Just get your license and wondering what to do next? Well, you've come to the right place!
The Denton County Amateur Radio Association (DCARA) members operate in a wide assortment of modes. While the club does spend a lot of time preparing to be of value to our neighbors in an emergency, we do like to enjoy all the aspects of our hobby.
These are some of the areas where we like to experiment with a little bit of information about each to get you started.
Communicating in your neighborhood
As you learned while preparing for your license, the simplest method for two Hams to communicate locally is via Simplex. Just one radio operator communicating directly with another operator on the same frequency. This usually works if the Ham is within a dozen miles of your location. If the other Ham is on the other side of the County you'll probably need to use a Repeater.
Our club's primary repeater is on top of a dorm building at the TWU campus. You'll send your local signal up there and the repeater will retransmit it for you over a much broader area and possibly with more power too. We also have a series of voters spread out over the County in case your signal can't reach all the way to TWU. You will be sending your signal to the voter system in your area which will forward the transmission to the repeater which, in turn, transmits it from its extreme vantage point.
You can find a list of the most commonly used simplex and repeater frequencies in our club on the DCARA Repeater Info page.
Communicating with distant locations
Communicating with other Amateur Radio operators over long distances (often called DXing) is another popular pursuit in our hobby. In Amateur Radio, however, long distances is a relative term. If you're working in one of the HF bands, it could mean making contact with a station in another country or "entity". In the VHF or UHF bands, it could mean communicating with an operator in another State.
The ARRL sponsors several "contests" throughout the year that are a good way to get experience and learn new techniques in the pursuit of this aspect of the hobby. You can learn more about these activities on their web page.
The club also participates in the annual "Field Day" event that combines aspects of emergency operations and contesting into one weekend of fun.
The DCARA typically operates under the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) guidelines while providing emergency communications. We are often called upon in bad weather to assist the National Weather Service with SKYWARN spotting duties. We also may be called up by various cities or the county if necessary to assist where needed. These efforts are led by the Denton County Emergency Coordinator. This is an Amateur Radio Relay League(ARRL) appointed position. There is a separate web site for ARES-related activities here.
DCARA provides communications support to various non-profit organizations in our community in their fund-raising efforts. Typically, these will be bike rallies, but we even support a horse ride event. There are several different ways you might participate in these events. They are detailed here.
Digital modes of communication have been in use by Amateur Radio enthusiasts for over 60 years but are experiencing a resurgence in recent years.
Members of our club are actively pursuing this facet of our hobby. If you're interested, there is a Digital Net held every other Sunday at 2:00 PM on the 146.92 repeater. You can verify the schedule on our calendar.
What should I get for my first radio?
This is one of the classic "it depends" questions. The perfect radio for you may not be right at all for the next operator. Many operators will start out with a relatively inexpensive handheld transceiver or HT and grow from there along with their interest and experience in the hobby. The ARRL has a very good paper on this topic on their site. If you are primarily interested in the Emergency Communications aspect of the hobby, you should consider investing in a good dual-band VHF/UHF HT as a start. You should also invest in a mag-mount antenna if you want to experiment with operating from your vehicle.
DCARA also hosts training classes throughout the year on licensing and FEMA requirements. There is a Training and Information net held on the first three Monday evenings of the month as well as an ARES Training Net on the Thursday prior to the club meeting on the 146.92 repeater. Check out our Classes page for details.
This page just lightly touches on all the activity that goes on in our club. For more information, we suggest you look over our club newsletters that cover happenings each month and we encourage you to attend our monthly club meetings to explore all the many avenues available to you in Amateur Radio.