YOTA Summer Camp 2022 Blog

Day 7 | Friday, 2022-08-12

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Our Friday morning, the last day of camp started a little later than a normal excursion day. At 7 am breakfast arrived. As usual, we got a sandwich with either cheese, ham, marmalade, or all of them. After breakfast, the team leaders gathered to go through the day, usually, during team leader meetings, the schedule is presented briefly as well as important holding points for the day. The information given for this day contained a briefing about the upcoming COTA activation. We were supposed to gather outside the hostel to make our way through Karlovac on foot.
The gathering went smooth and off we went, in the city center, a guide joined up to take us on a tour. He told about the history of Karlovac, and how it started as a fortification in the 16th century and developed into the city that it is today. The tour was highly appreciated since we had only seen the camp area before. We walked past many historical marks in terms of both statues and the former trenches that protected Karlovac before we arrived at the sanctuary by the foot of the hill. Here, we were briefly told the history of the sanctuary before we started the hillclimb. We followed the trail up the hill to the Dubovac Castle.

Already on arrival, the stations were set up, so we could start operating immediately. We activated the shortwave, VHF, and the QO-100 satellite. There were plenty of radio activities and the ones that did not operate at the moment relaxed and socialized. The day was overall supposed to be a day with plenty of room to hang around and talk to the new friends that they met at the camp during the week. As always, when radio amateurs are around, there were a lot of interesting discussions. Some of them even made their way into the restaurant in the castle over a cup of coffee. This could not have fitted better, since the next part of the program was a guided tour of the castle. Our eminent guide showed us the castle, including an art exhibition in it, as well as the amazing view from the tower. We got taught about how the castle ended up being where it is today, and how the surroundings were controlled before Croatia even existed. After the tour, we started heading back towards the hostel, the tour guide stayed with us the whole way and told us about the city parts we went past on our way.

Upon arrival, we got served an afternoon lunch, some had eaten a little already at the castle restaurant, but it was still a welcome meal. Afterward, the camp’s last TTT session started. It contained a presentation about social media marketing for when we get home, and many great tips on both how to practically do social media marketing, but also on how to schedule and lay up the work.
One of the traditions in YOTA is the group photo, which of course needed to take place before teams started going home, we took pictures of everybody, single teams, the groups, and the organizing team. There were also flags laid out to be signed by all the participants, together with a T-shirt.

Afterward, we gathered to start the closing ceremony. There was told that there was a special guest coming for the opening, and we could not agree more since Nikola Tesla himself somewhat miraculously came to the stage. Having studied in Karlovac, it must have felt nostalgic to return after so many years, and he told us about his studies and his work in an age when radio was concerned to be almost magic. He had a small speech for us, and then the camp leaders started the certificate ceremony. All participants received a certificate of participation and the ones who had accomplished something extraordinary during the camp, such as having their first contact, received a special congratulation and applause from all of us.

There was a pause in the closing ceremony for dinner, and then we got onto the award ceremony. This was held short to make room for social activities. But there were awards given out to the teams that had, for example, written the best blog posts or taken the best photos during the week. After the award ceremony, the party started. There was some last night karaoke at the tents, and a cozy campfire to sit down by and enjoy the last night with all the new friends. I hope that everybody enjoyed it as much as I, myself did. And I think that I’m not guessing too far from the truth!

Day 6 | Thursday, 2022-08-11

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With day six, the second to last day has already started! Breakfast started at 7 o’clock, but most of the participants came rather late. Mainly due to the reason that the youngsters are staying awake longer in order to enjoy the time together in the evening! As usual, a short team leader meeting was held until the schedule for the day started with energizers. For the rest of the day, the youngsters have been split into three groups, since there were three workshops planned for the day. It simultaneously was a great way to get in contact with some new teams. Even though there is also time to get in contact in the sparse time, it is rather hard to meet everyone due to the high amount of youngsters (nearly 100!).

The first workshop for one of the groups was about deploying a vertical antenna. All things needed in order to set up a portable station using a vertical antenna were provided. Together as a group, they had to find out how to set up the antenna, which parts had to be assembled, and what to take care of. After setting up the antenna, they took measurements and adjusted the antenna if it was needed. To make sure that it is properly working, they did some QSOs. After working for a while, it was time to dismantle the antenna. With enough youngsters at hand, this was done quite quickly.

Another timeslot has been again reserved for operating on air. The station is up and operated by youngsters nearly any time, but the workshop slots make sure that everyone will get a chance to operate and improve their skills with the help of others. Thus, during this operating workshop time, you have seen a really experienced youngster helping a younger one to make his third QSO in his lifetime. Another example has been two girls, operating together independently without any assistance. But still, someone passed by and still help them by showing them a small trick of the logging software that they didn’t know before.

ARDF was one of activities on Thursday

After two workshops, it was already time for the obligatory lunch break. The weather was perfect, warm, and sunny, and the lunch area was enjoyable due to the shadow of the trees.
The afternoon continued with the last workshop. It was finally time to get the wabbits of the former workshops in action! Since there was one wabbit soldered by each participant, it would have been impossible to get all of them involved in the fox hunting. Nevertheless, there were 12 wabbits chosen, including one at the accommodation ground. The rest has been placed in different locations in the park which was just next to the accommodation. Everyone got an introduction to the receivers and got to know the basics of ARDF. Since this was new to a few of the youngsters, there was no competition behind, only a deadline was set such that everybody came back in time to keep up the schedule. Even though the participants could have returned after the first fox, everyone continued trying to find all of them! It was hard though since due to the self-build wabbits the transmissions were not always set up properly. Nevertheless, some youngsters still managed to find all of them in time, also including a few who never tried ARDF before.

The workshop slots ended earlier this day, but due to the schedule shift of the previous day, there was now time to hold a double TTT session. It included again presentations from participating countries, showing everybody what kind of youth activity they organized and most importantly which steps they have taken in order to organize it. In order to spread the word within the member societies, the TTT session included group work, where each team had to start working on a report about their impressions of the camp. This can then be used as a base for a report for publishing in their national ham radio magazine. After the TTT session, dinner was served as usual. The rest of the evening was left to each participant to decide for themselves. Some went straight back to the station, but most of them sat down together at the evening activity. And so the evening ended for most of them around the bonfire.

Day 5 | Wednesday, 2022-08-10

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Wednesday started again at 6.15 o’clock in the morning. Everyone gathered in front of the building to get some breakfast before getting on the bus for the second excursion.

After about an hour of bus drive, we reached the capital of Croatia. Hopping off the bus was close to the main square in Zagreb. Once arrived, participants were split into three groups and met with their tour guide. Thanks to them, the youngsters not only got the typical sightseeing spots but also got some more insights into the historical background of Zagreb. Starting at the main square, each group took a slightly different route, but all ended at the technical museum named after Nikola Tesla. The museum has been the second part of the day’s schedule. The visit there started with a high-voltage show. It has been very impressive and included also not only experiments but information about Nikola Tesla himself. He for example went to high school in Karlovac, which is the location of our camp! Some participants also volunteered for helping the museum guide show the experiments.

Nikola Tesla Technical Museum in Zagreb

After the show, it was time for a tour through the rest of the museum. There were many old vehicles and a mine shaft to see. It was very interesting to see how people worked underground back then. Even though there was not much time left, the youngsters agreed that the radio exhibition can’t be skipped! Since it was already time for lunch, the busses picked everyone up and brought us to our lunch location on Medvednica. We went to a restaurant on the mountain and got served lunch. After lunch, half of the group went on to the summit of the mountain. When our group was eating, the other group had kindly been setting up a radio station. We could start working SOTA immediately and therethrough the Sljeme summit was activated. The group operated on both HF and VHF, and there was plenty of non-SOTA QSOs done as well, since we were so high, and the coverage from both repeaters and simplex was so good, doing a QSO on an FM handheld was easy, and even some Slovenian repeaters were easily opened on a handheld with 5W and a rubber duck antenna.

After operating the SOTA station for about three hours, we went to the cable car down. On our ride, the traffic was dense on the camp frequency since everybody wanted to make a QSO with their callsigns ”/Cable Car Mobile”. Down in the valley, the buses waited and we started going home. After arrival, dinner was served, and thereafter, the day faded into evening and soon it was night.

4 meter band at YOTA 9A by team France

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This blog post is written by YOTA Team France!

On Tuesday morning, the French team (Jules F4IEY, Maxime F4IQN, and Paul F4ILV) decided to operate, using their own QRP rig, on unusual amateur radio bands during the morning break.
To do this, we deployed our own setup with a portable dipole antenna and laptop in the middle of the camp.

At first, we wanted to try to operate the 4m band using the available rigs. After finding out it was not possible, we decided to tune our own Buddipole antenna on it, using a bunch of adapters and a nanoVNA to adjust both arms the right way. Then, we tried operating 70500 kHz SSB and FT8.

In a nutshell, the 4m band in Croatia is located in the VHF low band section (VLB) limited between 70.5 and 70.6 MHz. It is pretty interesting to use in terms of propagation as it combines both ionospheric and tropospheric properties.

Why operate 4m instead of 6m or another conventional VHF band? Well…The answer is quite simple: in France, it is forbidden to use this band because it is allocated to other public services that probably do not exist anymore such as analog ambulances or firefighters. So we decided to take the 9A summer camp as an opportunity for us to operate on it (and show it to our French old fellow hams what it looks like ^^).

Another interesting band we just figured out recently, that could also be used in Croatia, is the 8m band. Located between 40 and 40.5 MHz, a special local (non-CEPT) license is required to transmit on it as the third harmonic could interfere with the air band, especially near the emergency section (around 121.500 MHz). To get this grant, it could take weeks or even months; the HAKOM (local FCC entity) needs to verify that the transmitter used makes a clean modulation with no additional harmonic waste.

To comply with the restrictions, the team members told us operation might be possible using one of our available 9A special calls. It still needs confirmation though, it could be interesting to show fellow hams, the whole potential of these unknown and unused bands.

Still, we managed to tune the dipole quite easily on this band. However, unfortunately, we could not go further than listening, after finding out that the All band ICOM IC-705 rig does not support 4m…
But even without transmitting anything, we were able to listen to some CW beacons and other weak signals.

Next level: hoping to do the same kind of operation, with at least one QSO on 4m in the next few days of 9A Summer camp.
We definitely think that these forgotten bands need more attention.
Long live QRP, a power consumption-friendly amateur radio operation, promoting portable setup, anytime, anywhere!

Day 4 | Tuesday, 2022-08-09

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This blog post is written by Team Germany!

After a long trip day to Krk the day before, on the fourth day different workshops have been on the schedule. Breakfast was served from 7 to 8 o’clock and after a short team leader meeting, there were some energizer games such that everyone will get awake. The main activities for the day were workshops, again four in total in a rotating setting such that every group will get into every workshop during the day.

The first workshop for one of the groups was about the International Space Station ISS. Rather than being a tiring lecture, the youngsters were given some project work. They were supposed to create a poster about the ISS. But in the end, it was incredible to see what they created within one and a half hours! The posters either contained greatly structured information about the ISS or have been in a super creative style with really great drawing skills!

One workshop slot was reserved for operating time at the station. They have been using not only all the stations which are set up during the camp anyway, but they also had the chance to help each other and give some guidance to the newbies in more detail. Thereof, they especially encountered searching and fixing technical difficulties around the radios.

In between the workshops, there was a short break, but after the first two ones, it was time for a longer lunch break! Lunch was served and due to the amazing weather in Croatia, it was possible to have the meals like any other day outside at prepared tables under some trees.

In the afternoon, the schedule continued with the third workshop. It was time to program! The wabbits, the ARDF transmitters from the second day, were about to come alive. The participants installed Arduino software and connected their wabbits to their laptops. The start has been a pretty simple program, which just brings one LED on the board into blinking mode. This was extended such that the wabbits were able to blink in morse code and send CW signals.

The last workshop for the day was about carbon-neutral DXing. Renewable energy becomes more popular and is also prominent among the youth. The youngsters learned what is needed in order to set up power for a ham radio station using solar panels and batteries. They got to know how it works and what to take care of. Many have been surprised by the simplicity of the whole setup, especially once they got to experience it themselves outside in the practical part.

Solarpanels at carbon neutral DXing workshop

After all workshops, it was time for the daily train the trainer sessions. It included two presentations about youth activities in Italy and Croatia, which have been held by some participants of the camp. They included hands-on examples and explained the steps they have taken in order to set up these activities.

Dinner was served afterward and the activity for the night was prepared. A group from the Zagreb School of the film came and created an outdoor cinema. They showed a selection of award-winning films which have been made in Croatia. It ended with a surprise for one of the organizers: since it was his birthday, everyone joined singing a birthday song for him after the film. Cupcakes were served until people slowly started to go to bed to get some rest for the next day.