africa Feeling” for the European teams, or at least get to see (South) Africa as we all imagined.

After arriving at the game lodge and splitting the participants among the available cars, we went off for a few hours, trying to see as many of the “Big Five”: Elephant, Lion, Buffalo, Rhino and Leopard. Success varied between the cars, but three of the five were seen by at least some—the ones that weren’t seen were the ones that could eat you for supper, so that maybe was for the best.

Coming back to the lodge, we were greeted by a small group (flock? herd?) of kudus (a type of antelope) and some zebras, with some participants experiencing that the latter do not like people coming up close. While most people were busy photographing and/or petting the kudus, lunch was being made, so that’s what everybody went for afterwards. With people well fed, it was time to take the 2-hour drive back to the hotel, which provided a way for people to exchange their photos of the wildlife they had seen earlier (as well as some others); in keeping with the spirit of the hobby, this was of course done using SSTV via 2m FM.

As most people used the opportunity to catch some sleep after coming back, the organisers found a great way of getting everybody awake again before dinner: a drumming activity, which consisted of everybody being supplied with a djembe drum, and then getting their hearts played out (and their hands played sore) together.

After dinner, it was time for the last official event of the camp: The Farewell Event. This included handing out the HAREC certificates to the 20 of the 25 RAE participants that passed, many “Thank you”s from participants towards the organisers and everyone else involved in the event, and of course celebration until long in the night. And, unfortunately, first hugs and tears for participants that were going to leave already very early in the day.

For everybody else, hugs and tears were reserved for the day following, with everyone getting back to the airport, after having found some way on how to get the reflector element for the satellite yagi back home.

Overall, we sincerely thank the organisers and sponsors for an outstanding event, once again setting the bar high for future YOTA Camps to come. Even with such a busy schedule (busy enough these blog posts got delayed as much as they did), we would not have wanted to miss a single one of the program points.

With all that said, all that is left is a heartfelt 73, and see everyone at one of the next YOTA events, whichever of the many it may be!

YOTA ZS 2018 Blog #3

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Even with everybody still sleep deprived from the BACAR day, there wasn’t any time to catch up with sleep as the ambitious schedule continued on Sunday.

In preparation for what was going to take most of the day, including the tea breaks, Hans Summer, G0UPL, presented the next kit from his company, QRP Labs, that was going to be built. We won’t spoil anything here until Hans’ official announcement, but all we can say is that it is an amazing product, definitely one-upping last year’s QCX kit. It might or might not be the case that some information about it has spread throughout other YOTA media channels, so it is definitely worthwhile to look through the posts there as well.

However, when you try to beat a kit like the QCX, some people might be intimidated by the complexity; or they just want to build something that unexperienced kit builders can finish over the course of the camp. For this reason, Hans also brought other kits, namely his clock kit as well as the Ultimate3S WSPR kit, which builds upon the clock kit. For WSPR enthusiasts, you can be sure that there will be some rare WSPR DXCC(s) coming up rather soon!

With the presentation out of the way, it was time to start actually building the kits. While there weren’t enough soldering irons to keep everyone soldering without interruption (anyone want to lend ca. 80 irons to the next YOTA event? 😃), this also meant that more experienced builders could help the inexperienced one, creating a great learning experience. Also, with all the soldering fumes in the air, it probably was for the better that we did not have more.

At the same time, the lessons for the RAE (South African license exam) continued, an opportunity used by many to either upgrade their home license or take the exam in the first place, an opportunity not even offered in some of the countries participating.

The afternoon of that day had two more presentations. One was about DMR, including a small, portable repeater; something you probably won’t see for analog modes. The other presentation was about contesting, presented by non other than three-times WRTC participant Chris Burger, ZS6EZ. Part of the presentation was also the YOTA tradition of an Off-Air contest, although with different rules than the participants were used to. Nevertheless, it was about as chaotic as the ones we knew from earlier years.

After dinner, there was another Train the Trainer session, dedicated to trying to find each country’s challenges in getting and keeping youngsters interested in the hobby. With plenty of good ideas being exchanged, the official program ended rather late. However, apparently it was not late enough for quite a number of people to not continue their kit building until very late in the night.


Monday was once again time for an excursion, this time visiting two local companies that supported this YOTA Summer Winter Camp in various ways.

The first company was Bosco, which is the biggest PCB manufacturer in South-Africa. We had a tour of the entire factory, starting at checking the design of the produced boards to be, continuing through all process steps. It is interesting to see how many steps are involved in creating PCBs.

The other was GEW, a defense company specialising in RF intelligence, surveillance, and RF spectrum monitoring, as well as direction finding—possibly all at once in a single device. Not only did we get to look at their production as well as testing facilities, but we could also marvel at the capabilities of their products, leaving us wondering why we are still stuck manually turning Yagis for VHF/UHF contests …

After lunch, our schedule continued, with a presentation of which we only knew the name: “The Magnificient Bell at the Villa Griffone”. Hidden behind the mysterious name is not some spooky ghost story, but the history of radio, starting at the very basics, and then going on all the way through Marconi’s life, including live demonstrations of historic equipment.

For everyone wondering about how Marconi was able to achieve a transatlantic transmission with the primitive means he had, the next talk showed why. With an increasing amount of electronic hardware and a race for cheaper devices, RF noise has increased by very sizeable amounts of Marconi’s time, to the point where his transmission would nowadays very likely be drowned out by noise. To quantify this increase of RF noise, an SARL project was presented to measure and quantify the RF noise surrounding all of us—not in perfectly scientific means, but still sufficient to actually measure the increase over time.

To finish the presentations, an overview of the YOTA program was given. As avid readers of our site of course know, it does not only consist of the annual YOTA Summer Camp (or Winter, for a bunch of countries), but also the YOTA December Month, where Youngsters all around Region 1 (and more!) become active with YOTA callsigns, accumulating tens of thousands of QSOs over the month total. The third activity is the Youth Contesting Program, where youngsters get invited to so-called Big Gun contest stations, to experience the team effort that goes into getting to the very top of the scoreboard in various contests.

With the presentations over and most people getting to relax (or rather mostly continuing on their kit), things got serious for some of the participants, as they were taking the RAE at this time.

After dinner, it was time for the last session of Train the Trainer; this time with presentations about concrete action points that the teams intend to take in their home countries.

YOTA ZS 2018 Blog #2

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With barely enough time to recover from the intercultural evening, the second day was kicked off with a presentation about South Africa, giving us an overview about this amazing country that we are barely able to witness otherwise, due to all the other activities planned!

Next up was the BACAR payload building. The five teams that everyone was split into yesterday came together for planning the project, selecting the components, building the payload, and modifying the software to fit their needs.

After lunch then came the first highlight of the payload building: The drop test. To ensure that all payloads survive the landing, each team had to drop their cube from several meters high onto hard ground. Fortunately, all team’s cubes survived that test, with only minor problems uncovered, which could fixed right after.

With the drop test sorted out, it was time for the second, important test: The shake test. Attached to the end of a broomstick, the payloads were swung and shook around, ensuring that both the ropes attaching them and the cubes themselves survive the possibly very violent wind conditions that can occur during their journey. As it turned out, the biggest bottleneck uncovered during the test was the connection between the broomstick and the ropes, sending some cubes flying through the room.

In the afternoon, we were given a presentation about South Africa’s first amateur radio satellite, Kletskous 1, including an explanation of both the transponder and stabilisation design. The current transponder prototype will also launch with the balloon on Sunday! To finish off the afternoon, there also was a presentation about how to actually work the satellites that are already out there circling our planet.

To finish off Friday, we had another session of the “Train the Trainer” theme. This time, we were sent off rather early, to catch some sleep for the big day coming up.


To start off the BACAR day, we all had to get up to 4AM, so we could arrive in Secunda around 6AM. When we arrived, it was literally freezing outside. When we were told before the camp that it was going to be 5 degrees outside at night, we definitely were thinking about +5!

After some warm soup and the sun coming up, some people made final preparations for the payloads, while the rest watched the balloon being set up and filled with hydrogen. When the balloon was filled up and started wobbling around due to the strong winds, the payloads were already lined up, so the balloon could be attached and let go, speeding off and almost hitting bystanders with the long chain of payloads hanging off of it.

Without losing time, we drove to the base station, the Secunda Radio Club clubhouse. From there, we tried to receive the signals from the various payloads, working through a list of exercises given beforehand. Even though some of the hardware on the balloon failed, there were still plenty of signals left to chase after with out antennas and radios.

With the payload landed and the chase team still underway, we had some time to fill. Armed with the antenna from Thursday and the knowledge from Friday’s presentation, we took chase on the satellites that happened to come by. Those transponders sure were kept busy during that time.

During the downtime, we were also given a practical demonstration of RaDAR – Rapid Deployment of Amateur Radio. Within a few minutes there were several antennas set up, and used for making QSOs with a portable rig.

In the early afternoon, the chase cars came back, with the payloads in the trunk. This meant that the time for enjoying the sun was over, and we went back to work, trying to get the data collected during flight, as well as preparing the presentations for later. Unfortunately, it turned out that none of the teams had GPS data from the complete flight, and one even lost their complete flight data due to an unknown issue.

YOTA ZS 2018 Kicked off (Blog #1)

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Today the YOTA event kicked off!

We started the day with an early breakfast, and had the first presentation at 8:30,
this was about the the current status of the radio station.

After a 15min break, the SDR workshop started, everyone got a free DVB-T dongle so they can do some basic SDR receiving, the workshop helped youngsters install SDR# software, gave short introductions to APRS/AX.25, weather sat decoding, SSTV and satellite tracking.

The next workshop was even more hands on, building a 2m/70cm dual-band handheld Yagi, with injection moulded supports and CNC cut fixing holes, it was so hands on the organizers had to threaten participants with lions to get the participants back to their seats for the next presentation.

Train the trainer is all about how to get youngsters in the Hamradio hobby,
the main ideas are:

  • ARISS contact
  • SOTA
  • Amsat
  • Social media
  • Basic license classes
  • workshops
  • contests
  • SOTA
  • Starting youth club
  • Fox hunting
  • youngsters camp
  • CBers, BOS paramedics
  • Construction of stuff
  • Scouts/field days

After lunch, we had a nice presentation about the preservation of Cheetahs, and even had one visit us!

A short break later, we were introduced to the BACAR (Balloon Carrying Amateur Radio) project, which is a whole story in itself, so we will come back about this later.

After dinner, it was time for the intercultural evening, where all the countries provide food and drinks from their country following camp tradition.

A few weeks to go!

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With only a few weeks to go to YOTA 2018 in South Africa, the SARL Events Team is hard at work to conclude preparations for a 7 day programme filled with a range of amateur radio related activities, excursions and lots of fun!

The event will be held in the beautiful central region of Gauteng at the Kopanong Hotel and Conference Centre easily accessible from the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

All teams and participants will be met at the airport with a traditional South African welcome and be transported to the venue.
Being in the Southern hemisphere and August in Gauteng, it will expectantly be a mild winter with sun-filled days with day time temperatures in the low 20 degrees C and will be a “pseudo-Summer” camp for the overseas visitors.

The week will offer many opportunities to learn more about amateur radio and getting to know fellow amateurs from various other countries.
Highlights planned for the week include learning about SDR technology with your own SDR dongle, build a mini CubeSat and experience launching it as well as tracking it into near space on a high altitude balloon. Learn about Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR) which is in essence amateur radio on the move and build a QRP HF transceiver kit.

A visit to a game reserve to view the Big Five including some cultural experiences like a traditional braaivleis in an open-air boma and operate the ZS9YOTA special events station.

The theme of “Train the Trainer” will be explored, to enable participants to return to their home countries, equipped and inspired to organize and promote radio amateur activities to other youth groups or ultimately starting a youth group.
Should you have any specific questions about travel arrangements, documentation or any other specific information, please do not hesitate to ask, we are happy to assist: [email protected]

The Events Team will keep participants informed in the next newsletter to be released soon. In the meantime bring your laptop, and if a licensed radio amateur your hand held radio and a copy of your amateur radio license.

We are looking forward to welcoming all teams in August this year!

YOTA ZS 2018

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The most prestigious event on the International Amateur Radio Union Region One (IARU -R1) youth calendar is the “Youngsters – on – the – Air “(YOTA) Summer Event. This year, South Africa and the South African Radio League (SARL) are honoured to host this international event.

This is a first for Africa, and a first for South Africa to host this major youth event. Eighty participants aged from 16 to 25, and from over 30 countries have been invited to attend a fun-filled week of Amateur Radio from the 8th to the 15th August 2018.

This annual event brings together young people from various IARU R1 member societies in Africa and Europe for an entire week. This week creates, in addition to amateur radio, the opportunity to learn all about different nationalities and cultures, foster international friendships and goodwill as well as learning new communication and technical skills.

It will be the first YOTA event which will focus on a train-the-trainer principle. In the week itself the participants will get tips&tricks to start own youth activities or youth programmes in their member society. With this, we will reach a bigger audience on national and local level, which makes it happen that more young people and newcomers can be involved in amateur radio.

The event will be held in the beautiful central region of Gauteng, providing participant’s access to South Africa via O.R. Tambo International Airport.
This event is organised by the SARL Youth Working Group and supported by a dedicated events team.