03/19/2016

Amateur radio-related courses taught on the University of California Radio campus at Berkeley, followed by an “annual VE mega-session” may be one reason California continues to lead the number of amateur radio licensees. An exam session on March 16 brought out 50 new technician licensees as well as three new general class and five new amateur extra class licensees. For the third year in a row, numerous electrical and computer science students have limited their participation in one of two amateur radio courses taught by UC Berkeley EE / CS Professor Michael “Miki” Lustig, KK6MRI. His “Hands-On Ham” course in the lower department is aimed at sophomores, while his “Digital Signal Processing” course in the upper department is aimed at juniors and seniors.

“These popular courses fill up quickly on registration day,” said Lustig. “Students in the class also include some majors in mechanical engineering, biology, and nuclear engineering.”

The introductory course familiarizes newbies with amateur radio and introduces them to “hacking” and “doing”, explained Lustig, while the advanced class “deals with the theoretical applications of digital signal processing, filter design, modulation / demodulation and decoding of subcarriers deals. APRS audio interface techniques and antenna design. “Both classes offer practical projects that require them to broadcast on radio frequencies. Therefore, as part of their courses, the students are motivated to become licensed amateur radio operators. “

Lower-grade students are given inexpensive portable transceivers to keep and trained in radio protocols. High-quality handhelds are issued to upper-tier students that they can keep if they pass the General or Amateur Extra-Class exams.

“They make satellite contacts, take part in activities that are similar to Field Day on campus, practice with small wireless dongles developed by software and, if they are already licensed, stay together on a 2-meter simplex frequency throughout the semester in contact, ”said Lustig, ARRL.

Lustig quickly points out that the two courses would not be possible without the active support of UC Berkeley W6BB Club members including trustee Fritz Sommer K6EE / DL4TT, president, Jack Burris K6JEB and others, as well as support from the EECS department.

Sharon Primbsch, AA6XZ, is the master planner, organizer, coordinator and captain of the annual VE mega-session, which requires at least 20 volunteer ARRL VEC examiners to run. These come from the Marin Amateur Radio Society, the San Francisco Radio Club, the East Bay Amateur Radio Club, and others.

The students in the lower department are primarily candidates for the technician license and get in and out of the room within half an hour. “Virtually all of them go by,” said Primbsch. “Most upper-grade students take at least both engineering and general exams, and some choose to go through to the Amateur Extra.”

In the last VE meeting, 63 candidates took a total of 78 examination elements in just over 2 hours. Only one candidate does not yet have a license.