YOTA Estonia 2013

Team Photos

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We all gathered in our YOTA t-shirts to have the Group photo taken, it was a gorgeous day and we all brought our home country flags with us.  IARU Region 1 President, Hans, was present with us for these pictures as well as YOTA founder, Florin (who was present for the week).  After the Group photo, we all had individual team photos, and this quickly descended into photos with every other team individually with lots of cameras being passed around, before long we all felt like we were posing for paparazzi, smiling here there and everywhere.

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Country Presentations

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Throughout the course of YOTA each team was asked to do a presentation on “A Day in the life of our country”. These presentations took place each evening.  As 15 teams took part in the event, it was extremely interesting to see different cultures come alive on the screen.

Each team presented their country in a different light, some countries promoted their landmarks, with some very interesting places to be seen, the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania, Draculas Castle in Romania, the gorgeous wine valleys of Slovenia and the beautiful coasts of Croatia.  The Belgian and Russian team brought humour with Finland giving us a typical sauna day in the life of a Finnish family.  The Swedes had a great presentation on their contest station where some of the other YOTA participants came to Sweden to take part, and the Dutch gave us a day in their hectic lives.  The Latvian team gave us part of their culture, the Bulgarian girls showed us some of their nightlife, the Irish gave us a real life “leprechaun” and lovely tin whistle playing, with Poland playing the guitar and having us sing along to a national song of theirs.  Host country, Estonia, held off until the final night where they had great fun in playfully mocking the other teams.

All teams produced a great presentation and is was brilliant to see a little insight into other peoples surroundings and lives.  A great cultural experience.

On and Off Air Contests

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There were 2 contests held while we were in Estonia, one was a 2m “on-air” contest between licensed YOTA participants.  This was organised by the Lithuanian team who also checked and cross-checked the logs at the end.  The contest began at 8pm and finished at 8.30pm local time.  It involved contesters finding a quite place to operate from, finding a frequency on 2m and calling CQ, which resulted in contestants running wildly throughout the hotel trying to find a suitable spot to transmit.  The band got quite confusing with so many operators on at the same time, and even QSOs became confused with operators not sure who they were talking to.  The winner of this contest was Ger EI4GXB with a confirmed 35 QSO’s within the 30 minute contest.

The other contest was an off-air contest for all participants, licensed or not, with 2 benches representing 40m and 80m bands.  The aim was to make as many QSOs as possible whilst sitting on a particular bench.  Once you made your contact and you had your serial number, you were allowed to race to the other bench to make a new QSO for that “band”.  Whilst contestants raced from one bench to the other having QSOs,  non-participating members were causing QRM (usually making large “la la la” sounds and also whistling). There was also a bit of “stamping” on the band with contesters pushing each other lightly to gain control of the “frequency”.  It was hilarious and the funniest event by far of the week.

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ARDF – Foxhunting

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Another interesting item was ARDF (or Foxhunting).  This was held by Team Bulgaria, and took place in the park across the road, in the wooded area.  Foxhunting is where a transmitter (“fox”) sends out signals (alternating every minute for 5 minutes). The hunters use a directional finding antenna to hone in on the signal, and with this, a compass and an orienteering map, the hunters calculate the fox coordinates and run to that location.  Once the fox is found, they use a little chip on their hand which logs the time the fox was found by them and they begin to listen for the next transmission.

This is a great activity, and although can be used as a leisure activity, there is a competitive side to it.  The Bulgarian ladies are part of Team Bulgaria in this regard and describe this event as being very difficult at times, as the terrain can be tiring and having to run over the course of the competition can have its impact.

But it was a great, fun experience for those that have never had a chance to participate in this kind of event, with the youngsters listening to the signal and taking part in their own “mini-foxhunt”, and getting a sense of what this entails.  Again, a great fun activity.

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ES9YOTA – Operating in Estonia

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The main station for YOTA was held in a tower in the grounds of a nearby park.  It was situation about 90ft in the air at the very top of the tower with the stairs consisting of a fire-escape type setup outside the tower with a see-through floor.  The station itself was a Yaesu FT920 transceiver, an Expert 1K Linear Amplifier and a 3 element Yagi antenna.

Operating ES9YOTA was a great experience.  The callsign was extremely highly sought after with the pile ups being present at any time of operation.  Due to the amount of YOTA amateurs seeking to operate the station, a timetable was formed so everyone got an opportunity to use it.  We used both SSB and CW, majorly on 20m but with some other bands thrown in.  Youngsters who did not have any experience on the air got the chance to operate and gain some practical experience in real life QSO’s.  This is a major plus for them and gave them a sense of achievement and pride, which pushes them into pursuing their hobby a little further, and with the right encouragement and teaching could lead to their own licences.

For those that are already licensed, the chance to work a pile up (which some hams may not have the opportunity to do) was also an achievement.  The operation of a new callsign was a bonus for those hams who may have never operated out of their own DXCC, and the opportunity to work different DXCC’s (eg Japan) was a high for others as these countries may not be readily accessible from their home locations.

As ES9 is considered a special call in Estonia, it was great for all callers contacting the station to get in their log, as well as getting the YOTA station.  Approx 3,000 QSO’s were made over the course of the week and the participants had a great time at this shack.

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Antenna Building

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Another practical workshop that was a great hit with the kids.  We were given the opportunity to build our very own 3 element yagi antenna for 2m band.

This involved taking a length of plumbing pipe approx 1 metre in length for the boom, getting 3 plastic clips to which we would attach the elements.  The unusual thing about this antenna is that we were making the elements out of ordinary measuring tape cut into 3 different lengths from reflector to the director to the specifications given to us, attaching these to wooden strips and fixing to the plastic clip which connected to the boom.

We then drilled holes in the middle element to fix the hairpin match to (a little thin piece of wire) and we soldered these to the screws, to which we also connected the coax cable.

We tested the antenna on 2m and it worked perfectly, and only cost approximately €4 to make in total!

As some of the youngsters had never built an antenna before, or even knew what a yagi antenna consisted of, it was a great experience for them, and even better they got to bring the antenna home with them for their own use.

Workshop – Satellites

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This workshop was very interesting.  We had a visit from a member of the team involved in ESTCUBE-1 who set us a mission.


Satellite orbiting the Moon and taking images of the Earth

Mass should be less than 10 kg.

Earth-Moon diameter: 380,000 km

Earth diameter: 12,700 km

We had to create a hypothetical satellite, decide what it needed to have to complete the mission and how it should be built.  We learned a lot about this, especially the components needed for this to survive in space.  The basic construction needed to be light, with an extremely good camera, power sources for it to continue to transmit pictures back to earth and to function, alarm systems for any issues etc.  It also needs money and sponsorship (e.g. from universities etc) which is a major aspect as the project is a non-starter without it.

It was great fun which gave a lot of new information to the youngsters.

In the afternoon the youngsters tried to make contact with a satellite passing overhead.  This was very dependent on the equipment used as well as the satellites path etc and unfortunately was unsuccessful on this day but we had great fun in trying.

Free time

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Between the workshops and at the end of every evening, all participants were allowed a certain amount of free time.

We had a beautiful lake in a park across the road from the hotel, and this was a great place for everyone to go swimming.  The weather in Estonia was really hot, sometimes reaching 28-30 degrees!  Groups of youngsters would take the free time to cool down and a quick swim would refresh everyone before the next workshop.

Another way free time was used was to finish projects eg kit building & antenna building, with the robot lovers going to the conference room to play with the programs.

Football was a big activity in Estonia with a lot of the lads and ladies taking part in mini matches, that began with a kick-about and ended up with European Final style competition, with pride to play for along with the humiliation of the lads, as the ladies were very competitive.  Scouting became a big thing for the right players, with a fair referee also being sought (I hope they weren’t bribed eventually).  It was great fun to see the determination, dodgy tackles and major laughter as the match progressed.

Some teams (depending on the timetable) would go to the station to operate, and others would go for a walk or run.  Shopping in the local supermarket was also a must as people picked up supplies during the course of the week.

We also had the 18th birthday of one of the participants.  We brought out a cake after dinner and everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to him, with all teams also singing happy birthday in their own national tongue, which was amazing to hear.

But the best free time of all was the evenings when DJ Kris had the music blaring and the dancing began.  Great fun was had as people socialised, chatted, danced and enjoyed themselves immensely.  For those not wishing to stay in the disco room, the balcony of the hotel and also outside the main reception door were the other meeting places, you could always be guaranteed to find someone there to chat to and spend the evening laughing as different youngsters joined and left the conversations.

The theme song of YOTA 13 has to be “Yellow Submarine” which you would hear on any given evening, usually in one of the rooms where a group had gathered.

Quality time with the new friends you’ve made is the best thing you will experience in the week, there is nothing like it.  This is evident when the end time came, and people had to say goodbye to the friends they made, but thankfully there are lots of ways to keep in touch (Facebook, YOTA webpage, Skype etc) so your new friends are never far away!

The bonds made were huge, and even now people wish they were back there.

How we started in our hobby

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The number one most important thing we all have is an interest in the hobby.  It is essential.

There is no satisfaction in the radio hobby if you have no interest in it, you may find it boring, or worse still fail to even attempt to try it.  It can be a difficult hobby to understand if you try to do it alone, as some aspects can be very technical for example, and although you can look this up on the internet, you may not understand it properly and without an explanation from an individual with knowledge in the area and it can be difficult to grasp.

Most of ham operators at YOTA said they were introduced to the hobby by a third party, this could be a family member (father, grandfather etc), friends, at school or a different group where the hobby is used as a work tool eg army, scouts.  These people can provide a mentor-type role, and can continue to give their knowledge and experience to you throughout your amateur operating life.  This hobby is a life learning experience and we are all continuously learning.

A local radio club can also assist people in gaining entry and exposure to the hobby, any may provide a practical approach by allowing you to access to equipment, see different components or home made equipment, or may even allow you to attend at a field day where can assist with an antenna setup, filling in logbooks or even go on the air to gain some experience and speak to other hams around Europe, or the world!  This is also a great way to meet new friends and build up some networks, however it is not always easy for a person to attend a club meeting, so self learning may be the only option you have.

Non-formal learning is the one of the most popular types of learning in relation to amateur radio.  Non-formal learning is where people learn about the hobby without attending a formal course.  Materials for this can be easily found on the internet, and also through ham radio books although some help may be needed when filtering through the materials to find the most suitable aides.  One issue that hams come up against is that it is hard to come across internet material in their mother tongue i.e most documents are written in English, so if you live in Finland (for example) and have very little English, these are of no benefit to you.

YOTA can provide assistance in this regard.  If you are joined to the YOTA network, not only do you make friends, but you can gain ideas on how to continue with your studies / hobby, and more importantly get some technical support and knowledge from other hams in the group. Also with regular meetings, Facebook and skeds, it is very easy to access information from youths all over Europe to assist.