Start With a School Radio Station

My 15-year-old nephew asked me, “How and where to practice and develop one of the working skills during school time?” My first thought, at that moment, was “College radio station”.

At 16, I joined my college radio station and began my job as an editor for an online music program. From that day, I have become acquainted with terms such as noise, sound, broadcast, frequency and so on. Luckier than many people, with that job, I could earn money for my living, besides gaining very much experience and building up many good relationships which can support my current and future career. And with such experience, now, I can give advice to my nephew or any youth who wants to start a career and develop their skill, knowledge in working.

Well, let me think about what we need for a college radio station. If just listing out, we might think that it’s too simple and easy: a studio, or source of program, and the   transmission  lines. If you are beginners, don’t think you can do much and all but step by step. It was really difficult at that time when we began with various odd pieces of equipment. We started using the easiest means of  transmission  by broadcasting in the school canteen, in classes. And later, we added more ways to reach the audience. We concentrated on serving our school and at the same time extended to other colleges in the same area. Actually, the running of our school radio station was based on fund-raising and sponsorship money. Besides some necessary equipment such as Mini-discs, computers, recorders, we faced a bigger problem for a long time looking for an old, affordable multi-track mixer. We didn’t have the advanced and efficient equipment to support our work.

The first broadcasting show of ours was a two-hour program divided into 3 smaller sections. The first one was “Hello Morning” with 3 tiny bulletins of 3 to 5 minutes each. In these bulletins, we presented all good and happy news. The second section was “Music Dedication Program”. We compiled a few collections of music and one by one was presented everyday. The third one was “School loud speaker” during which we announced important events of the school for the following week. Day by day, the program was extended and the coverage of the program was enlarged.

We received more orders from many schools for radio storytellers, puppeteers, live music programs, music festivals, and etc. The students who worked in the radio station were really in situation in which we could practice and develop the skills of drawing up plans, solving problems, devising strategies and many more. Two years later, our radio station was presented with a big gift from a local station: a voice changer software and a music editor software. These advanced softwares helped us handle our job properly. Instead of needing many students to join in dubbing for a story or a drama, now, we just need two “technical operators” and two students to make the dubbing. The old weak multi-track mixer was “retired” and the music editor.

We learnt how to apply these efficient tools in work. Of course, we found them very useful and interesting. We could easily record, remix music, add sound and effects, change one voice into many others. These jobs used to require many people and much time . However, applying our computers and these softwares, we could do the job well with just 4 or 5 people.

We spent much time, thought and labor in this extra-curriculum job, but we loved it. We made school lessons more interesting and exciting. We created a different way for children to gain experience and helped them make a presentation in a new way. We made a radio program which was considered the “voice” of students, pupils in the school. We sent meaningful music messages to friends, teachers, and so on.

I join my current company, a provider of voice changer and music editor softwares, because of many reasons. One of these reasons is that I want to support many college radio stations. My friends who used to work with me in our school radio station are all having good jobs in professional.

We are very happy to give advice and guidelines to youth in starting a school radio station or a home music studio.

One of the first advices from me is that “Don’t wait until tomorrow what you can do today”. Seize any chance you have, start with your dream, step by step, and you can see a clearer road for your future.

Marine VHF Radio

Types of VHF sets:

Non-DSC sets

Non-DSC VHF sets on yachts and motorboats will still continue to work, will still be legal to use and certificate holders do not need to do a conversion course until they choose to upgrade. After 2005 Coastguards will cease to monitor Channel 16 in the way that they do now, that is with a dedicated officer on headset watch 24 hours a day, but they will continue to have a loudspeaker watch on channel 16 in the operations room. Increasingly the boat without VHF DSC radio will be at a disadvantage.

A transportable set is an invaluable second radio for use in an emergency when it can be taken into a life raft or used on deck to communicate in a rescue situation. It is useful for safety reasons in a tender when going ashore or in a safety boat when organising dinghy sailing events. A portable set is a good buy for non-boat owners who charter or who go afloat occasionally. They have a limited range but do require licensing and certification. Portable sets with a very limited DSC facility are available. They are intended as an addition to a full VHF DSC set, not as a substitute. Note that the portable set covered by a ship’s radio licence can only be used on the vessel covered by the licence or by its tender(s). It is illegal to use the portable ashore.

VHF DSC radio sets

From 2001 all new non-portable radios sold must be VHF-DSC or be capable of being converted to DSC by the addition of an extra ‘black box’. These are called DSC Controllers. It will provide the digital selective calling (DSC) facility which is the special feature of the new type of set. What this does is to send, on channel 70, a burst of digital signals in a code to ‘call up’ another DSC set. This call can be directed at an individual, using their MMSI, a group of boats or ‘all stations’ in an emergency. Once the link has been established by the digital ‘call’, normal voice   transmission  will be used. The DSC is essentially a new method of establishing communications, more reliably than was possible before. The digital signals are of high radio quality and rapid, the alert taking just 0.5 seconds. It can be used in both routine and distress situations.

There are different classes of controller with varying levels of capability for use in different types of vessel.

The Class D controller is the one designed for use with VHF on yachts and motorboats who make passages within VHF range of the coast. Fitting one of these is not compulsory on private boats. On small boats used at sea commercially, sea school boats for example, it may become a requirement. This will be to the great advantage of their students who will be able to see the sets in use and appreciate their advantages.

Other controllers for VHF DSC are available to meet the requirements of ships. These include Class A and B Controllers, which have enhanced capabilities.

What is the range of the set?

Those sailing across an ocean, or even the Bay of Biscay, need radios that transmit over vast distances. Licensing arrangements are different too.

The range of  transmission  of VHF radio telephones is limited by a number of factors. The height of the aerial is very significant as the propagation of the radio waves is only slightly more than ‘line of sight’. This includes the aerial height of both the transmitting and the receiving station.

When talking from yacht to yacht expect a range of 10 to l5 miles with aerials fitted at the tops of the masts. Those commonly fitted to yachts are known as ‘unity gain’ aerials. They are made of thin wire and often have wind instruments attached. They are recommended because, although the range is not as good as the taller rigid aerials used on motorboats, they cope better with the heeling effect often experienced on yachts! The better range of a ‘high gain’ motor cruiser aerial is only achieved if it is mounted vertically.

It should be possible to talk to a Coastguard station from 30 to 40 miles offshore because of the height of their aerial.

Transmitting range is also affected by the transmitting power of the set. The maximum power allowed is 25 watts. There is also a low power setting, which reduces the transmitting power to 1 watt. This should be used for all short range routine communications. You might think that it is always a good idea to broadcast your signal as far as possible. This it not so. Remember that each channel can only be used for one  transmission  at a time. Powerful signals cause more inference to other radio users. If you are calling another craft nearby or a marina, use low power. Try to use low power for all routine communications. The use of low power does not change the receiving range of the set.

A portable VHF set has yet another type of aerial. This is flexible and will operate at a wider range of angles. The low aerial height and a maximum power output of 5 watts reduces the range of  transmission  of these sets. Between portable radios the range can be up to 5 miles, increasing to 10 miles to a Coastguard station, if there is no land in the way! Remember, with portable radios there is always the risk that the battery will go flat.

The information about ranges of  transmissions  is for average conditions and good circumstances. Ranges can be influenced by:

o Atmospheric conditions, especially high pressure, can increase the range and cause interference from distant stations.

o Land. Boats operating near land may have poor reception with signals being blocked by hills or buildings.

o Incorrect installation of the aerial, or damage to the coaxial cable connecting the aerial to the set, can give poor reception.

o The proximity of other electronic equipment can cause interference.

For these reasons it is best to have the fitting done, or at least checked, by a professional electronics engineer.

A portable radio has a range of 5 miles to another portable, 10 miles to a Coastguard Station.

All distress calls should be transmitted on high power.

Many yachts carry emergency VHF aerials in case of dismasting, which is a very good idea, but failure of the electrical supply is a more frequent problem! The emergency aerial has a plug attached to connect it to the back of the set. For maximum range, situate the aerial as high as possible, but realistically expect a greatly reduced range. When the mast is lost, many people are surprised to hear the radio apparently still working. This is because the co-axial cable is acting as an aerial over a short range, but transmitting without an aerial will damage the set permanently.

A portable radio could be useful under these circumstances!